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Orioles' broadcast, cable telecasts could have similar look, sound


So now we officially have a new Orioles television package in place. How long have I been waiting to write those words? How long have you sat on the edge of your couch, longing to read that sentence?

How long has this been going on? (to quote the late British one-hit wonder Ace, whose album that once was a staple of cutout bins when record stores still carried vinyl -- and how can they be record stores anymore when they don't have records? -- featured a cover that pictured a soccer game, so, yes, this is connected to sports somehow and not just another digression being produced by a winter-weary fellow tired of shuffling across the ice each day, braving a certain fall and then perhaps a visit to the Bo Jackson Hips-R-Us Replacement Center, all just to check the mailbox once more, hoping in vain that Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition has arrived. . . .)

On the other hand, I guess I do digress.

Orioles fans can look forward to every regular-season game on some sort of telecast -- Home Team Sports, channels 13 and 54, ESPN, NBC or ABC -- though schedule changes by the latter two could mean missing a couple of games. Little was announced about the announcers in Wednesday's announcement, other than to say that play-by-play man Mel Proctor, analyst John Lowenstein and score updater and maniacal laugher Tom Davis will be back. Proctor and Lowenstein "will handle the bulk of the schedule," according to a news release.

Does that mean Proctor and Lowenstein will go beyond the 78 HTS games?

"That depends on their schedule and who else is on the team," HTS executive producer Jody Shapiro said.

"I know I'll be doing the majority of the games, but I just don't know how many," Proctor said.

Presumably, Jon Miller will be back on play-by-play, though it still isn't clear how much TV and radio work he'll perform for the Orioles. The analyst mix could include Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan.

Unlike on its coverage of the Bullets and Capitals, HTS isn't concerned about maintaining a separate cable and broadcast identity on announcing teams working the Orioles. That's because HTS' corporate parent, Group W, which also owns Channel 13, purchased the Orioles rights. So HTS is producing all 148 local telecasts.

"If we're absolutely true to our word, there should be no difference between broadcast and Home Team Sports," Shapiro said.

That hasn't been true in the past, when HTS' well-produced games, with graphics galore and cameras positioned practically everywhere but in the clubhouse spittoon, stood out from the bland Channel 2 versions. Shapiro also promises to bring the same approach to road games, which often have been inconsistent telecasts. (In fact, we're still trying to find the ball that was lost in the fifth inning of a game in Kansas City in 1989.)

By going to a full TV schedule, the new Orioles arrangement picks up about 20 games more than last season's schedule. Though it was relegated to a parenthetical mention in the announcement of the deal, the presence of Channel 54 enables every game to be on TV.

Channel 13 is carrying 30 regular-season games, mostly on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, so it won't be too disruptive for the station's -- and don't you just love it when I quote news releases? -- "ratings-rich network lineup from ABC." The slack is picked up by Channel 54, which is carrying 40 games, unencumbered by a ratings-rich network lineup. Group W is buying the time on Channel 54, as it is on the Orioles' two Washington TV outlets, channels 20 and 50.


Some people really know how to counter-program the Winter Olympics. USA Network, for example. USA is televising the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show Monday and Tuesday nights from 8 to 11. Joe Garagiola -- yes, Joe Garagiola -- will call the bow-by-wow. An English springer spaniel won best-in-show last year. You may remember the controversy at last year's show.A chow from Portland reportedly hired a couple of pit bulls to injure her chief rival, a Boston terrier. . . .

Comedy Central has announced that it's first with the figure skating movie -- "Spunk: The Tonya Harding Story," to be aired Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. The program is part of "Short Attention Span Theater." Comedy Central executive Ken Olshansky said: "At a full five minutes, we think the movie gives the story all the attention it deserves."

Oh, Reeg

And you wonder why you subscribe to cable. Tomorrow at 6 p.m., Regis Philbin appears on QVC to hawk his new exercise video, "Regis Philbin: My Personal Workout." QVC priced at $18.25. And Kathie Lee is on it, too. No word on Cody, though. . . . NBA All-Star coaches Lenny Wilkens and George "I Look Just Like John Lithgow" Karl will be miked by NBC during the network's telecast Sunday at 6 p.m. (channels 2, 4).

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