Deal brings Cal's game to Ch. 13

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The talks among the Orioles, Major League Baseball and ESPN to permit Channel 13 to telecast the Sept. 6 game at which Cal Ripken is expected to set the record for most consecutive games hardly resembled those of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which permitted the entry of the Show Me State to the Union, for you history buffs.

But, as is the case in any good compromise, the Cal Compromise of 1995 has left all sides walking away with a good feeling.

The Sept. 6 game against the California Angels, at which Ripken is expected to replace Lou Gehrig atop the iron man list, falls on a Wednesday night, when ESPN has a limited form of exclusivity on baseball telecasts that prohibits any over-the-air station, like Channel 13, from carrying a game. To get around that rule, many teams play their Wednesday games in the afternoon.

However, because of the massive interest in this game, the Orioles approached MLB for a waiver to the Wednesday rule and got it.

But there was a pretty significant string attached. Both Channel 13 and Washington's Channel 50 will have to carry ESPN's feed of the game, meaning they'll have to send the cable network's graphics, announcers and, most importantly, its commercials through, in much the same fashion that a station in the NFL markets involved in a Sunday night game must carry the ESPN or TNT feed.

Also, channels 13 and 50 will be allowed to carry only two minutes of their own local commercials per hour during the game. That effectively drives what was going to be a pretty high price for any prospective local advertiser through the roof, since the stations' inventory of spots for what may be the most-watched regular-season game in Baltimore history will be limited. All these arrangements slide to Thursday, if Wednesday's game is rained out and moved.

ESPN is the clear winner in this exchange. You won't be able to see the network's feed in its usual place on your cable menu, but you will see it and its commercials on any television set in the area, something that the 40 percent of the sets in the market not currently wired for cable can't do now.

"It is mutually beneficial for all parties involved," Rob Tobias, an ESPN spokesman, said of the deal. "Everyone's pretty excited about it."

By the way, the Sept. 6 game also will be carried by Home Team Sports, using its own production facilities and its usual announcing crew.

Seles' return

By now, we've all grudgingly made our collective peace with the fact that commercials are the price we pay to see live sporting events in our homes.

That said, didn't it seem as though CBS foisted an inordinate amount of spots during Saturday's Monica Seles-Martina Navratilova exhibition match?

Generally speaking, CBS did a nice job chronicling the return of Seles to competitive tennis after 27 months, though the production crew was caught a couple times in the middle of replays during live action.

Mary Carillo, the best tennis analyst working, was splendid in dissecting the assets and flaws in Seles' game and telling the zTC viewer why Navratilova's left-handed style was ineffective against Seles, who is also a lefty. Tim Ryan, the play-by-play man, was solid, and host Pat O'Brien stayed just on the right side of slickness.

The nickname game

Yes, he only arrived Saturday, but new Orioles outfielder Bobby Bonilla's nickname of "Bobby Bo" is already grating, particularly when it's used ad nauseum on radio broadcasts, as it seemed this weekend.

Also, can we please give these nicknames a rest as well: "Raffy," "the O's," "Zaunie," "Moose," "Big Ben" and the like. Broadcasters would do well to remember that they are observers, not team members. Incessant use of nicknames insinuate a familiarity that is unnecessary and inappropriate.

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