Baseball has been called the summer game. It might be just as appropriate to call it the night game. Of the 1,134 games on this season's American League schedule, a record 821 are night contests. The ratio in the National League is similar.
The preponderance of prime-time starts has come about for one basic reason: money. More working people can attend weekday games after dinner. Night games can also attract larger TV audiences, which makes telecasting rights worth more and offsets the extra electric costs.
Cincinnati was the first major league club to schedule regular night games in 1935. From Washington, President Franklin D. Roosevelt threw the master switch that initially lit Crosley Field. The Reds were limited to one night game against each National League opponent that year.
In an interesting coincidence, the Reds were baseball's top nocturnal team last season, with a best-in-the-majors .627 winning percentage under the lights. The Chicago Cubs, with a .207 percentage, were the worst nighttime club, and with good reason. The Cubs never play night games at home, since Wrigley Field is the only big-league park with no lights. Some think this will change soon under the club's new ownership.
Around the majors, of course, weekend games generally remain daytime entertainment, partly to accomodate out-of-town fans. But there's also something wonderfully nostalgic about watching a game on a sun-baked field, and where stadiums aren't domed, baseball knows it's been important to to maintain this traditional flavor.
Despite their business instincts, baseball executives might want to consider scheduling more day games. After all, large numbers of people work in the evenings and can't get out to the ballpark at night. These customers, along with school children and an ever larger number of retirees, constitute a sizeable daytime market. Women's basketball: up, up and away
Scholastic COACH magazine just came out with its girls All-American high school basketball selections, and one thing is clear: it helps to be tall. Of the 32 players chosen, 20 are six feet or taller.
Foremost among them is 6 ft. 2 in. Cheryl Miller of Riverside, Calif., who scored 105 points in a single game this season and is the first four-time All-America pick. Miller's college destination is unknown, but wherever she goes, headlines are sure to follow. Her leaping ability lets her play at a level few women achieve. UCLA Coach Billie Moore, calls her ''the first (women's) player I've seen capable of getting up over the rim.''
Dunks are part of her repertoire, which makes her something of a pioneer. Asked why Miller has so little company in this regard, Moore explains that ''most of the taller women playing basketball are 6-1, 6-2, or 6-3, and that's still a pretty good vertical jump. Better training, however, is improving jumping ability. I've seen goaltending in the last several years, which you never saw before. Players who can really leap are bringing another dimension to our game.'' Touching other bases
* Men's pro tennis is entering a trying period in which some top players seem beholden to no one. By ignoring various rules and reneging on playing commitments they are planting the seeds of anarchy. The problem basically stems from the absence of one central authority. Pro golf in this country has avoided this situation, not simply because it has a commissioner, but because the American tour is such a distinct, self-sufficient entity. Tennis, however, must grapple with its internationalism -- with the fact that rich tournaments are played all over the world and attract players from many countries. It should be pointed out that the women do not face the same potential crisis confronting the men, perhaps because they still feel the need for stength through unity.
* When it comes to choosing team nicknames, today's nomenclature is anything but predictable. Take, for instance, the Montreal Manic of the North American Soccer League. Now there's a name to raise a few cackles, and perhaps the ire of a grammarian or two. According to the dictionary, manic is an adjective, and how can an adjective be a noun or nickname?
* South Dakota is not big in the world of golf, but after 88 years the United States Golf Association has finally acknowledged its existence. The state has been granted the privilege of hosting the 1984 Women's Amateur Public Links Championship in Sioux Falls. The tournament will be South Dakota's first national golf competition of any kind. That leaves eight states still awaiting designation as championship sites: Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Utah.
* Count it as a strange quirk of pro hockey that displays of sportsmanship are practically nonexistent until the playoffs. Then, because of tradition, the players line up to shake hands at the conclusion of each series. This practice may be devoid of much genuine feeling, but it is a welcome sight nonetheless.