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Volume 24 No. 160
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     "Baseball's image is on the mend," according to a CNN/ USA
TODAY/GALLUP poll conducted during the divisional playoffs last
week (October 5-7).  Fans were asked to compare their present
interest in the game with last year:  47% said they were "as
interested" (up from 30% in April), and the number of those
responding "less interested" fell from 69% in April to 51%.  Fan
opposition to the new playoff system seems to be "dying down as
well."  From the October survey:  26% in favor, 19% opposed, 53%
doesn't matter.  From May:  26% in favor, 33% opposed, 40%
doesn't matter.  On MLB's broadcast schedule, 36% were opposed,
compared to 58% in May.  While the number in favor didn't change
much (up one point to 13%), those who said it "does not matter
much" increased from 29% to 49% (USA TODAY, 10/9).
     TALKIN' BASEBALL:  With the first-ever round of divisional
playoffs now complete and the LCS to begin tonight, the baseball
media offers mostly positive reviews of the new system.  In
Baltimore, Buster Olney writes, "Well, the purists, including
this one, were wrong: the first divisional playoffs have been a
rousing success" (Baltimore SUN, 10/8).  In DC, Tom Boswell
writes, "When it comes to first courses, baseball most certainly
served up a gourmet treat last week" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/10).
In Tampa, Bill Chastain writes, "Save for a few stupid TV tricks
and the need for some fine tuning, baseball's expanded playoffs
look like a winner from this view" (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 10/9).  In Ft.
Worth, Roger Brown writes, "For all of those traditionalists
knocking the new wild-card format, baseball came back with a
strong answer -- exciting and pulsating games that went right
down to the wire" (FT. WORTH STAR TELEGRAM, 10/10).  In L.A.,
Ross Newhan writes, "The best way to put it, perhaps, is that
baseball overcame business" (L.A. TIMES, 10/10).  On ABC's "World
News Tonight," Dick Schapp reported that "October Fever" has
brought fans back.  Columnist Bill Conlin:  "Good games are the
fuel that drives the engine of baseball" (ABC, 10/9).
     NOT ALL GOOD NEWS:  A piece on baseball in this week's
BUSINESS WEEK by David Greising and Stephen Baker is entitled,
"The Bozos of October: It's a Tough Job, but the Owners Are
Making Fans Even Angrier" (BUSINESS WEEK, 10/16). An editorial in
Monday's USA TODAY focuses on the problems with the regional
broadcasts:  "The mistake was putting networks' needs above fan
interest, when fan interest is essential to the game's health"
(USA TODAY, 10/10).  And in L.A., Jim Murray writes, "Expediency
counts over morality, and television counts over all" (L.A.
TIMES, 10/8).