St. Louis Cardinal fans, the best in all of baseball, got an okay show from MLB’s All-Star Game festivities, which produced good numbers for ESPN and Fox.
A year after Josh Hamilton made like Roy Hobbs at the old Yankee Stadium and rendered all future competitions second fiddle, Prince Fielder won the State Farm Home Run Derby over Nelson Cruz. ESPN scored a 6.0 rating and 8.25 million viewers for the action on Monday July 13. Those marks were off 6.3% and 9.5% from the belting in The Bronx in 2008, the worldwide leader’s best-ever score with the event.
Still, the Derby gave ESPN the night in broadcast and cable, plus wins on the demo side among men and adults 18 to 34, 18 to 49 and 25 to 54. The event was ESPN’s third most-watched show of 2009 behind Game 4 (6.9) and Game 5 (6.5) of the Los Angeles Lakers-Denver Nuggets NBA Western Conference finals series.
St. Louis supporters who couldn’t get into the new Busch Stadium showed they cared, generating an 18.9 metered market rating, the highest number in the 12 years ESPN has televised the event live.
St. Louis fans also watched the All-Star Game in droves, registering a 37 rating/56 share in the DMA, the most for a host city since Seattle’s 38.1 in 2001.
All told, the taut tilt — the AL’s 4-3 triumph checked in at just over 2 hours and 30 minutes, a far cry from the 15-inning marathon in New York a year ago — earned an 8.9 national rating, down from a 9.3 last year (over the first nine frames), which was goosed by the hometown interest in the nation’s largest DMA.
However, Fox’s scorecard showed an average audience of 14.6 million — perhaps more people were watching together, interested in checking out President Obama’s appearance — the most for the All-Star Game since 2002.
Imagine what the numbers could have been in St. Louis if Albert Pujols performed. The game’s best player came up small in both the Derby and the All-Star game. The Triple Crown threat managed just five long balls and was forced into a swing-off (yes, Chris Berman and Joe Morgan, your ‘bat-off’ sounds better, but not when the on-screen graphics reads swing-off) with Carlos Pena and Joe Mauer. The St. Louis slugger managed to advance into the semis, but lacked the juice to make a serious run.
In the game itself, Pujols botched a grounder in the first that helped the junior circuit to a pair of runs, before redeeming himself in the field with a couple of sparklers thereafter. At the dish, he was robbed by Michael Young on a one-hop shot to third in his first at-bat, before adding a couple of meek ground-outs.
Imagine the razzing A-Rod would have received from those not so polite New Yawkers.
Speaking of the Bronx Cheer, let’s sound a couple.
ESPN’s “Ball Track” technology, using Doppler radar, may have produced real-time distances for dingers, but towering fly balls got lost in the upper deck overhang or against the backdrop of the outfield scoreboard. Ball Track’s best visuals showcased a fireworks effect…like rockets tracing the sky on the Fourth of July.
Fox’s chief foible involved the southpaw from Illinois. The network showed Obama, sporting jeans and a Chisox jacket, going into his wind-up and delivering the ceremonial first pitch of the Midsummer Classic. However, with the tight angle, TV watchers didn’t get to witness the ball barely wobbling to Pujols at the plate until a few innings later in a replay.
Fox officials said the network didn’t have the right angle, but maybe they were hedging their bets against depicting a truly awful Obama offering.
After all, the president’s a baller, not a hardball guy, saying later during his time in the booth with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver that some of the national pastime’s natural motions weren’t so natural to him because he didn’t play organized baseball growing up.
Maybe, he’ll shoot a free throw when the NBA All-Star Game sets up shop in Jerry Jones’s new Cowboys Stadium in February.
Maybe not in Big D or civilized St. Louis, but in New York, an airball, or a lousy or bounced pitch draws boos (Derek Jeter warned George W. that’s what he would have heard if he didn’t reach the plate before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series) — even from Democrats.