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Ripken's record-breaker sets triple ratings mark


Cal Ripken made history, not only on the field Wednesday, but in the ratings, propelling three outlets to their highest baseball performances ever.

Wednesday night's game, in which the Orioles shortstop became the most durable player in baseball history, did boffo business for all three of the outlets -- Channel 13, ESPN and Home Team Sports -- that telecast the game.

Channel 13, which took ESPN's feed of the historic game, was the big winner, getting a 30.1 rating and 42 share of the audience, according to Chris Mecchi, the station's ratings researcher, quite likely making it the most widely watched regular-season Orioles event in history.

HTS did an astounding 14.2/20 overall rating for Wednesday in the Baltimore region, which would have been the largest audience ever for an HTS game . . . except that Tuesday's contest, where Ripken tied Lou Gehrig's mark of 2,130 consecutive games, got an even 16 rating, making it the most watched event in HTS history, almost tripling a 6.7 rating for a July 5, 1994 game against Seattle.

As for ESPN, Wednesday's game drew a 7.5 national rating, meaning the game was seen in nearly 5.1 million homes across the country, including those in Baltimore and Washington, where the game was on over-the-air stations.

That's the most-watched baseball game of the 745 the network has carried since 1990, and the third most watched non-NFL telecast, trailing only a 1985 Georgetown-St. John's college basketball game (8.0) and last fall's Florida State-Miami college football game (7.7).

Although Wednesday's game fell behind the 37/53 number for last January's Super Bowl, keep in mind that while football was seen on one station, area viewers with cable had three choices Wednesday and chose them all.

Between 9:30 and 9:45, the time when the game became official and Ripken made his -- around Camden Yards, nearly 80 percent of all homes in Baltimore where televisions were on were tuned into the game. You'd be hard-pressed to find anything, including the Super Bowl, in which four of every five sets in an area were tuned to the same event.

Around the dial

A harrowing look at what's happened to former New York Jets receiver Al Toon, who suffers from post-concussive syndrome, is the centerpiece of the 19th season premiere of HBO's "Inside the NFL," airing tonight at 7 and tomorrow at 11 a.m.

CBS (Channel 13) wraps up its U.S. Open tennis coverage with six hours of coverage today (11 a.m.), including the women's semifinals, tomorrow's "Super Saturday," with the women's finals and men's semifinals (11 a.m.) and Sunday's men's championship (4 p.m.). USA will carry the women's doubles finals Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

The NFL weekend broadcast lineup gives NBC (Channel 11) the doubleheader on Sunday, as Charlie Jones, in his 31st season of professional football telecasts, teams with Randy Cross for the Oakland-Washington game, followed by the Denver-Dallas game at 4 p.m.

Joe Buck and Tim Green of Fox will call the Atlanta-San Francisco dust-up at 4 p.m. The revitalized TNT team moves to Arizona for the Cardinals-Eagles game at 8 p.m.

Once again, because of Orioles conflicts and the U.S. Open, tomorrow's Maryland-North Carolina football game will not be heard live on either WBAL (1090 AM) or WTOP (1500 AM), or seen on Channel 13. However, WITH (1230 AM) will carry the game live at noon, and WBAL will carry a tape after the Orioles-Cleveland game. Comcast will open its HTS signal Sunday at 4 p.m. to air a tape of the game.

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