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A Harvard-Yale winner

Ch. 56 already has scored major points

Channel 56 general manager Vinnie Manzi has this notion that his relatively small local station should be producing programming or, in his words, "making TV."

The station has produced some annual specials, including Boston's St. Patrick's Day Breakfast, the May "Eddie Andelman Hot Dog Safari" at Suffolk Downs, and the Jimmy Fund Walk over the Boston Marathon course in September.

Those are all ways to not only service the community but also showcase the talents of Steve Ratner, the station's director of creative services and programming; Jimmy Clark, sports producer; and Elaine Orphanos, producer for special projects.

Manzi, however, exceeded his own goals when he landed the rights to televise tomorrow's 120th Harvard-Yale football game (12:30 p.m.). He has great success selling local advertising, and found some stations around the country willing to carry the broadcast.

Chicago superstation WGN, which reaches 60 million homes, will join more local carriers WEWB in Albany, Cox3 in Rhode Island, and WTXX in Hartford. The broadcast will be available in high definition, too, on both 56.1 and HD Net. "And North American Sports Network has picked up the game for Ireland and England," said Manzi. "From there, it will go to Harvard and Yale clubs across Europe.

"We're fortunate to have the talented people who can pull off this stuff," said Manzi. "Local production is on its way out, but not here. You don't see a lot of stations our size doing these things."

Advertising for the game is sold out. "People answered the phone for this one," said Manzi. "Business leaders, politicians, and advertisers saw immediate value in the telecast. These are alums who are proud not only of their schools but also of this game."

Channel 56's coverage begins tonight with a half-hour special on the 100-year history of Harvard Stadium, a Peter Frechette-produced piece that also chronicles much of the Yale rivalry.

Tomorrow, sports anchor Mike Ratte will host the pregame show at noon, joined by weekend anchor Jamie Kenneally and analysts Dan Jiggetts (Harvard) and Brian Dowling (Yale). The two analysts will join play-by-play man Charlie Steiner for the game telecast.

Orphanos has been busy preparing taped messages for use in the pregame show and for going into and coming out of commercials during the game.

Among the Harvard alums interviewed was Melvin Gordon (Class of '41, and chairman of the board, Tootsie Roll Industries), who showed up for the filming in his football uniform. Other Crimson grads participating were Joe O'Donnell, Boston Concessions; Jim Koch, brewer and founder, The Boston Beer Co.; Al Jean, executive producer of "The Simpsons"; Ray Hornblower, acclaimed tenor and former Harvard player; and Peter McLoughlin, vice president, Anheuser-Busch.

Representing Yale, David Lloyd, producer and writer of "Frasier" and "Cheers," said, "Basically, I think Harvard people are deplorable . . . so it'd be only proper if we beat them soundly." Other Yalies contributing taped bits include former Chicago Bears star Gary Fencik, now of Adams Street Partners; Sara Gilbert, actress, "Roseanne"; Ben Stein, actor and comedian; former Yale player Dr. Pat Ruwe, now the Yale team physician; and current Bears coach Dick Jauron.

Manzi, who worked two years to obtain the game rights, had a feeling for what he was getting. He landed those rights for four years.

Fame finds them

Buona fortuna to Red Sox broadcasters Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano, who will be inducted into the New England Italian-American Hall of Fame this evening at Lantana's in Randolph. Other inductees include former Everett and Harvard football player Bobby Leo, retiring Brockton High football coach Armond Colombo, and former Tufts AD Rocky Carzo . . . When Patriots lineman Richard Seymour was whistled for a personal foul against Quincy Carter during the team's 12-0 victory over Dallas Sunday night, WBCN (104.1 FM) analyst -- another of those N.E. Italian-American Hall of Famers -- Gino Cappelletti noted, "Those two were hardly what you would call pals during their days at the University of Georgia." . . . Poker on Thanksgiving Day? Not in my house, but maybe in yours. Fox Sports Net is hosting a day of coverage of the "Showdown at the Sands" from Atlantic City, with continuous one-hour shows from 12:30-6:30 p.m. The event actually is being held on Thanksgiving Eve, featuring major players from the poker world including Chris Moneymaker, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Phil Hellmuth, Howard Lederer, and Phil Ivey, plus 200 others, including some celebrities. FSN will have a "Rabbit Hunting" camera so that, in the event of a fold, viewers get to see the cards the dealer never turned over and judge for themselves.

Game is tied

The Steelers-49ers telecast on ABC's "Monday Night Football" did a national rating of 11.1 (18 share), and for the season the prime-time show is averaging an 11.6, the same as last year . . . Fox's Sunday national game (Packers-Buccaneers) did a 14.4 rating (27 share), making it the top-rated game of the season . . . And ESPN's Sunday night Patriots-Cowboys game earned a 9.6 national rating -- it was the fifth-most-watched cable program in history . . . TNT has Day 2 of Presidents Cup golf from South Africa (on tape) today from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., with NBC (Ch. 7) picking up coverage tomorrow and Sunday from noon-6 p.m. Yes, Tiger Woods is playing for the US in the Ryder Cup-style competition against an international team of non-Europeans. Dan Hicks and analyst Johnny Miller anchor the coverage . . . It's a Philly weekend for the Celtics (at the 76ers today, FSNE, 7 p.m.) and Bruins (at the Flyers tomorrow, NESN, 7 p.m.) . . . College hockey is on the air tonight. CN8 has New Hampshire-Northeastern at 7:30, and, for those who have satellite access, College Sports TV (CSTV) has Providence-Boston College at 8 and Sunday's NCAA Field Hockey Championship from the University of Massachusetts at 12:30 p.m.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is griffith@globe.com

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