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THE CUTTING EDGE / CYBERCULTURE | POSTCARD FROM CYBERSPACE
/ TERRY SCHWADRON

Baseball's Web Sites Bring Home Hit After Hit

May 26, 1997|TERRY SCHWADRON

Scoring the Internet version of baseball's Freeway series would be easy: The Dodgers have a grand slam Web site, and the Angels never showed up.

Using the Web to take me out to the ballgame is an entertaining experience. There's a smorgasbord of choices and rich use of technologies that make it easy to see why sports is one of the big traffic draws on the Net.

The sites meet different desires. Generally, they're divided among those for fans of particular teams or players, those providing interesting--if odd--baseball trivia, those that promote baseball itself and those that offer game coverage and specialized features.

Sports sites have drawn well on the Internet and are especially popular among aficionados of rotisserie leagues. Those are the fantasy leagues in which office colleagues or friends draft teams whose fortunes depend on the daily performance of real-life players.

A scan of several sites for major league teams showed certain similarities: They all have player information, ticket information, schedules and a few pictures or features, much like the magazines the baseball teams distribute at the ballpark.

The Dodgers' home page (http://www.dodgers.com) is among the best. Along with the basic information, it includes a terrific retrospective package on Jackie Robinson, historical information about the team, a strip with updated scores, an area for kids and bulletin boards displayed in Dodger-blue type. (It is promotional material, of course, and not the reliable source to determine, say, whether the Dodgers are being sold any time soon.)

The team offers no way for readers to e-mail the players or coaches directly. This is a bit frustrating because we all have advice for the team, but there are bulletin boards on which to share opinions with other fans.

Perhaps to compensate, the Dodgers (and some other major league teams) have signed with a company offering a game called Cyberskipper, in which players at home try to forecast the performances of real players. As in most games, there are levels of competition, and it tends to be the degree of interest that drives results rather than particular skill.

By contrast, the Angels have no Web site of their own, a bit surprising in light of Walt Disney Co.'s involvement in the team's management. There is plenty of information about the Angels on the major league baseball site (http://www.majorleaguebaseball.com/al/cal).

In addition, the search engines will list pages where individual fans have decided to collect Angels information. In some ways, it's more fun to see what a single fan might think is worth collecting about a team, as opposed to what the public relations office puts out.

I checked out my own favorite baseball team, the nearly always disappointing Boston Red Sox (http://www.redsox.com). The team's inviting home page brings readers in with a changing historical photo and quote, reader interviews with players and remembrances of Ted Williams. By contrast, it was crushing to visit a site called Curse of the Bambino (http://acs5.bu.edu:8001/~jfarb/babe.html), which detailed decades-long punishment meted out to the Red Sox for trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

For those who like their sports punishment cushioned by long-standing love, there is a slew of sites about the Chicago Cubs, led by the newspaper-backed site at http://www.cubs.com

There are half a dozen worthwhile sites for the general baseball fan who wants to do more than keep up with the local team. Leading the pack in general baseball coverage are the ESPN site (http://espnet.sportszone.com/mlb), CBS Sportsline (http://cbs.sportsline.com), Sporting News (http://www.sportingnews.com), which is owned by Times Mirror Co., publisher of The Times, and Fastball (http://www.fastball.com).

All display news stories and photography and offer inside, updated player information, or special features like audio interviews, chat sessions, transaction reports, injury reports (big news to rotisserie fans) and lots of detailed scoring information. These sites depend on advertising.

In addition, newspaper sites, including The Times (http://www.latimes.com), are making attempts to go beyond the game stories and other print coverage to offer team profiles and player data. Newspaper commentary on baseball is often my favorite reading in sports.

On the Net, one is not limited by team loyalty, of course. Or by the major league label.

Choices for visiting include minor league teams, Negro leagues, historical information, amateur and college baseball and Little League participation.

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