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Technological enhancements prove to be Fox's craftiest pitch

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The merits of the changes Fox has wrought on baseball in a season and a half of telecasts can certainly be debated. On the debit side would be windy analyst Tim McCarver, who could turn a discussion on how to ride a bike into a filibuster on how to build the bicycle manufacturing plant, with some lousy puns thrown in.

Among the strong positives, however, are the technological advances Fox has added, particularly in the sound category. Baseball has never sounded better than Fox has made it, from microphones planted in bases, in the outfield wall and on participants.

And, save for an inadvertent and wildly blown-out-of-proportion profanity a few weeks ago during a New York Yankees game, the new ventures have been impressive attempts to drag baseball into the current century, a few years short of a new one.

The latest try comes during tonight's All-Star Game telecast from Cleveland (Channel 45, 8 o'clock) when the network unveils Catcher-Cam, a 20-ounce, lipstick-case-sized camera that will be mounted in the mask of one of tonight's catchers.

"It's another dimension, another tool, another way of pushing the envelope. It's a continuation of what we've done since we got the baseball contract," said John Filipelli, Fox's senior coordinating producer and the lead man on tonight's telecast.

For the record, Filipelli said the camera will not be used to show up an umpire. The angle at which most catchers operate wouldn't be able to provide a definitive decision on balls and strikes anyway.

But what Fox hopes to furnish the viewer is a look at what the batter and catcher see when Randy Johnson brings 100-mph heat or when a runner comes barreling down the third base line for home.

"The best way to describe it is to put yourself behind the plate with the perspective of the pitch coming in and some sense of what it's like to face a 90-mph fastball or a splitter falling off the table," said Filipelli. "We're not trying to cure the common cold. All we're talking about is an enhancement, making the game more entertaining and interesting."

Just as it did for the other advancements, the network had to get the permission of the owners and the players union to use the camera tonight, and whichever player signs off on it will have to use a hockey-style mask, rather than the conventional catcher's covering.

Filipelli said that if tonight's experiment goes well, the network could go back to baseball and the players for the green light to bring the camera on-line for the regular season and the playoffs.

If this kind of newfangled gibberish isn't your style, WBAL (1090 AM) will carry CBS Radio's more conventional broadcast of tonight's game, beginning after the 8 p.m. news.

Extending the deal

When CBS Sports president Sean McManus made out his list of the things to do this year relative to golf, the cornerstone of the network's spring and summer programming grid, his goals were threefold.

One was to hold on to and perhaps even strengthen CBS' collection of tournaments through the PGA Tour, which was accomplished earlier this year. Likewise, a second goal was realized when the network locked up golf host Jim Nantz to a long-term contract extension.

The third domino fell yesterday, when McManus got the PGA of America to extend its deal with CBS for telecast rights to the PGA Championship, the last of the four major tournaments, through 2005.

"It caps what our plans were for maintaining our position in golf," said McManus.

And though Tiger Woods wasn't a bargainer at the table during BTC the talks, it didn't take a genius to figure out that to have your corporate hands on a big-deal event that the Wunderkind would probably be playing at doesn't hurt, not to mention the fact that CBS' ratings for the Western Open, which Woods won last weekend, were up 124 percent from the year before.

"There are probably only four events each year that you can guarantee that Tiger will be present, and that's the majors. To be able to lock up one of those, knowing that unless something bizarre happens, Tiger's going to be there, is very good," McManus said.

Pictures come to life

The baseball photographs of Walter Iooss, whose work has graced Sports Illustrated as well as a beautiful book, will be on display tomorrow night at 9: 30 in a one-hour ESPN special, "Diamond Dreams," to be narrated by Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell.

Ratings watch

Here are the 10 most-watched televised sports events in Baltimore last weekend:

Event .. .. .. .. .. ..Day .. .. .Ch. .. .. .. ..Rat.

O's-Det. .. .. .. .. ..Thur. .. ..13 .. .. ...13.0/26

O's-Det. .. .. .. .. ..Sat. .. ...54 .. .. .. .8.7/20

O's-Det. .. .. .. .. ..Fri. .. ...54 .. .. .. .7.1/18

Wimbledon .. .. .. .. .Sat. .. ...11 .. .. ....4.6/15

West. Open .. .. .. ...Sun. .. ...13 .. .. .. .4.4/12

Wimbledon .. .. .. .. .Fri. .. ...11 .. .. .. .3.9/11

Wimbledon .. .. .. .. .Sun. .. ...11 .. .. .. .3.9/11

West. Open .. .. .. ...Sat. .. ...13 .. .. .. .3.5/10

WNBA show .. .. .. .. .Sat. .. ...11 .. .. .. .2.8/9

Wide World .. .. .. ...Sat. .. .. .2 .. .. .. ..2.8/8

Pub Date: 7/08/97

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