- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2001

Major League Baseball yesterday moved Cal Ripken's final game at Camden Yards on Sept. 23 from 1:35 to 7:05 p.m., and created a unique split broadcast plan between Comcast SportsNet, WNUV-TV (Channel 54), WBDC-TV (Channel 50) and ESPN2 to televise the event.
Given the massive interest in Ripken's home finale, Bethesda-based Comcast and ESPN had been haggling for weeks on broadcast rights. Comcast holds the local TV rights to the Orioles, and planned to air the game on 50 and 54, its local broadcast partners.
ESPN, however, is a national TV partner of Major League Baseball and is contractually able to assume broadcast rights for any late-season games of national importance, such as pennant race games and milestone events.
The compromise allows the game to be shown in greater Baltimore and Washington on Channels 54 and 50, and on ESPN2 in the rest of the country.
The time switch from day to night was done to accommodate ESPN, which aims to air home finales for both Ripken and San Diego outfielder Tony Gwynn on the 23rd. The Padres-San Francisco Giants game will air on ESPN2 at 4:05 p.m., with the Orioles-New York Yankees game from Baltimore immediately following.
The game time for the Orioles game on Saturday, Sept. 22, is not set. The determining factor there is whether Fox will air the game nationally that afternoon. A decision is expected next week.
A similar broadcast fight is still ongoing for the Orioles' final game of the season, Sept. 30 at New York, scheduled to start at 1:05. Complicating the issue, industry sources say, is MLB's desire to honor its contract with ESPN and deliver the massive New York market to ESPN. But the Yankees want their local fans to see the game on MSG, as currently scheduled.
But ESPN may not even choose to air Ripken's swan song on ESPN or ESPN2. If Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa is nearing the single-season home record, or if one of the divisional races goes down to the final day, those games may receive priority.
If ESPN is not able to air the Sept. 30 game live or chooses not to, it will cut into the game at various points.
The Orioles, meanwhile, have scheduled several special events for their final home series Sept. 21-23. Pre-game ceremonies are slated for each of those games, with a longer ceremony starting at 6 p.m. on the 23rd. The team will also hold a "Cal Fest" outside Gate A at Camden Yards, and emblazon the bases, on-deck circles and Orioles uniforms and hats with special Ripken retirement logos. Commemorative souvenirs, including books and videos, also will be produced chronicling Ripken's final games and entire career.
Additionally, NASCAR has made official long-rumored plans to temporarily rename the MBNA 400 Winston Cup race, being held Sept. 23 in Dover, Del., the MBNA Cal Ripken Jr. 400. Bobby Labonte will repaint his green car black and orange, and the time change for the Orioles game will allow Ripken to attend the race and serve as official starter.


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