In the sports calendar listings, Saturday's bowling event is the St. Clair Classic from Fairview Heights, Ill.
Just another stop on the Professional Bowlers Tour? Hardly. Saturday's match will be the final one telecast on ABC after 36 years, and also may bring to a close the sportscasting career of one of the quiet giants of the industry, Chris Schenkel.
"I'm sorry it's going off the air because we had so many highlights," said Schenkel during a conference call this week in which he could be heard choking back his emotions.
ABC fought the good fight with bowling for many years but could no longer go to battle with bowling's aging demographics, which made it a tough sell with advertisers.
Schenkel, 73, who has called more than 600 college and pro football games over a 46-year career, including the 1958 NFL championship game between the Colts and New York Giants, may be the unintended victim of this decision.
Schenkel's workload for ABC had been reduced to just bowling, and with its elimination from the network's schedule, his presence there would seem to be superfluous.
There are industry rumors that CBS has expressed an interest in picking up bowling on a time-buy basis. Considering the ABC roots of both CBS Sports president Sean McManus and his NBC counterpart Dick Ebersol, Schenkel, who said he has no interest in retiring, said he'd call both men to gauge their interest in having him aboard.
ABC plans a tribute to both its bowling coverage and Schenkel during the 90-minute telecast (Channel 2, 1: 30 p.m.) You shouldn't miss it.
A brand-new venture
If you don't know that a new women's basketball league, the Women's NBA, starts this weekend, then you haven't been paying attention. At least three of its corporate patrons, the NBA, NBC and ESPN, have gone to extraordinary lengths to get the word out.
And with good reason. The WNBA, the most visible of two new women's professional leagues, is attempting to introduce the game to the American public, and its summer timing runs counter to the traditional time for hoops.
"I was taking a flight to Las Vegas, and on every leg of the flight, everyone was asking about the WNBA," ESPN's Robin Roberts said. "It is not a traditional time to watch basketball. But I'm a typical basketball fan, and I don't think you can ever think of it as seasonal. It will be interesting to see if people will come out to support basketball."
It will, at that. The league will hit the ground running with three of its first six games on television. NBC (Channel 11) will begin its coverage of the league Saturday with a 30-minute preview special at 3: 30, followed by the inaugural game, pitting the New York Liberty and the Los Angeles Sparks, and another game Sunday at 4 p.m., with the Charlotte Sting meeting the Phoenix Mercury. Hannah Storm and Ann Meyers will have the call for both games.
Roberts and University of Connecticut women's coach Geno Auriemma will serve as the announcer team for ESPN's coverage, which begins with Monday night's Los Angeles-Utah game at 7: 30.
Around the dial
Lifetime, the other WNBA carrier, has a special marking the 25th anniversary of Title IX tonight at 7. Anchored by actress Geena Davis, the documentary has a couple of local hooks, including a piece on Howard women's basketball coach Sanya Tyler, the first person in the country to receive monetary damages from a Title IX lawsuit. Another segment features the two former Brown University gymnasts who sued the school after it moved to eliminate their squad and the volleyball team. One of the gymnasts, Amy Cohen, is teaching at an elementary school in Baltimore.
Gather the kids around for another X Games competition, this year from San Diego. After tomorrow night's preview show at 7: 30 on ESPN, the first actual event, not to mention the first near-death experience, airs Saturday on "Wide World of Sports" (Channel 2, 5 p.m.), with further competition to alternate between ESPN and ESPN2 until June 28.
On Sunday, see if the kids can name just one of the people competing in the World Bowl championship of World League football on Fox (Channel 45, 1 p.m.) Hand out an ice cream cone to the winner.
Finally, HBO commences its 23rd year of Wimbledon coverage Monday at 9 a.m. with the usual suspects -- host Jim Lampley, analysts Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Mary Carillo, John Lloyd, Barry MacKay and Frank Deford -- and a newcomer, Zina Garrison, who will conduct interviews for the channel.
Pub Date: 6/19/97