Roanoke Times
                 Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: SATURDAY, June 11, 1994                   TAG: 9406140009
SECTION: SPORTS                    PAGE: B3   EDITION: METRO 
SOURCE: Jack Bogaczyk
DATELINE:                                 LENGTH: Long


The word from The Baseball Network is that it hasn't decided which game will be fed to television markets like Roanoke-Lynchburg, which is more than a four-hour drive from any city in the major leagues.

Then, the Baseball Network really can't be sure it will televise any games this season, other than the July 12 All-Star Game from Pittsburgh. The potential for a players' strike in reaction to the owners' push for a salary cap could leave the game's new TV package in the dark.

The Baseball Network is the consortium created by baseball, ABC and NBC, primarily to televise postseason games. Each network is scheduled to air six regular-season games in prime time, following the All-Star Game. Sales for the package have gone better than some expected after CBS Sports lost an estimated $200 million on its four-year, $1.06 billion baseball contract that ended after last season.

Sources said sales by The Baseball Network are in the $140 million range, but it's likely it will be a tougher market because of the possibility of an eighth work stoppage in the national pastime since 1972. Already, without a strike to pre-empt telecasts, major-league clubs are scheduled to get only about half of the $14 million each received from CBS and ESPN last season.

The two-year goal of the network is $330 million in sales. If that isn't reached, then baseball and the networks can break the deal, and the sport likely would return to seeking flat rights fees. That's where the Fox Network, which upped the ante for the NFL starting this season, figures as a player.

What viewers want to know is what they'll see. The Baseball Network is working on that. On each of the 12 regular-season nights, 14 games will be televised regionally and will be billed as "Baseball Night in America." Each market will get one, and clubs will be beamed into their areas of natural interest.

In places such as the Roanoke Valley, where baseball loyalties are divided, Baseball Network spokesman Ray Stallone said viewers likely will see what's deemed the best matchup of the night, and a mixture of American League and National League games.

Each network also will have a studio show and cut-ins to other regional games. ABC games are scheduled July 16, 18 and 25 and Aug. 6, 13 and 20 - two Mondays and four Saturdays. NBC airs six consecutive Friday games Aug. 26-Sept. 30.

ABC has the new best-of-five divisional playoffs and the World Series. NBC gets the best-of-seven league championship series. That's when fans will really gripe, because both rounds of the playoffs will be televised regionally.

A viewer will see only one-fourth of the new playoff games and half of the league championship series until Games 6 and 7, when the start times will be staggered by one hour.

That's if they're played at all.

\ CATCH THIS: Baseball fans waiting for ABC and NBC to sign on The Baseball Network in July should wait until September, then tune to PBS.

That's when filmmaker Ken Burns' new miniseries, "Baseball" will debut. Burns, who developed and produced the award-winning "The Civil War" documentary several years ago, has spent 4 1/2 years working on his presentation of the national pastime.

The 21 hours will be aired over nine nights - or innings - beginning Sept. 18. The project cost $7.5 million, and General Motors is the sole corporate sponsor. "Baseball" includes interviews with about 70 people and much of the focus will be on two clubs - the Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Red Sox.

\ OPEN OPENS: Before ABC closes its U.S. Open golf coverage after 29 years next weekend, the tournament belongs to ESPN, starting with a half-hour preview show at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. The cable network will air 6 1/2 live hours during each of the first two rounds in Oakmont, Pa., from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

\ NO REDSKINS: For the unidentified voice-mailer from Vinton, the Washington Redskins do not play a Monday night game this NFL season. Only 17 of 28 clubs do, and Dallas, San Francisco, Houston and the New York Giants have three each. Every club plays at least one prime-time cable game on Sunday or Thursday night. The Redskins' night game is Oct. 9 at Philadelphia.

\ TALKING HEADS: With the World Cup and its 52 televised games beginning Friday - Germany-Bolivia at Chicago's Soldier Field (ESPN, 2:55 p.m.), perhaps an ABC Sports release explains the lack of kick in U.S. soccer. ABC called one of its announcers, Rick Davis, "the most famous American soccer player ever." Davis was captain of the U.S. national team for a decade. But who knew? . . . John McEnroe analyzes tennis almost as well as he played the game. His NBC and USA Network commentary during the French Open was strong. His next TV work will be at Wimbledon for NBC.

\ AROUND THE DIAL: After an absence of three years, boxing returns to CBS Sports on Sunday. Yes, CBS needs events after losing baseball and football. "Eye on Sports" (WDBJ, 1 p.m.) airs a junior featherweight bout from Atlantic City, N.J., between "Shark" Toledo and "Poison" Jones. You never see the boxers nicknamed "Tomato Can." . . . If the NHL wants to lure more viewers, it should tell ESPN to show more shots from GoalCam, which is attached to the posts during the Stanley Cup final series. Some of the shots have been downright puck-swallowing.

 by CNB