Fearing sweep, ABC and NBC long for a few Indians victories


Thousands of Clevelanders are fervently praying that the World Series makes a return trip to Atlanta this weekend. Their prayers are likely being mixed with those of officials of the Baseball Network, ABC and NBC, never heretofore known as particularly religious sorts.

The reason: No one in the television biz makes any bucks unless the Series goes for an extended length, and with Atlanta assuming a 2-0 lead heading into tonight's third game (Channel 11, 8 p.m.), there's a danger that this Fall Classic could be over as soon as tomorrow night or Thursday.

But if the early ratings stay on course, the revenue pool could be reduced no matter how long the Series lasts.

The Nielsen overnight national numbers for Sunday's Game 2 rang up a 17.8 rating and 28 share of the audience, a healthy boost from the 14.9/27 from Game 1, but the lowest second-game rating in the past five Series, and the second lowest in the last eight years, surpassing only the 17.4/28 of the 1989 championships, which were interrupted by an earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area.

Subpar ratings in some of the nation's bigger markets, such as New York, which did a 14.2/24 Saturday and a 14.1/20 Sunday, Los Angeles (13.4/29; 15.5/33), Chicago (10.8/18; 13.0/20) and Philadelphia (15.7/26; 14.3/21), provide the key to the Series' drop-off. Watch for local Series numbers in this space later this week.

NBC, USGA link up

The U.S. Golf Association apparently is pleased with NBC's coverage of its championship events (men's, women's, men's senior Opens).

The USGA is so pleased that it extended its three-year contract, which just finished its first year, with the network through 1999. NBC will expand its telecast schedule next season to include all four rounds of the men's U.S. Open.

Ducking the issue

Give ESPN some credit for attempting to get Atlanta manager Bobby Cox on the record about how charges that he beat his wife earlier this season affected his team and his managing during a lengthy "SportsCenter" interview Sunday.

Cox declined to discuss the matter, and perhaps, at that point, ESPN should have found someone else to interview. But the network does deserve a thumbs up for attempting to bring this long-neglected issue to the forefront, even in this limited fashion.

The commish?

During separate World Series teleconferences last week, both ABC's Al Michaels and NBC's Bob Costas floated names of men they believe should succeed Bud Selig as baseball commissioner.

Michaels spoke passionately on behalf of former Capital Cities CEO Daniel Burke, a co-owner of the Portland Seadogs Double-A minor-league franchise, as a man of integrity and independence who could understand how to obtain a mutually beneficial television package.

Costas, who has jokingly been suggested as a commissioner candidate by a few writers, mentioned the name of Baltimore-based player agent Ron Shapiro, who represents, among other clients, Cal Ripken, as a "moderate" who might be acceptable to both sides.

We presume that neither man is dumb enough to want the job.

A modest proposal

A tip of the cap to San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leonard Koppett, who floated an interesting suggestion on Sunday's "Sports Reporters" on ESPN.

Koppett proposed that Major League Baseball create and sponsor a "Cal Ripken Award" certificate for children in all grades who have perfect school attendance for a year. The only drawback to baseball, in Koppett's view, is that the program "wouldn't provide any marketing opportunity."

Nonetheless, it's a fabulous idea, and if baseball doesn't jump at the chance, either Ripken or his shoe company of choice, Nike, should just do it.

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