'99 Orioles also have off year in the television ratings game


The final tally is in on the Orioles' 1999 television ratings, and the story is as glum as it was on the field.

For the 64 telecasts on the two over-the-air carriers -- channels 13 and 54 -- the games averaged a 7.5 rating and 15 share, a figure that was down 12 percent from the 8.5/17 for 1998.

The ratings fall was most notable on Channel 13, the principal carrier, which posted a 9.3/18 average for the 36 telecasts this year, a mark that was 11 percent off the 10.4/20 posted in 1998. The 1999 rating was the first time the Orioles had failed to post at least a 10 rating for a season since Channel 13 began airing games in 1993.

Channel 54's 5.3/12 represented a 12 percent fall from the 6.0/12 in 1998.

On the cable side, Home Team Sports reports the Orioles package of 90 telecasts fell from a 5.4 rating last year to a 4.5 for 1999, a 17 percent drop.

Meanwhile, Sunday's telecast of the Ravens-Titans game was the most watched in team history. The 20.1 rating represented the highest for the team since it arrived from Cleveland in 1996, barely topping the 20 for the Dec. 1, 1996 game between the Ravens and Steelers.

A reasonable compromise

It has become clear, absent an act of Congress or a presidential order, that NBC is not going to join the rest of baseball's broadcasters and put the game situations on the screen at all times, even though they've "borrowed" using a camera in the catcher's mask as well as microphones in the bases and on coaches or managers like Fox and ESPN.

But, if the first two games of the National League Championship Series are any indication, the Peacock gang seems to have come up with something that will work for the present.

The network, which airs Game 3 tonight (Channel 11, 8 p.m.), is leaving a box with the score and count, as well as a graphic that shows base runners up whenever it goes to the standard center-field camera shot with pitcher, batter, catcher and home plate umpire.

It's not the best arrangement, but it will have to do for now.

Quick clicks

Channel 2 has released its lacrosse telecast schedule for next spring, which includes four prime-time games, six appearances by the Johns Hopkins men's team and the station's first telecast of a women's game.

The 13-game slate opens March 4 with Hopkins playing host to Princeton, and continues weekly through May 6, when Loyola is host to Hopkins. The station will carry three Friday night games and a Saturday day/night doubleheader on April 15, pitting Hopkins against Maryland.

And, in a development that should warm the hearts of NASCAR fans, there appear to be no conflicts with auto races.

Meanwhile, Turner Sports announced yesterday that former Georgetown men's basketball coach John Thompson, who has sat in on the last few NBA draft broadcasts, will join the ranks of NBA game analysts this season.

Around the dial

Speaking of the NBA, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs kick off the league's telecast schedule with their appearance at the McDonald's Championships from Milan, Italy. TNT will carry the Spurs' game against either a team from the host country or from Lebanon at 8 tonight, followed by a game pitting the European league champions against either a squad from South America or Australia. The winners of the two games meet tomorrow at noon on NBC (Channel 11).

ESPN Classic will air 11 hours of Wilt Chamberlain-related programming this weekend as a tribute. Among the highlights are a tape of Game 4 of the 1967 Eastern Conference championship series between the Philadelphia 76ers, one of the best squads in league history, and the Boston Celtics, airing tomorrow at 4 p.m.

Reporter Sonja Steptoe anchors a special edition of CNN/SI's "Page One" Sunday, which will be solely devoted to the issue of Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader, and his quest for reinstatement to the game. Steptoe, an Emmy award-winning reporter and Sports Illustrated writer, canvassed a number of current and former players, as well as people connected with the case for the program that airs at 7: 30 p.m. on CNN.

On the NFL pre-game front, CBS' Randy Cross will preview the Miami-New England game through the perspective of the two quarterbacks, Dan Marino and Drew Bledsoe, for "The NFL Today" (Channel 13, noon). ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown," meanwhile, will take a look at the mechanics of a last-minute comeback from both sides of the ball at noon, while Washington coach Norv Turner will be grilled by Mike Francesa on the latter's MSNBC cable show at 9 a.m.

One day earlier, former Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne joins Baltimore native Kevin Frazier and Kellen Winslow in the Fox Sports Net studio for "College Football Saturday," airing throughout the afternoon on HTS.

Finally, ESPN's previews of the America's Cup continues Sunday at 2 p.m. with a one-hour look at the 12 teams in advance of a round-robin race from Auckland, New Zealand on Monday.

Week's ratings

The ratings for the top 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in Baltimore during the past week (R-Rating; S-Share):

Event Day Ch. R/S

Ravens-Titans Sun. 13 20.1/35

NFL post-game Sun. 13 10.8/22

Steelers-Bills Sun. 13 9.7/21

Braves-Mets Tue. 11 9.0/15

Red Sox-Yankees Wed. 45 6.9/12

D'backs-Mets Fri. 11 6.2/10

Jaguars-Jets Mon. 2 6.1/11

Rangers-Yankees Sat. 11 5.8/10

Red Sox-Indians Mon. 45 5.5/9

NLCS pre-game Tue. 11 5.4/9

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