Going Out to the Ballgame Never Looked So Inviting

MAJOR League Baseball could learn from what happened in Boston over the weekend, when a crisis brought fast, fan-pleasing action - at least in Beantown.

The crisis arose when a four-game Red Sox series, scheduled in Seattle against the Mariners, had to be switched at the last minute to Boston. Hazardous conditions in Seattle's Kingdome, where ceiling tiles began falling into the seats last week, prompted the switch.

While the Mariners were none too pleased to lose valuable home dates (and an estimated $350,000 per game), the Red Sox benefited financially. Baseball's formula of revenue distribution calls for the home team to keep 77 percent of the gate receipts, the visitors 20 percent.

Arranging the games was no snap. Many of Fenway Park's ushers and concessionaires were on vacation during what was supposed to be a two-week road trip. And selling thousands of tickets, printed overnight, was a challenge. Nonetheless, fan response was overwhelming when the club scrapped its usual procedures and sold only $10 general admission tickets, with first-come-first-serve seating beginning 90 minutes before game time. No season-ticket plans applied.

The outpouring of fan interest in these ``bonus'' games was helped by the egalitarian atmosphere they created. Everybody had a shot at the usually-$12-to-$16 good seats, not just season-ticket holders or those who had purchased seats three months earlier. The spontaneity of these games was refreshing.

Maybe Boston's spur-of-the-moment weekend series, which attracted many young fans, has sent Major League Baseball a message. Maybe, in an age of corporate and group sales, it has underlined the value of walk-up sales, as a goodwill device if nothing else. In the future, perhaps every team should have one walk-up weekend tucked in its schedule. Touching other bases

* Is there any doubt that the popularity of Andres Cantor will influence a coming generation of American soccer broadcasters? During the World Cup tournament, Cantor became famous - even in the United States - for his long shouts of ``Gooooooaaaal! Gooooooaaaal!'' on Univision's Spanish-language telecasts. Many viewers even defected from ABC and ESPN. The amazing thing is that Cantor worked all 52 World Cup games from a Miami studio.

* Though generally left with a favorable impression of the first US-hosted World Cup soccer tournament, a visiting overseas journalist confided to the Monitor that the travel logistics nearly overwhelmed him. He estimated that on some days he spent almost 70 percent of his waking hours in transit, not simply flying between distant cities but also in making bus and taxi connections to hotels, games, and team practices. On one occasion, he and several colleagues made a 40-mile trek on a World Cup bus loop that didn't get them close to their desired destination - downtown Boston. If he'd had his druthers, the World Cup might have been concentrated in one US region, such as the East.

* The largest increase ever in women's Olympic participation will occur at the 1996 centennial Games in Atlanta. The 20-percent jump since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics is expected to bring the number of female athletes to more than 3,600. There were no women in the first Games held in Athens in 1896, so this unprecedented growth must be measured against the 1900 Paris Olympics. In 1996, women will benefit from the addition of beach volleyball, mountain biking, women's soccer, and a female-only softball competition.

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