The summertime ratings blahs may have struck three weeks ahead of the season, according to numbers furnished by Chris Mecchi of channels 45 and 54, this week's sole and official "On the Air" ratings provider.
None of the 11 televised sporting events last weekend cracked the double-digit ratings mark. Channel 11's telecasts of games 6 and 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference championship series came closest, drawing an 8.1/14 and 9.4/16 respectively.
One other local item of note: Each part of CBS' track tripleheader Sunday on Channel 13 easily outdrew the Chicago-Detroit hockey playoff game on Channel 45. And just think: The Stanley Cup finals will be seen in prime time. The folks at WBFF must be really thrilled with that prospect.
Meanwhile, ESPN has announced that its ratings for the first four games of the NHL conference championship series are up 58 percent from last year's numbers, from a 1.2 in 1994 to a 1.9 this year. You can attribute the boost to the fact that the network has the entire hockey audience, even in the home markets, rather than sharing it as it did last year.
Finally, Sunday's Orioles-Oakland "Sunday Night Baseball" clunker did well for ESPN, getting a 1.9 cable rating, a slight increase from the 1.8 average for the first five games of the Sunday package this year.
Getting out the vote
If you don't cast your ballot for this year's baseball All-Star Game, it won't be because you didn't have enough voting options.
For instance, ABC, the telecasting network of this year's midsummer classic, has opened a baseball area in its on-line space on the America Online service, where fans can cast votes for All-Star starters through June 26.
ESPN's SportsZone, available through the World Wide Web (address: http://espnet.sportszone.com), the Internet or through Prodigy, will provide on-line balloting opportunities. The operators pledge that provisions have been taken to make sure that ballots are not stuffed in cyberspace.
In addition, for the first time, fans will be able to vote by phone, as the Baseball Network, Texaco, MCI and USA Today will make available a toll-free number, 1-800-978-VOTE.
Bird-watching down the ocean
We've heard from readers concerned that they'd be unable to follow the Orioles while on vacation at Ocean City or elsewhere on the Eastern Shore, because many cable systems there don't carry Channel 54.
Fear not, for Comcast has purchased the rights to those games on its Eastern Shore systems and will place them on the Home Team Sports channel for your viewing pleasure.
Waiting for Monica
Among those who can't wait for Monica Seles to return to the women's tennis tour is former player and current USA Network analyst Tracy Austin. Seles, who hasn't played since she was stabbed April 30, 1993, during a changeover at a match in Hamburg, Germany, announced this week that she'll play Martina Navratilova in an exhibition next month.
"She could be ready by the time the U.S. Open rolls around. She could be in great shape right now," said Austin during yesterday's French Open telecast. "But if she decides to play in the Open, it would be in her best interest to play in a few smaller tournaments first. The pressure on her at any tournament will be enormous, but to start off with the Open would be a mistake."
Austin said she believes the odds of Seles returning for the Open are "50-50," and that she's heard that Seles is playing well in practice sessions. The best part of her return, Austin believes, would be a renewal of her rivalry with Steffi Graf.
"It would mean the world to the women's tour to have Monica back. Before the incident in Germany, a great rivalry was developing between her and Steffi. It would be great to see that blossom again," said Austin.