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IT IS THE YEAR or two before the Big Hitters take over major league baseball coverage. CBS, ESPN, and Madison Square Garden have made the big off-season acquisitions. But it will be a year before CBS takes over the contract from NBC and ABC, and a year before ESPN gets into the act. And, it will be two years before cable's Madison Square Garden takes over the rights to all New York Yankee games. This doesn't mean Buffalo viewers will be shut out. Madison Square Garden may sell many of those games to a superstation, such as WPIX. The changes in the way baseball is covered will be more dramatic next season, when the network Game of the Week will disappear and ESPN will add 175 cable games during the week. This year will see the end of several long-term announcing teams. Joe Garagiola is out at NBC, ending a 26-year career. Bill White is out at WPIX, where he had worked New York Yankees telecasts for 18 years. Garagiola, tired of all the criticism of his work and the lack of support from NBC, just plain quit. White got a better job -- president of the National League. Well, it appears to be a better job, if only because he doesn't have to listen to Phil Rizzuto describe the traffic jams on the way to New Jersey anymore. Tom Seaver, the Hall of Fame pitcher, has taken both jobs. He'll work with Vin Scully on NBC's Game of the Week and with Rizzuto and George Grande (formerly of ESPN) on WPIX. Buffalo viewers will see more of Seaver this year on WPIX than they saw of White a year ago because WPIX will carry 75 games this season, up from 52 last year. Madison Square Garden offers a 72-game regular season package, but cable systems in Western New York have declined to sign up for it. Adelphia is still negotiating with Madison Square Garden, but isn't that excited about the service because only 34 of the 72 games could be shown here. Any games on a regional service are blacked out when the Toronto Blue Jays have a home game or a road game is being telecast. Once many of the local systems expand their channel capacities, the likelihood of Madison Square Garden entering this market will increase, if the price is right.

The Yankees radio team also has changed. Jay John stone and John Sterling re place Hank Greenwald and Tommy Hutton for the Yanks, whose games will be carried locally on WBEN- AM (930). Here's the rest of the lineup: H NBC: In its 42nd and last year of baseball cover age, NBC will carry 26 con secutive weeks of Saturday afternoon baseball, two prime-time games, the All- Star Game and the League Championship Series. Next year, CBS plans to carry only 12 regular season games, with the post-season as the focus of its plan. Not surprisingly, the au dience-rich New York mar kets are being wooed by NBC with eight Yankees games and eight Mets games. Once again, Bob Costas and Tony Kubek will be NBC's second team on baseball. NBC said it will lose money on baseball this year and uses that as evidence in its claim that CBS' four-year, $1.1-billion baseball contract starting next season is "irresponsible." ABC: Al Michaels, Tim McCarver and Jim Palm er remain ABC's first team for its limited schedule of prime-time games. McCarver has a long-term contract with ABC, but that network is expected to release him after the season so he can join Brent Musburger for CBS' coverage next season. This year, ABC's prime-time games have been moved to Thursday nights, primarily for network competitive reasons. Baseball is good counterpro gramming against NBC's Thursday night hit, "The Cosby Show." Gary Thorne, the former Mets broadcaster who is now the voice of the Chicago White Sox, replaces Gary Bender as the play-by-play man on the second team with Joe Morgan. ABC, which also expects to lose a significant amount of money this season, ends its baseball asso ciation with this year's World Series. Toronto Blue Jays: CFTO, the Toronto CTV affil iate, will carry 39 regular season games, with Fergy Olver, Don Chevrier and Tony Kubek at the micro phone. See On the Air Page C10 Continued from Page C9 Montreal Expos: CTV has tak en over the rights to the Expos from CBC, with CFTO carrying 23 games. Dave Van Horne re turns as play-by-play man, but Ken Singleton has replaced Jim Fanning as the analyst. Ron Reusch is the host. CFTO also will carry the All- Star Game, the League Champion ship Series and the World Series. New York Yankees: You won't need cable to see the Yankees. WUTV will carry 20 games off WPIX's feed. You'll need cable to see the other 55 offered by WPIX. New York Mets: WWOR-TV will carry 75 regular season games, with Steve Zabriskie returning to team with Met analyst McCarver. Atlanta Braves: Ted Turner's WTBS will carry a 125-game schedule, with Ernie Johnson, Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, Bill Sample and Don Sutton at the microphone. Chicago Cubs: East Aurora ca ble subscribers can follow the Cubs on WGN, with Harry Caray, Dewayne Staats and Steve Stone working 152 games. Pittsburgh Pirates: Adelphia's three systems will carry many of the 60 Pirates games offered by KBL Entertainment, TCI's region al sports service. TCI of New York is hopeful it will find room for many of the games. Lanny Frattare, John Sanders, Steve Blass and Jim Rooker are the an nouncers for the Buffalo Bisons' parent team. SportsChannel: Adelphia, which carried the regional pay-ser vice last season, has dropped it. SportsChannel continues to carry extra New York Mets games, but lost the rights to the Yankees to Madison Square Garden. Buffalo Bisons: Pete Weber and David Roth will be the announc ers for a 25-game television pack age on WNYB-TV, up from 20 a year ago. Roth is the brother-in- law of Bison President Robert E. Rich Jr. On the radio side, the interest ing local contest will be between WBEN's coverage of the Yankees (148 games) and WGR-AM's (550) coverage of the Bisons. WBEN also is carrying CBS' Ra dio's Saturday Game of the Week. Weber and newcomer Greg Brown will be WGR's announcers. A former television sports anchor, Brown has worked in the Pirates organization for nine years and was most recently radio-television coordinator for the club. CJRN-AM (710) in Niagara Falls, Ont., has the best signal to pick up the Blue Jays games, with Tom Cheek and Jerry Haworth back at the microphone. WBUZ-AM (1570) in Fredonia, will carry about 150 Cleveland In dians games, with Herb Score and Paul Olden at the microphone. WLVL-AM (1340) in Lockport, which had split its coverage be tween the Mets and the Yankees, has dropped its Yankees coverage because of WBEN's deal. WLVL will carry the Mets' en tire schedule, with Bob Murphy and Gary Cohen at the micro phone. You know Murphy. He has worked for the Mets for 28 years. Who is Cohen? No, Thorne's replacement is not the owner's brother-in-law. He is a 30-year-old newcomer who was play-by-play man for Boston's Triple A affiliate in Paw tucket. In other words, Cohen worked his way up from the minors.

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