ABC missed homer, but got some Star hits


The TV Repairman:

It wasn't on the order of failing to catch on camera the winner of the New York City Marathon crossing the finish line, as ABC did a few years back, but the net botched one of the home runs in the All-Star Game the other night. One of the marks of good television, however, is after losing sight of the ball in the live feed, only one dizzying replay was attempted, which was worse, before the men calling the shots very cleverly decided to move on.

The night before, rudderless Major League Baseball (and TV) did a terrific job of taking an interesting All-Star feature, the home run hitting contest, and turning it into rubble. It went on and on, the participants working their way through preliminary rounds, the finalists Frank Thomas and Albert Belle rapidly approaching exhaustion in the 115-degree mid-afternoon heat in Texas.

Play-by-play man Al Michaels had a good night, keeping the booth banter light and moving for the most part, once pointing out, "[ex-Oriole] Jose Mesa must have signed to play professionally at age 15 to be just 29 now." He also told of Barry Bonds hot-dogging what he thought was a homer and ending up with a long single because he never ran: "Fans were screaming, 'For all the money you make, hustle, will you?' " It was baseball talk, not baseball shilling.

Meanwhile, Jim Palmer, perhaps celebrating Independence Day a week late, slipped a zinger into Peter Angelos, pointing out he ran Johnny Oates out of Baltimore when the Orioles were 14 games over .500, a huge improvement over the O's performance to date. As mid-summer night classics go, it didn't have near the impact as usual, but that was expected.

* Ladies, beware, one round of the U.S. Women's Open is in the books and defending champion Patty Sheehan is just getting started. ESPN is doing the second round today (1-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.) before NBC moves in for three-hour shows beginning at 3 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday.

ABC's doing the Senior PGA Tour Players Championship tomorrow (3 p.m.) and Sunday (3:30 p.m.) and maybe it's time the network realized it's stretching things a bit advertising, "featuring Arnold Palmer." Arnie's an all-timer, to be sure, but he's 65 years old, no better than even money to make the cut and play on the weekend and the Seniors now have at least a half-dozen bona fide stars.

Of course the PGA Tour is on, the men testing their ability to play in 90/90 (heat and humidity) in Williamsburg, Va., on ESPN: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

* That eight-man elimination tournament of heavyweights HBO is trial-ballooning poses the question, when is the match between the two finalists planned for, the year 2000? Top-line fighters these days, particularly the big guys, never seem to be in any big rush to get into the ring more than twice per year. Besides, Riddick Bowe vs. Evander Holyfield and other bouts involving the supposed cast are close to being signed.

* The hope is that viewers realized NBC was having some fun by asking its analyst John McEnroe to comment on tennis player Jeff Tarango's explosion at Wimbledon. McEnroe, of course, set standards for on-court boorishness that may never be equaled, one of his defenses being, "At least I never walked off the court." No, John, but there was that year in your prime when you didn't even show up at Wimby, right?

It's criminal what the net did with loyal servant Bud Collins at Wimbledon, which, for the most part, was give him nothing to do but a few interviews.

* College hoop fanatics, TV division, will be joyous to learn that Gene Keady just signed on for seven more years as Purdue's coach. Keady's the Frankenstein lookalike who does so many interesting and photographable things on the sideline. Oh, he's a terrific coach, too.

* An indication of some of the questions Cal Ripken has had to overcome as "The Streak" winds toward its inevitable conclusion was available on national TV last Sunday when California Cool (alias Pat O'Brien of CBS) opened the conversation with, "Have you ever seen the movie 'Pride of the Yankees' "?

Speaking of No. 8, if the All-Star Games, World Series and playoff games he has appeared in were included in "The Streak," he'd be at 2,100 games heading into tonight's game and No. 2,130-2,131 would arrive Aug. 14-15 against Cleveland. Then Cal could head for "the boards" in Ocean City for a couple of weeks before the stretch drive.

* The sum and substance of what baseball's acting commissioner Bud Selig says can usually be reviewed very quickly, a yawn usually sufficing. One thing "This Bud's For You" should eliminate from his vocabulary is the word "sides," as in players vs. owners. He said it a couple of times during a recent interview on cable and it sounds too contentious, even if true.

* If baseball types are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel concerning viewers, they can sleep easier knowing that ESPN's current rating (1.6) matches to the figure to the right of the decimal point the number it racked up in 1992 . . . and dwarfs the 1993 rating (1.5).

Also, during the prime-time hours last week, just 25 million of the nation's 95 million households had the telly tuned to network, ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox. Everyone's hurting except, apparently, movie theaters showing "Batman Returns."

* The NHL must be very proud about now. Given the choice of dates for a championship team's visit to the White House, the Stanley Cup champ New Jersey Devils chose last Monday and just nine of 25 players and none of four coaches put in an appearance. They all couldn't have been playing golf with Michael Jordan, could they?

* Does analyst Joe Morgan say things tongue in cheek on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball or is he lost? As Joe was saying, "Robby Thompson has been coming out of his slump the last two weeks," a graphic revealed the Giant was hitting .206. And lately? He was 2-for-23 that week for an .087 average.

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