Maier's catch puts him in glare of circus spotlight

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Until early Wednesday evening, Jeff Maier was just another nameless, faceless Little Leaguer with major-league dreams. What he has become since then speaks volumes about what's going on in the media.

Make no mistake; Jeff Maier, who stuck his glove out over the right-field fence at Yankee Stadium in the eighth inning Wednesday, giving a home run to Derek Jeter, is the innocent in this case. After all, 12-year-olds will occasionally let their youthful exuberance get the best of them and young Jeff is no exception.

What you'd like to hope is that after 12-year-olds misbehave, the adults who surround them point out not only that they were wrong, but that their actions have consequences. In this case, Jeff's enthusiasm possibly cost the Orioles a game.

But in our bizarro media culture where miscreants like Kato Kaelin and Dennis Rodman can become the toast of the town for their behavior, Maier spent yesterday bouncing from one talk show to the next. That is, when he wasn't getting box seats at Game 2 from a newspaper.

Only Regis Philbin (Regis Philbin?) had the sense to tell Maier that what he did was wrong. Everyone else in New York, it seems, was too busy exploiting the kid's hijinks for an audience or to sell a few more papers.

NBC's Bob Costas delivered a stern rebuke late in the game, but his booth partner, Bob Uecker, joshed earlier that Maier would want a ring and a playoff share if the Yankees won the title, which effectively muddled the message.

Jim Gray, who interviewed Maier the night before, reported at the top of the telecast that security in right field had been beefed up for the game, but the network missed opportunities to ask either American League President Gene Budig or Yankees owner George Steinbrenner about the lapse in security Wednesday.

Miller on the money

Jon Miller's radio call on WBAL (1090 AM) Wednesday evening included an immediate observation of Maier's interference, even before outfielder Tony Tarasco could react.

Miller said yesterday morning that he was watching the monitor in the booth and could see that the ball's flight toward Tarasco's glove was interrupted by Maier.

Where is the love?

Also missing from yesterday's NBC telecast was a plug for Fox's NLCS coverage. The two broadcast networks and ESPN had told viewers during the Division Series where games could be seen on other networks, and Fox gave NBC a mention Wednesday night, but NBC has yet to return the favor.

"There's been a spirit of cooperation in the Division Series that we carried into the LCS but others seem to have forgotten," said Vince Wladika, a Fox spokesman.

The numbers game

Wednesday's Game 1 of the ALCS was the most watched sporting event in Baltimore this year and was seen in more than 300,000 local homes.

According to Sharon Walz, Channel 11's ratings researcher, the game did a whopping 31.1 household rating and got a 54 share of the audience, meaning that nearly a third of all available television sets and over half of all the sets that were on watched some part of the game.

In the game's final half-hour, the numbers jumped to a 43.4/61. By contrast, the New York rating was a 22.4/41.

Choosing their own battles

TNT analyst Pat Haden is not terribly surprised that this group of Ravens isn't necessarily as incensed at this weekend's opponent, the Indianapolis Colts, as Baltimoreans are.

"The players are kind of funny about this kind of thing," said Haden. "Media types, myself included, try to put a perspective into things that the players aren't interested in. A lot of players are into the 'here and now.' They've been told 'Just one game at a time,' and they lock into that. Some of them might read into the history [of the Baltimore Colts], but most of them won't."

That doesn't mean that Haden and booth partner Verne Lundquist won't be talking about the symmetry between the two vagabond franchises and other links, like Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda, who guided the Colts to the AFC title game last year, but was let go after the season, the second time he had been fired by the organization.

TNT will carry the contest at 8 p.m., after its excellent "Pro Football Report" pre-game and highlights show. Channel 54 also will air the game, carrying TNT's signal and commercials.

By the way, Channel 11, which is carrying the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh football game at 1 p.m. Sunday, has announced that if that contest runs over into the start of Game 5 of the ALCS, the station will leave football for baseball.

Pub Date: 10/11/96

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