Fans confused when Fox shifts from Red Sox/Yanks finish to NASCAR

NEW YORK -- With the Boston Red Sox one strike from victory over their hated rival, some unsuspecting TV viewers were in for a jolt: The broadcast switched to auto racing.

A long rain delay during Saturday's Yankees-Red Sox matchup on Fox created the possibility that the game would overlap with the NASCAR race from Phoenix. Fox gambled that it could squeeze in both events -- and came up two pitches short.

The final out was televised on another channel, but not all fans realized that.

"For any frustration on fans' behalf, we apologize," Fox spokesman Dan Bell said Sunday.

Fox was contractually required to show the entire race on its broadcast network, Bell said. The green flag was originally scheduled for 8:45 p.m. EDT. But with the baseball game scheduled to resume at 8:25, NASCAR agreed to push the start back to 8:53.

The teams didn't begin playing again until 8:30 after a delay of more than two hours. Announcer Joe Buck repeated several times that the game was being simulcast on cable channel FX and Fox would have to switch to the race at 8:53.

It appeared the network might be able to show both events in their entirety, but with two outs and two strikes in the top of the ninth, the Yankees' Robinson Cano fouled off several pitches. At 8:55, Fox switched to the race in the middle of Cano's at-bat.

The final two pitches of the 4-3 Red Sox win were shown only on FX, which is available in about three-quarters of the nation's homes with televisions.

Bell said Fox hoped to show all of Cano's at-bat instead of switching to the race earlier so the change would occur between hitters.

"It wasn't the smoothest transition, but our intentions were to try to finish on the network," Bell said.

The switch recalled memories of the "Heidi" game in 1968, when NBC cut from the final minutes of a football thriller between the Jets and Raiders to the movie, drawing outrage from viewers.

The circumstances were different, though. Fans had no other way to see the end of the game then, and the gaffe revealed the network's ignorance of the popularity of the sport. Fox's recognition of the appeal of the Yankees-Red Sox matchup led to officials trying to stay with the game as long as possible -- perhaps too long.