What would the proverbial alien from a distant planet, or even an earthling from another country, visiting Baltimore this week make of the onslaught of Cal Ripken mania that has enveloped the area like a low-lying cloud? Would the visitor get the true meaning of the accomplishment that Ripken is headed for on Wednesday and its context?
Said alien could hardly miss being a part of it, since every media outlet, even the venerable CBS news show. "Sunday Morning," has weighed in, or will by Wednesday when Ripken is scheduled to play in his 2,131st consecutive game.
Locally, Home Team Sports and channels 2, 45 and 54, have aired specials on the Ripken achievement. Channel 2's effort, "When a Hero Comes Along: The Ripken Magic," which will be repeated tonight at 12:05 a.m., is frankly a disappointment, in that it nearly makes the Orioles shortstop into a deity.
Anchored by Scott Garceau and Mary Beth Marsden, "When a Hero Comes Along" unfortunately attempts to turn Ripken into a mythical figure, with gushing and overly flowery language, notwithstanding Keith Mills' interesting piece, as he looked for reaction on the streets of New York, the city where Lou Gehrig set the mark that Ripken is chasing.
Channel 13's special, "Ironman Cal," which airs tonight at 8, was not available for preview, but a station spokeswoman said elements of the show, to be anchored by John Buren, will have already been seen in the HTS show "Hats Off to Cal," but will be tailored toward Channel 13's more general audience.
Channel 11 will do two live specials under the header "Cal: Going by Gehrig," the first airing tomorrow night at 7, and the second on Wednesday after the late news.
Though the bulk of the programs were obviously not available for preview, one story, from Mark Viviano, a profile of Boston scout Charlie "Broadway" Wagner who pitched against Gehrig and bird-dogged Ripken when he was a teen-ager, lends credence to the notion that Channel 11's shows will be worthwhile efforts.
ESPN, which will televise Wednesday's game, will cover the week's events with another "Outside the Lines" documentary, airing tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. Scheduled to be covered during the hour are such topics as a look at endurance in other sports, how the disabled list affects the length and durability of players' careers and the memorabilia and marketing of Ripken.
Finally, WBAL (1090 AM), the Orioles' flagship station, plans a day of coverage Wednesday, beginning with Dave Durian's morning show. Dan Rodricks' mid-morning program will contain a repeat of his excellent, award-winning essay "What is Baseball."
At noon, Jon Miller will anchor an hour-long program, "The Road to 2,131," which will be repeated at 5 p.m. Pam Ward will be the host of a mid-afternoon "SportsLine" show, followed by an abbreviated, but Cal-oriented "Ron Smith Show," leading to game coverage at 6 p.m., with Josh Lewin's "Countdown to Baseball."
United Artists, the city's cable carrier, has joined Comcast to make HTS' signal available for free for both tomorrow's and Wednesday's Orioles-California Angels games. And don't forget, Channel 13 will carry ESPN's feed of Wednesday's game, with Chris Berman and Buck Martinez on the call.