Keeping abreast of times
Yet weekend games not set
Thoughts while trying to work out all the baseball scheduling permutations and assure those formulating weekend plans that the Red Sox will play afternoon games at Fenway Park Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday.
Analyst Jeff Brantley, who will work tomorrow night's Sox-A's late show in Oakland (ESPN and Channel 68, 10 p.m.), knows a thing or two about earth-shaking developments, having experienced the 1989 World Series earthquake that delayed the Athletics' sweep of the Giants (he was a pitcher for San Francisco). "Pedro Martinez has to get outs early and pitch efficient," said Brantley, who expects the Sox and Cubs to advance to the Series.
How did Channel 68, a Pax station, get Game 1 after WCVB (Channel 5) bought the rights to simulcast any Sox divisional playoff games? No one at Channel 5 anticipated that Game 1 would wind up in the same time slot as the heavily promoted premier of ABC's "Karen Sisco." "We anticipated starting times of 1, 4, 7, and even 11:30 p.m.," said Liz Cheng, Channel 5 director of programming, "but a 10 p.m. start never crossed our minds." So Channel 5 passed on Game 1 but will simulcast Game 2 Thursday (4 p.m.) "leading into an expanded NewsCenter5 that will run from the end of the game until 8 p.m.," said Cheng. Channel 5 also is hoping that either (preferably both) of the weekend games wind up on ESPN (and thus also on Channel 5).
NESN had planned to run its "W.B. Mason Extra Innings" after each Sox playoff game, however, tomorrow's late start led to a reconsideration. The network instead will broadcast a one-hour special pregame edition. Studio host Bob Rodgers will be joined by analysts Dennis Eckersley and Sam Horn, with Tom Caron providing live reports from Oakland. Caron also will do pregame player interviews and chat with Globe writers Gordon Edes, Bob Hohler, Jackie MacMullan, and Dan Shaughnessy.
Tomorrow's "Sports Plus" on NESN will air from The Place downtown at 8:30 p.m., with Globe staffers Ron Borges and Nick Cafardo. NESN's Eric Frede will be the host because Bob Lobel of Channel 4 is in Oakland. Lobel and Edes will do a live cut-in during the show.
FSNE plans to produce pregame and postgame editions of "New England Sports Tonight," with former Sox shortstop Rico Petrocelli joining studio hosts Gary Tanguay and Greg Dickerson. Show regulars Tony Massarotti, Steve Buckley, and Sean McAdam will participate from Oakland. FSNE's Thursday "New England Tailgate" Patriots show is being pushed back to 6:30 p.m.
ESPN's No. 1 broadcast team of Jon Miller, Joe Morgan, and Gary Miller plans to do four games in four cities in four days (and are hoping to stretch that to five or six), starting with today's Twins-Yankees game at 1 p.m. Then it's Cubs-Braves tomorrow in Atlanta (7 p.m.), Sox-A's Thursday in Oakland (4 p.m.), and Braves-Cubs Friday in Chicago (8 p.m.).
That schedule pales in comparison to Brantley's. He catches the red-eye back to Hartford following tomorrow's Sox-A's game, works the ESPN "Baseball Today/Tonight/Tomorrow" studio from early afternoon until postmidnight for two days, then hops a plane for Chicago (if necessary) for Game 4 of the Braves-Cubs series.
Pax general manager Bob Gilbert predicts that the station's connection with baseball will bring the Sox luck. "The winner of Game 1 wins most series," he reasoned. "And with Pedro pitching for the Sox, I'm predicting he'll set the team on course to break the curse and win the World Series." Gilbert was busy all day yesterday working out details of getting the signal to Channel 68 for over-the-air viewers.
WEEI is planning on pulling an "all-nighter" with Ted Sarandis after Game 1 tomorrow. Sarandis will go on the air following Sox-A's and work straight through to the morning "Dennis and Callahan" show at 6 a.m. Jerry Remy also will call in daily, starting today, to the WEEI morning show, with McAdam and Massarotti splitting call-in duties with "Dale and Neumy" at midday and Peter Gammons joining "The Big Show" by phone each afternoon.
About that weekend schedule. The prime-time games selected each day dictate the rest of the schedule. ESPN will trigger the Saturday schedule when it picks its 7:30 p.m. game, likely by late tomorrow night or Thursday, and Fox sets the stage when it selects its 7:30 p.m. Sunday game. "We're both hoping that all four series are tied, 1-1, after two games," said ESPN's Diane Lamb.
Fox Sports president Ed Goren on picking games: "It becomes easier depending on how many of the early series wind up 2-0. Then you tend to take the guaranteed game. The problem is, you can't wait until Friday to trigger a decision." Goren on tomorrow's 10 p.m. start: "The good thing is that it's not an 11 p.m. start. This issue comes up every year with some team. My advice is to invest a couple of hours in watching Pedro Martinez pitch in the postseason."
OK, so there's no definitive indication on when the Sox will play Saturday and Sunday. One man's guess: 4 p.m. Saturday (a Fox game) and 1 p.m. Sunday (an ESPN or ESPN2 game) and if you bet on that, I'm going to start a tout service.
Sunday's Patriots-Redskins game did a solid 22.8 rating (50 audience share). Viewership started at a 17.2 and built steadily to a 27.7 for the final 15 minutes . . . Another interesting Sunday number was 2.0 -- the rating posted by Channel 4's "Sports Final," Channel 7's "Sports Xtra," and Channel 25's "Sports Sunday." . . . And when was the last time you saw NASCAR (Talladega 500) outrate a Sox game, even if it was the meaningless baseball season finale? NASCAR posted a 3.4 local number Sunday to a 3.3 for the Sox. Nationally, the auto race did a 4.7, the highest-ever number for NASCAR on a football Sunday . . . WTSN (1270 AM) out of Dover, N.H., snagged local radio rights to every Sox and Yankees postseason game . . . Sunday's Patriots-Titans game (Channel 4, 1 p.m.) will be called by Gus Johnson and Brent Jones. CBS is keeping its broadcasting A team (and HD unit) in New York for Dolphins-Giants, which will be the DirecTV HD telecast. Fox has the doubleheader this week, but because the Patriots are home, Channel 25 will bring in only the 4:15 p.m. game, Redskins-Eagles, available in widescreen . . . Channel 5 has Virginia Tech-Rutgers football Saturday at noon, followed by Michigan-Iowa at 3:30. Channel 4 has No. 24 Florida at No. 6 LSU at 3:30 p.m. . . . The Celtics are having a final round of auditions for their PA announcer today at Conte Forum. The successor to Andy Jick, Dickerson, and Dave Jageler will come from a field that includes WEEI's Jon Meterparel, the Boston Cannons' Jason Chandler, Celtics employee (and son of the late Will McDonough) Ryan McDonough, and veteran Boston DJ J.J. Wright. Also in the final round: Greg Chisholm of Allston, Alan Longley of Milford, Conn., Chuck Nilosek of Plymouth, and Joseph Tagman of Shrewsbury . . . ESPN2 celebrates its 10th anniversary tomorrow, the same day it covers a Women's World Cup doubleheader at Foxborough. The Deuce has Brazil-Sweden at 4:30 p.m., a behind-the-scenes "Road Trip with Team USA," at 6:30, followed by US-Norway at 7:25 p.m. . . . DirecTV yesterday announced a series of promotions geared around high definition receivers and digital video recorders (DVRs). Look for a similar digital cable offer from Comcast in the not-too-distant future . . . Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the first World Series game (Oct. 1, 1903) at the Huntington Avenue Grounds. Northeastern University, which now occupies the site, has a day of commemorative festivities planned. Check www.worldseries.neu.edu for more information.
Bill Griffith's e-mail address is email@example.com
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