TV Documentary Is in On-Deck Circle

THOUGH nine months off, there's already an unmistakable air of anticipation surrounding a major PBS television documentary on baseball. Corporate sponsor General Motors certainly has not hidden its enthusiasm for the project, called simply ``Baseball.'' GM has begun to publicize the series, a joint project of Florentine Films and WETA in Washington.

Because documentary filmmaker Ken Burns is involved, program backers are confident that this will be a winner. Burns put together the highly acclaimed series on the Civil War that aired on PBS stations in 1990.

Interestingly, the Civil War played a role in baseball's growth, and one of the nine shows (``innings'' of about two hours each) will focus on this. Other installments will look at Babe Ruth, the 1919 ``Black Sox'' scandal, and the decade (1950-1960) when New York City was the ``capital of baseball.''

More than just a baseball show, the documentary will explore how the game shapes and reflects the American character. John Chancellor, retired from NBC News, will narrate. Gregory Peck, Julie Harris, Jason Robards, and Paul Newman are among those who have been enlisted to recreate voices from the game's past.

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