NBC and ABC split Series, throwing fans a changeup


As the World Series returns this weekend after a strike-imposed hiatus in 1994, you'll need a television guide and a strong constitution to follow it, thanks to our pals in baseball leadership.

Because the Lords of Baseball wouldn't extend the current broadcasting arrangement for a year to allow for NBC and ABC to each have a separate crack at the Series, the networks will split it this year, with ABC getting games 1, 4, 5 and 7, and NBC taking games 2, 3 and 6.

The result could be confusing for viewers, but ABC's Al Michaels, who will be teamed with Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver tomorrow night (Channel 2, 7 p.m.), said he thinks the audience will be up for the challenge.

"This is a tapestry, and we won't be weaving the entire tapestry," Michaels said yesterday. "But the other crew [NBC's Bob Costas, Bob Uecker and Joe Morgan] is tremendously professional. We'll be very in tune with the story lines that they're developing. I don't think the public's going to notice very much."

Said Costas: "I've got to be careful not to repeat any historical facts that Al has laid out the night before, but I don't think it will be a problem."

The announcers will change from night to night, but in the "We are the world" spirit engendered by their connection with the Baseball Network, the networks are sharing 17 cameras and 13 tape machines, two of the "Super Slo-Mo" variety, during the Series.

Cooperation, however, has its limits. ABC is running original programming on the nights when it's not carrying the Series, whereas NBC appears to be calling off the competitive dogs with reruns of its most popular shows, including Thursday's "ER," the highest-rated show on television.

In its dying gasp, the Baseball Network has promised advertisers a 20 rating, which would be on par with "ER." Ten percent of the commercial time was not sold as of yesterday, at a price tag of $275,000 per 30 seconds, but the attractiveness of the Cleveland-Atlanta matchup and the decent ratings from the early playoff rounds might get those last few spots filled.

Karl Ravech will anchor ESPN's "SportsCenter" from Atlanta this weekend and next, and Chris Berman will take over during the three games in Cleveland. Analysts Peter Gammons and Dave Campbell will be on duty for the Series, as will reporter Gary Miller.

In addition, a special edition of the "Sports Reporters," with host Dick Schaap, columnist Mike Lupica, Costas and Michaels will air tonight at 7:30, followed at 8 p.m. by a World Series preview with Ravech as host.

WBAL (1090 AM) will air CBS Radio's coverage of the Series, with Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully on the game call, former New York Mets and Chicago White Sox manager Jeff Torborg providing analysis and John Rooney as host of the pre-game and post-game interviews. Air time for the weekend games is 7:07 p.m., and weeknight broadcasts begin at 8:07 p.m.

Football outlook

Channel 13 has added three Maryland football games to its Atlantic Coast Conference telecast package, including tomorrow's game with Clemson at noon. The station also will carry the Terps' Nov. 11 game with Virginia, as well as the regular-season finale at Florida State on Nov. 18.

At halftime of Sunday's San Francisco-St. Louis NFL game (Channel 45, 1 p.m.), Fox's James Brown will interview Mike Tyson in advance of his Nov. 4 fight with Buster Mathis Jr. that -- surprise, surprise -- will be televised on Fox.

A worthy awards show

Three cheers for TNT, which will broadcast the 16th annual Women's Sports Foundation awards ceremony, held earlier this week in New York, tomorrow night at 10.

The telecast marks the first time this program has been nationally broadcast, and will honor such notables as Olympic speed skater Bonnie Blair, national college basketball Player of the Year Rebecca Lobo and nine-time New York City marathon " winner Grete Waitz.

Hoops hurrah

NBA basketball has returned!

All right, it's only the McDonald's Championships from London, where the defending two-time titlist Houston Rockets should whip up on inferior competition, but who cares? It's basketball, the greatest game ever invented, and it's back.

The Rockets, without injured center Hakeem Olajuwon, will meet the Perth Wildcats, the Australian national champions, tonight at 8 in the first game of a TNT doubleheader that marks the debut of Danny Ainge as an analyst. NBC will have the Rockets' game tomorrow at noon.

! Isn't life great?

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