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July 29, 1998|LARRY STEWART

What: "Peter Jennings Reporting: the American Game."

Where: Channel 7.

When: Thursday at 9:30 p.m.

Last summer, the crew from ABC's "Peter Jennings Reporting" spent time with the Little League baseball coaches, parents and players in Hagerstown, Pa. The result is a fascinating yet troublesome look inside Little League.

It's a real-life "Bad News Bears," only worse and without the comic relief.

Says Jennings in the opening, "We're going to see some of what makes Little League so exciting and occasionally terrifying. We're going to meet some parents who you may wish were yours and some you'll be glad are not. And we're going to meet some kids you may wish were yours and some you'll be glad are not."

Jennings understates. Some of the coaches, parents and kids are downright despicable.

One father, although on camera and wearing a microphone, pulls his son aside during a game and tells him, "You want to let me down? . . . When I get you home. . . . Jeremy, I'm going kick you, I don't care. I'm on camera with a microphone, but I'm going to get you tonight because you're letting me down. I don't give a . . . what you do, I'll get you, buddy."

Jennings asks the father if he ever beats his son. The father says, "Oh, yeah."

Then there is the kid whose bad attitude and smart mouth keep him off the all-star team. His father beats up his son's coach for not voting for him, then tells the ABC crew he was glad he hit the coach.

A girl, a talented player, makes the all-star team, but the coach doesn't play her. The coach tells Jennings, "I'm a sexist."

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