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CANCELED FLIGHT TO CLEVELAND A PANE FOR UMPIRES

Umpires Greg Kosc and Joe West were among dozens of baseball officials, fans and reporters stranded Monday when a cracked windshield canceled a World Series-bound flight to Cleveland.

Continental Airlines Flight 1098 from Fort Lauderdale was delayed because a windshield shattered on a flight in from Cleveland earlier Monday, airline spokeswoman Donna Pratt said.

Pratt said the cause of the crack was unknown. When the Cleveland-bound flight reached cruising altitude, the outer pane of the windshield on the co-pilot's side cracked, said 1st Officer John Watson. Two inner panes were not damaged.

"It sounded like a shotgun," Watson said.

West, who is supposed to umpire behind home plate in Game Three tonight, and Kosc took the Florida Marlins' charter flight to get them to Ohio. They declined comment as they rushed to meet their flight.

Hampered by a sore hamstring, Bobby Bonilla will nonetheless be in the lineup for the Marlins in Game Three. He'll be in the field, too.

Manager Jim Leyland chose Jim Eisenreich as the Marlins' designated hitter. Bonilla, whose disdain for the DH role fueled his feud with manager Davey Johnson in Baltimore last season, will remain at third base.

Bonilla and teammate Gary Sheffield, who was hit on the left wrist by a pitch Sunday night, both took batting practice Monday at Jacobs Field and pronounced themselves ready to play. Sheffield didn't require X-rays.

This could become one of the least-watched World Series since baseball's premier event moved to prime time.

Games One and Two averaged a 15.2 overnight rating on NBC, down 6 percent from last year, Nielsen Media Research reported Monday.

Saturday night's opener got a 14.0 overnight rating and 25 share, down 18 percent from Game One last year between the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves, which had a 17.0 rating and 26 share for Fox on Sunday night.

Game Two got a 16.3 overnight rating and 25 share, up 8 percent over last year, when the Yankees and Braves played opposite ABC's Monday Night Football for part of their game at a 15.1 rating and 23 share.

Last week, NBC entertainment executive Don Ohlmeyer said he was hoping for a four-game sweep to get baseball off the air and keep his regular prime-time schedule. He later apologized for the remark.

Baseball finally agreed to a contract with a credit card company, finalizing a deal Monday with MasterCard International in which the sport will receive about $10 million a year in cash, goods and services.

Greg Murphy, who had been baseball's marketing head, was negotiating a deal with Visa USA, but owners refused to vote on it and Murphy was fired last week.

The deal with MasterCard, which will run through at least the 2000 season, gives the credit card company the right to use baseball's logos and trademarks, including the logos of the 30 teams. It plans to take over issuing national affinity cards from MNBA, which had been issuing baseball cards through Visa.

Of the 48 times before this year that teams split the first two games, the Game Two winner has won 27 times (56 percent). In Series tied at 1-1, the home team is 23-25 in Game Three. . . . This is the 10th time the team that played host to the All-Star Game also was host to a Series game. The others were Yankee Stadium (1939), Fenway Park (1946), Ebbets Field (1949), Cleveland Stadium (1954), the Los Angeles Coliseum (1959), Yankee Stadium (1960), Metropolitan Stadium (1965), Riverfront Stadium (1970) and Yankee Stadium (1977). . . . Reba McIntyre will sing the national anthem before Game Three (she also did it before the 1985 Series opener in Kansas City). Herb Score, retiring after 34 seasons as a broadcaster for Cleveland, will throw out the first pitch.

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