McKay to undergo bypass, miss Preakness coverage


ABC's Jim McKay will miss next week's Preakness and next month's Belmont Stakes, as he undergoes elective heart surgery, the network announced yesterday.

McKay, 74, a Monkton resident, will be the host of Saturday's broadcast of the Pimlico Special, then have single bypass surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, keeping him out of coverage of the Preakness, the race he has helped popularize in recent years.

"I have decided to have the bypass because it will improve the quality of my life and the quality of my career for many years," McKay said in a statement released by ABC Sports. He could not be reached for further comment.

Besides his role as co-anchor of ABC's racing coverage, along with Al Michaels, McKay is best-known as longtime host of "Wide World of Sports," and for his role as host of the network's Olympics telecasts.

Ratings roundup

Last weekend was a wacky one in Baltimore, ratings-wise, according to numbers furnished by Chris Mecchi, researcher at Channels 45 and 54, and this week's sole and official "On the Air" ratings provider.

Two Orioles games, both at Camden Yards and both against the Toronto Blue Jays, did pretty well for Channel 13. Friday's game got a 13.4 rating and a 24 share of the audience, running a close second to Channel 11's "Homicide" (15.9/26), and Saturday's contest did a 10/32, the best number of the day.

The Kentucky Derby posted decent numbers for Channel 2, getting a 4.6/12 in the first half-hour and an 8.7/21 over the final hour, with an attractive 10.7/25 during the 15 minutes surrounding the actual race.

Playoff basketball was the big winner Sunday for Channel 11. The opening game of NBC's tripleheader, Indiana-New York, got a 6.2/19, and the fifth game of the Houston-Utah series pulled in a 6.9/18.

That all led into the final game of the day, Chicago-Orlando, which did a 6.9/14 in the first 45 minutes of the game, and an 11.8/20 during the second half. The final 15 minutes of the Sneaker War, the immediate lead-in to "Jurassic Park," got a whopping 18.4/30.

The other interesting development of the weekend was the continued failure of Baltimore audiences to warm up to hockey, even as it moves into the playoffs. Sunday's Philadelphia-Buffalo contest on Channel 45 did a 1.1/3, the least-watched sporting event of the weekend.

O, Canada

In advance of the arrival of expansion teams in Vancouver and Toronto next season, the NBA has signed a three-year deal with Canadian TV that commences with this year's championship series.

Under the terms of the agreement, CTV will air four prime-time regular-season games involving the Grizzlies and the Raptors, including their home openers and head-to-head games, as well as 15 Sunday afternoon games, the All-Star Game, six playoff games and the championship series.

Strange timing

One of the first public service announcements to air during TBS' Tuesday telecast of the Atlanta Braves-New York Mets game was a 30-second spot on battered women.

A network spokesman said the airing of the spot, just two days after Atlanta manager Bobby Cox was charged with hitting his wife, Pamela, was "completely a coincidence."

Cox, who faces a hearing May 26, has denied striking his wife, and Pamela Cox has said she used a "poor choice of words" in saying that he hit her Sunday. However, local police released a 911 tape where Pamela Cox said her husband had been drinking and had struck her.

The Braves and TBS are owned by Ted Turner.

Talking to the judge

ESPN says it made television history during Tuesday's coverage of the third race in the America's Cup series, as analyst Gary Jobson interviewed chief umpire John Doerr during the actual race. It was the first time, the network believes, that an umpire or referee in any sport has been interviewed during ongoing competition.

The American team, led by Dennis Conner, contended that the New Zealanders had tacked too close to their boat. Conversation was heard on the umpire boat, followed by Doerr's approval of the tacking move and then an interview with Jobson.

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