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BASEBALL KEEPS WNY UP LATE

If there is any group of people happy that the Midnight Madness series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees is over, it has to be local employers.

The Boston marathons had amazing ratings for local Fox affiliate WUTV, which indicates a lot of viewers went to work bleary-eyed the following mornings.

Boston's Game Seven victory had a 22.7 rating, about 18 percent higher than the 19.4 national rating. It peaked locally with a 23.8 around midnight when parts of the the Curse were lifted. The seven-game series averaged a 15.3 on Channel 29, about 30 percent higher than the 11.8 rating for the seven-game series between the teams in 2003. And the gain came despite head-to-head competition with a presidential debate and a "Monday Night Football" game.

Viewers stayed late with the marathons, too. Sunday's 12-inning Game Four averaged a 12.8 rating. It even had an 11.9 rating at 1 a.m.

Monday's six-hour, 14-inning Game Five, which started at 5 p.m., averaged a 16.6 rating. The ratings rose to a 20.6 in prime time before finishing with a 21.2 at around 11 p.m. And Tuesday's four-hour Game Six had an 18.4 rating, rising to a 21 rating just before it ended shortly past midnight.

The Fox team of Joe Buck, Tim McCarver and Al Leiter was at its sharpest in Game Six, which had some of the weirdest plays in postseason history. The announcers noted that umpires rely more on huddles than they ever did, something that became apparent after they correctly reversed two calls that benefited the Red Sox. They validated both reversals, though a better explanation was needed of the rule that prohibited Yankees star Alex Rodriguez from slapping the ball from pitcher Bronson Arroyo's glove in a key play.

The announcers were on top of things in the series that became talk show issues the next morning, questioning why the Yankees didn't bunt against injured Sox pitcher Curt Schilling in Game Six and wondering what Sox manager Terry Francona was thinking when he summoned Pedro Martinez in the seventh inning of Game Seven.

With tired pitchers such a big part of the story, Leiter's explanations of their mechanics and psyches made him the most valuable player in the booth. Unfortunately, Fox previously said that Leiter has declined to be part of the World Series.

Gare making plans

Danny Gare, a member of the Buffalo Sabres' announcing lineup, is one of the 25 team employees who will be let go Nov. 30 if the National Hockey League lockout continues as expected. Producer Joe Pinter and director Eric Grossman are in the same boat. Play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret and analyst Jim Lorentz are believed to have contracts that guarantee them a partial salary.

Gare is hoping to team with Rob Ray on a "No Hockey Show" and plans to approach WGR about it.

A former 50-goal scorer who said the most he made was $300,000 a season, Gare understands why ownership wants to drop the average league salary from $1.8 million. He said he has spoken with several players and wonders what would have happened if a secret vote was taken.

"A lot of players would go back to work for less money," Gare said. "I don't understand the mentality. The (Eric) Boultons and (Adam) Mairs are the ones who will suffer. It isn't the players making millions. It is the bottom third that suffers."

Short takes

After the Bills-Ravens game ends Sunday on WIVB-TV, you'll have to find a sports bar or a friend with the NFL Sunday Ticket to see the 4 p.m. AFC battle of unbeatens between the New England Patriots and New York Jets. This is a Fox doubleheader weekend, which means Channel 4, a CBS affiliate, can't carry the Jets-Patriots.

Steve Tasker is getting more opinionated these days. During last Sunday's Bills-Dolphins telecast, the CBS analyst thought the Bills shouldn't take the wind in the third quarter, shouldn't have gone for it on fourth down in a key situation and that Bledsoe threw a bad pass that resulted in an interception that was negated by a penalty.

Unfortunately, he was wrong on all three counts. The Bills took the lead in the third quarter with the wind, they made the first down, and Bledsoe's pass was intercepted because Lee Evans apparently ran the wrong pattern. Still, you have to applaud Tasker's willingness to take a stand.

e-mail apergament@buffnews.com

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