Striking Out

If only the Aug. 21 ESPN telecast of the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I), Alabama Stakes (gr. I), and Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) had followed the baseball game between Colorado and Montreal rather than Richmond and Redmond.

The Rockies and Expos, of the major leagues, played nine innings in two hours and 14 minutes. The teams from Richmond, Texas, and Redmond, Wash., of the little leagues, played six innings in two hours and 44 minutes.

So, when viewers tuned in to ESPN to watch the racing telecast, they instead saw--because of the network's contractual obligations--a group of 11- and 12-year-olds having trouble getting each other out.

Let's face it, only the most diehard fans of a team will continue to watch any sporting event after the game gets out of reach. In this case, Richmond was ahead of Redmond, 10-2 after four innings, 15-6 at the end of five innings, and the game ended 18-7. Besides the 25 runs, the two teams combined for 26 hits and--here's the worst part--committed a total of eight errors.

A game that started at 3:11 p.m., and was supposed to be over by 5, when the cameras would turn from Williamsport, Penn., to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., stretched until 5:55, leaving a third of the telecast time left for the scheduled 90-minute racing broadcast.

Once again, racing fans were left out in the cold.

In fact, in the bottom of the fifth, racing fans were forced to root for Redmond not to score. The 10-run mercy rule would have ended the game after the fifth inning had Redmond not put four runs across the plate and cut the margin to nine.

How brutal can a Little League team be? Redmond was answering the question faster than a 3-5 shot running up the track.

It was hard to feel sorry for Redmond shortstop Cameron Sandquist, who committed three of his team's five errors, because we wanted to see Afleet Alex, Ashado, and the beauty of Saratoga and Del Mar as promised in countless promotions for the telecast.

We cringed every time they showed a Little Leaguer and informed us his favorite movie was Field of Dreams or his favorite food was pasta. What we wanted to see were post positions and odds.

Want another kick in the stomach? When racing finally appeared on the screen, only the stretch runs of the Hopeful and Alabama were shown. You would think the least the network could do after royally inconveniencing loyal racing fans would be to show the races in their entirety.

Of course one man's Little League fiasco is another man's Thoroughbred racing bonanza. The staff of TVG was thrilled with the duration of the Richmond-Redmond game. The network was not supposed to be able to show the Alabama and Hopeful live, but with ESPN forced to stick with its fascinating Little League game until its final out, TVG lucked out. Racing fans did not because unfortunately, most of the country does not get TVG, which states it is currently available in nearly 13 million households on DISH network, DIRECTV, and a few cable systems.

Major League Baseball's owners are discussing a league-owned cable channel, something the National Football League launched last fall and the National Basketball Association has had for five years.

The start-up cost for any cable channel is said to be in the $100-million range. Who would pay for the Racing Network? Well, those who would benefit from its existence.

For now, let's just think about tuning in to such a channel. You might find out what D. Wayne Lukas' favorite food is, and what Rafael Bejarano's favorite movie is.

Oh, and the races would not be pre-empted for Little League...or any anything else, for that matter.