This doesn't mean that The Slap Maxwell Story will be a commercial success. Ratings for the first five shows have put it as high as 18 and as low as 60 among the 75 or so programs Nielsen measures each week. Still, ABC has given Slap a vote of confidence by ordering a full season of 22 episodes. Like Buffalo Bill, it is a dark sitcom ("dramedy" is the new Hollywood word) with no laugh track to poke you in the ribs and no clean resolution at episode's end. But if you're comfortable with a sportswriter who spends more time peering into the abyss than into, say, the Mets' clubhouse, Slap's your guy.
"Here's a name," says Coleman, continuing his mantra. "Procopio Herrera. A pitcher who had a cup of coffee with the St. Louis Browns [Coleman's alltime favorite team]. Jay loves those kinds of guys. Maybe he can use him."