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ESPN GETS WIDESPREAD ACCLAIM FOR HANDLING OF RIPKEN GAME
Published September 8, 1995
ESPN's telecast of Cal Ripken's record-breaking 2131st consecutive game played drew a "whopping" 7.5 cable rating, the highest mark for an ESPN baseball game. ESPN's Mike Soltys: "Our initial expectations weren't quite that high. ... [But] Ripken's streak had crossed over the sports line and got to be a wider story. That's where the audience kicked in" (Prentis Rogers, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/8). In Baltimore, Milton Kent notes that WJZ-Channel 13 got a 30.1 local rating and HTS did a 14.2/20 in the Baltimore area. Between 9:30 and 9:45, nearly 80% of all Baltimore TV homes were tuned to coverage of the game (Baltimore SUN, 9/8). The previous high ratings for non-NFL ESPN telecasts were Georgetown-St. John's basketball in February '85 (8.0) and last year's Florida State-Miami football game (7.7). The 9:30-9:45 portion of the program (when the game was made official) drew an 11.3, and the 11:30-12:30 postgame show drew a 7.3. ESPN's 7.5 rating includes over-the-air coverage on Baltimore's WJZ and DC's WFTY. Without those areas, it was 7.0 rating in the cable-only universe (ESPN). SILENCE IS GOLDEN: In Philadelphia, Mike Bruton writes, "For baseball junkies it was nirvana, and ESPN, the network charged with recording this piece of history, was up to the task" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/8). In Washington, Leonard Shapiro notes both Chris Berman and Buck Martinez "allowed ESPN's pictures to do the talking, the perfect approach to one of the greatest moments in sports history" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/8). NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol said ESPN did an "incredible, classy and effective job. It was TV sports for the ages" (USA TODAY, 9/8). In Orlando, Jerry Greene writes, "I'm told Berman first suggested turning off his mike and played a large role in the final decision. You're more than just a pretty face, Chris" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/8). In Houston, Carlton Thompson writes, "Berman forever will be known for his clever wit and nicknames. But when the moment dictates, he can be serious and compassionate. He proved that Wednesday night by saying nothing" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/8). ANOTHER LANDMARK: ESPN celebrated its 16th anniversary by announcing that it is the first cable network to hit 70% penetration of U.S. homes. That 70% represents 66,805,000 homes (ESPN). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Frederick Klein writes, "For my money, the most important date in the modern world of Sportsbiz was Sept. 7, 1979" -- ESPN's first day of cablecasting (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/8).