Rick Rhoden is making more money on celebrity tour than he did as a pitcher


The TV Repairman:

What started out as what many thought would be a one-shot deal a couple of years ago, the Celebrity Golf Championship, has hit new heights and is still headed upward.

"And it's no surprise," according to NBC links analyst Johnny Miller, who describes the play as, "truly exciting for its diversity. You can't be sure what you're going to see, be it some, uh, horrible shots, right up to really good golf."

Rick Rhoden, for example, provides a lot of the latter. He won the most recent of the CGA's seven tournaments in Canada a few weeks ago with a 3-over-par 219 (54 holes). He won a tourney in April, too, and is up to about $300,000 in winnings and will probably end up making more than he did as a pitcher.

And, truthfully, can any viewer forget the sight of lovable Detroit Pistons center Bill Laimbeer scoring a what, 14, during the climax of the previous championship?

Other 1994 winners heading into the Isuzu Championship in Lake Tahoe today (Prime Network) with NBC providing the pictures tomorrow (4-6 p.m.) and Sunday (3-6 p.m.) have been actor Jack Wagner ("General Hospital"), ex-Baltimore Bullet Jack Marin and the hockey tandem of Pierre Larouche and Clark Gillies at a better-ball event in Ocean City in May.

Of course, what continues to draw the ever-growing live audiences is the fact that among the 73 tour regulars are 14 Hall of Famers from various sports, 28 current and former NFL quarterbacks and scores of All-Stars and All Pros. Former Orioles who have hit just about all the stops since 1991 are Dave McNally and Bobby Grich.

* The World Cup lineup is thus: Italy vs. Spain at 12:05 p.m. and Netherlands vs. Brazil at 3:35 p.m. tomorrow on ABC (Channel 13 included). . . . Sunday, it's Germany vs. Bulgaria at 12:05 p.m. on ESPN and Romania vs. Sweden at 3:30 p.m. on the network, WJZ absent because of an Orioles game. While seven of the final eight were in the top 10 starting out, Bulgaria is a long shot as No. 29. It was a 40-to-1 shot.

* Billy Packer, college hoops entrepreneur and CBS commentator, had an interesting reaction following the pro hoops playoffs: "The playoffs proved that if the NBA should ever make a move to four-on-four basketball, now is the time to take away all the mugging inside. The most important people in the NBA game are the refs. They are more important than the players and the coaches. Everything depends on their interpretations of the rules."

* An event every male American has probably fantasized about taking part in, the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, is going to get coverage on ESPN2 Friday night-Saturday morning at 1:45 a.m. So close your eyes and visualize yourself running alongside Errol Flynn ("The Sun Also Rises") or Billy Crystal ("City Slickers").

* One of the segments on CBS's "Eye to Eye" tomorrow (4 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.) will be a piece on broadcaster Tim Ryan's tour through Africa covering efforts to save the rhinoceros and elephant from poachers. At one point, a 3,000-pound rhino is seen charging Ryan, who says, "I had nowhere to go." Like those Saturday-afternoon serials in the 1940s, tune in and see how it all comes out.

* Yes, the operation for which there apparently is a scant market, college football games on pay-per-view, will be part of the ESPN-ABC 12-week grid package this fall.

* In a release touting ESPN's upcoming 15th year in business, columnist George Will is quoted thusly: "If someone surreptitiously [look it up] took everything but ESPN from my cable television package, it might be months before I noticed."

Come on, George, you don't watch CNN, C-Span 1 and 2, Discovery, the Learning Channel, A&E; and the rest of those informative and newsworthy shows?

* NBA "Inside Stuff" has a feature on Dream Team II competing in the World Championships in Toronto next month just in case you don't remember who Shaq O'Neal, Derrick Coleman and Joe Dumars are. . . . and playoff star Hakeem Olajuwon will try to get a word in edgewise in an interview with Ahmad Rashad.

* Certainly a "must-see" is ESPN's coverage on SportsCenter (6:30 p.m.) Monday of the workouts of the league all-star teams prior to the big game next Tuesday (NBC). There's usually two blockbuster stories coming out of the practice: Stuff like who the starting pitchers are and what happened the last time the teams squared off in Pittsburgh.

The All-Star Gala, 90 minutes of something or other, follows at 7:30 p.m., then it's the Gatorade Home Run Derby at 9 p.m. and the Upper Deck Heroes of Baseball game at 10 p.m. (taped). Earl Weaver's the manager for the AL squad and you remember how "Spunky" managed in Pittsburgh over the years (1971 and 1979 World Series).

The Jim Thorpe Pro Sports Awards Show plays Monday night (9-11) opposite all the diamond activity on cable, then NBC slides in for actual game coverage from 8-11 p.m. Tuesday.

* After handing NBC $100 million and CBS nearly $50 in tax breaks and other incentives a while back, New York City is about to hand ABC a $26 million sales-tax abatement to keep the network headquarters in Gotham, not across the river in New Jersey.

Think Yankees owner George Steinbrenner will mention it as he negotiates with the city for Yankee Stadium III in Manhattan?

* That was a convenient excuse NBC came up with, explaining the move of Greg Gumbel taking over as host of its pre-game pro football pot-boiler "NFL Live" to ease Jim Lampley's sometimes tough travel schedule. Why? No excuses were necessary. Gumbel was hired away from CBS to do what he does best, host a studio show. Lampley's good at everything he does, but is not necessarily a favorite among viewers.

* Another week and no doubt the Baltimore team in the CFL will be the nation's darlings. In addition to the team's opener in Toronto last night being on ESPN2, the home opener at Memorial Stadium (can we still refer to it by that name, Paul Tagliabue?) against Calgary next Saturday will be the game of the week. Then Channel 2 moves in for the game against Shreveport on July 23.

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