O's toughest free agent to sign could be Miller


OK, so, without a collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners, no one really knows what the baseball free-agent rules are, but that won't matter since the Orioles' most valuable free agent isn't bound by a CBA anyway.

Mark McLemore and Mike Devereaux may draw the biggest headlines, but the Orioles' negotiations with announcer Jon Miller will be of no small importance either.

Miller, widely regarded as one of baseball's best play-by-play men, is up for grabs, as his one-year pact with the Orioles expired with the end of his 12th season with the club.

Ron Shapiro, Miller's agent, said talks with the Orioles are in the preliminary stages and should "heat up" in the next month. With some luck, Shapiro said, a deal could be done by Thanksgiving.

But the Orioles aren't the only suitor to come a-courtin' for Miller's services. Without naming them, Shapiro said two other teams have asked about his availability and one other team has made a formal offer.

It has been widely speculated in broadcast circles that the Chicago Cubs are coveting Miller as a partner or a replacement for Hall of Famer Harry Caray.

Still, Shapiro, who is locally based and includes Cal Ripken and Kirby Puckett among his clients, has let all parties know that Miller's preference is to remain in Baltimore.

"But if the opportunity arises [to leave] and it's a good one, he wants to look at it," said Shapiro.

Whether he stays or goes, Miller will sign a multi-year pact, Shapiro said.

More ice time

CBS, which earlier announced a series of televised figure skating competitions to run between Thanksgiving and Christmas, will carry a two-day, made-for-TV event during the important November sweeps.

Titled "Ice Wars: The USA vs. The World," the competition will match four skaters who have won recent Olympic medals for the United States, including 1994 silver medalist Nancy Kerrigan and 1992 champion Kristi Yamaguchi against four of their counterparts from around the world such as Oksana Baiul of Ukraine, who nudged out Kerrigan for the 1994 gold in Lillehammer, Norway, and two-time gold medalist Katarina Witt of Germany.

The event will be spread out over two days, Nov. 9 and Nov. 12, and two arenas, the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., and the Providence (R.I.) Civic Center, with a team champion declared after the final performance.

With the absence of an individual competition, there's no truth to the rumor that Tonya Harding will be invited to meet the ladies winner in a steel cage, best-of-three-falls grudge match.

ESPN's going Disney World

ESPN and Disney have teamed up for a 13,000-square-foot interactive multimedia entertainment center to open in the Epcot Resort area of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., when the park opens its "BoardWalk" project in July 1996.

The club will feature a "penalty box bar" and an "urban playground," loaded with an arcade full of interactive sporting games, as well as radio and television studios, which ESPN will use as its operational base during spring training.

It was bad enough when the NHL let Disney get a foothold in sports through its ownership of the Anaheim hockey team, but that wasn't enough for the Mouseketeers. Here's hoping Chris Berman won't have to don a Goofy costume.

Nice work

ESPN has taken a pretty good beating in this space of late, but here's a tip of the cap for doing something right.

Sunday night's "SportsCenter" crew was resourceful enough to find highlights from the North Carolina-Notre Dame women's soccer match in which the Fighting Irish ended the Tar Heels' 92-game winning streak with a tie, and to work up a graphic showing how the school had ended similar streaks in football and men's basketball.

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