General Motors, which got some well-earned praise for its role as the sole corporate underwriter of Ken Burns's acclaimed "The Civil War" series, has agreed to back "Baseball," Burns's next big project for PBS ...

The five-hour film history -- to be presented in "nine innings" or segments -- celebrates America's national pastime and is scheduled to air on PBS in 1993 ...

GM did not disclose the size of its corporate grant in yesterday's announcement ...

Geoffrey C. Ward, principal writer on "The Civil War," has just delivered a first draft of the "Baseball" script. Ward will compile an illustrated history of "Baseball," similar to "The Civil War" companion volume he assembled for the record-setting series. Co-producer with Burns on "Baseball" will be Lynn Novick, who was associate producer on "The Civil War" ...

Burns and Ward, incidentally, had a role in the production of "The American Experience: Nixon," which aired on PBS Monday night (okay, so we had to reach a little this morning) ...

In Washington, the three-hour film re-examining the former president's career averaged a 2.5 rating and a 4 percent audience share on WETA. Each local ratings point represents 17,491 TV homes ...

More good news from the Funding Front: Channel 26 has received $100,000 from the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation -- the largest ever for a local program series at WETA -- for production of the upcoming public service series "Nine Months" ...

The Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation earlier contributed $12,5000 for pre-production and planning ...

The 24-week series will trace the lives of six local pregnant women during the last 4 1/2 months of their pregnancies as they interact with doctors and other health professionals, their friends, families and one another ...

"Nine Months" will debut on Tuesday, Nov. 13, and will be aired three times each week -- Tuesday at noon, Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. -- to achieve maximum viewership ...

WETA is seeking additional funding toward the $550,000 (including $100,000 in outreach funds) total cost of the project ... which figures to be less than $20,000 per program ...

CBS News learned this week that there's a downside when your network is carrying the baseball playoffs (and World Series) in the fall ...

Last week, games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday cut into the West Coast audiences for "CBS Evening News," as between them ABC and NBC picked up 2 million TV households over the previous week's totals ...

Nielsen yesterday finally decided to drop CBS's ratings for Wednesday (a slim 2.4/5 for a 13-minute newscast) entirely, which raised the network's average to an 8.0/16 for the week ...

Otherwise for the week ending Oct. 12, front-runner "ABC News With Peter Jennings" averaged an 11.0/22, compared with a 9.9/20 for "NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw." The 9.9 was the highest rating for NBC since last February ...

Speaking of "CBS Evening News," in its Sept. 24 issue, Time magazine ran a quote from Walter Cronkite in its Grapevine section in which he blasted his successor ...

Dan Rather, Cronkite was quoted as saying, had "blown it" as an anchor. ... "He's stiff and uncomfortable. Look at the ratings. ... If it weren't for developments in the gulf, he might be out of a job by now." Cronkite also was quoted as saying Rather's interview with Saddam Hussein "saved Rather's skin" and that Dan's month-long sojourn in the Middle East was "a grandstand ploy" that would have been better left to a correspondent ...

Monday night, on CNN's "Larry King Live," Cronkite said: "Nobody called me about that quotation. My office was never contacted. They used something that they picked up from somebody -- secondhand, thirdhand, who knows -- and put it in direct quotes without ever checking it. ... For the record, I never said that" ...

Cronkite told King that in his opinion Time "turns out to be dipping into some pretty shoddy journalistic practices. ... It looks like they're kind of dipping into tabloid journalism to me" ...

D.C. delegate candidate Eleanor Holmes Norton will be interviewed on District Cablevision's Channel 24 tonight at 7 p.m. ...

At the national press tour in L.A. last summer, Turner Broadcasting made much of three original productions that were due this fall. Last week, TBS put all three on indefinite hold, because of budget problems ...

The top draw was supposed to be a 10-hour ecological miniseries starring William Shatner and Faye Dunaway, called "Voice of the Planet" ...

Scheduled to debut this past Monday, it was replaced by "The Land That Time Forgot," the first of five creaky movies that will air at 8 all this week in place of "Voice" (tomorrow night: "Beastmaster") ...

Also canceled by TBS were two original movies, "Which Way Home," starring Cybill Shepherd, due next month, and "Dead on the Money" with Corbin Bernsen, due in December ...

Cable News Network is establishing a Washington bureau for its CNN Newssource service to 167 affiliates, designed to provide "generic and customized live reports from Washington" ...

The bureau starts Nov. 1. And its first two employees are Skip Loescher, who will be Washington correspondent, and David Ottalini, coordinating producer. The former comes from Minneapolis's WCCO bureau here; Ottalini has been a producer/writer for CNN here ...

CNN Newssource, which operates out of Atlanta, began operations in 1987 ...

TV RATINGZZZZ

Following are the top 20 network prime-time shows last week, ranked according to the percentage of the nation's 92.1 milllion TV households that watched, as measured by the A.C. Nielsen Co. A share represents the percentage of actual sets-in-use tuned to a particular program when it aired.

RATINGS.................................SHARE...NETWORK

1 22.2 ....Cheers............................35...NBC

2 20.3.....Roseanne..........................30...ABC

3 20.0.....A Different World.................32....NBC

4 19.5.....Lucky/Chances III.................31....NBC

5 19.2.....America's Funniest Home Videos....31....ABC

6 18.9.....60 Minutes........................34....CBS

7 18.5.....The Cosby Show....................29....NBC

8 18.4.....Who's the Boss?...................30....ABC

..18.4.....The Simpsons......................29....FOX

10 18.0....Empty Nest........................32....NBC

...18.0....Head of the Class................28.....ABC

12 17.9....America's Funniest People........28.....ABC

13 17.3....Matlock..........................28.....NBC

14 17.2....Country Music Awards.............26.....CBS

15 17.1....Doogie Howser, M.D...............27.....ABC

...17.1....Lucky/Chances II.................26.....NBC

17 17.0....NFL Browns/Broncos...............29.....ABC

...17.0....Unsolved Mysteries...............28.....NBC

19 16.9....The Golden Girls.................31.....NBC

20 16.7....Growing Pains...................27......ABC

NBC won the fourth week of the new season with a 13.7 rating and a 23 share, compared with a 13.2/22 for ABC, a 12.0/20 for CBS and a 6.5 rating for FOX ...

But forget the ratingzzz. Nielsen figures show "The Simpsons" was number one in total audience, with 33.6 million viewers. Its Thursday opposition, "The Cosby Show," finished in seventh place in the viewer contest, with 28.5 million viewers ...

In other highlights, NBC's "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" (29th) was the only new series on any network to finish in the Top 30 ...

Among new shows already in peril, NBC's "Parenthood" was 67th, ABC's "Cop Rock" was 71st, NBC's "Lifestories" tied for 77th and NBC's "Hull High" was 82nd out of 97 shows that aired last week ...

Five FOX offerings rounded out the Final And Eventually Fatal Five, including in order, "Haywire," the movie "Off Limits," "D.E.A.," "American Chronicles" and "Against the Law" ...

In Other Ratingzzz Newzzz

Monday night, the football game on ABC between Minnesota and Philadelphia averaged a 16.1/29 in the national ratings between 9 p.m. and 12:25 a.m. ...

NBC, which keeps a shrewd counterprogrammer's eye on all the women who really aren't into NFL football on a Monday night, countered with "Danielle Steel's 'Kaleidoscope' " (four Puffs) ...

The program averaged a Top Five 20.3/32 between 9 and 11 p.m. ... which boded well for the second Steel work, "Fine Things," last night's counter-strategy against Game 1 of the World Series ...

Locally on Monday night, Channel 4 introduced "George Michael's Redskins Spotlight" in the 7:30 p.m. timeslot as a regular Monday night entry through the rest of the NFL season ...

"Spotlight" not only finished fourth with a 5.1 rating and a 9 share during the half-hour, it finished behind Five's "Redskins Playbook" (6.4/11), to say nothing of Seven's "Jeopardy! (13.3/23) and Nine's "Entertainment Tonight" (11.3/20) ...

CBS News's late-night entry, "America Tonight," is doing okay in Washington, despite the schedule unrest due to the baseball playoffs. On Channel 9, the 11:30 p.m. entry averaged a 3.5/14 last week, compared with a 4.0/16 in its premiere week ...

And finally -- a tip of the ole rabbit ears, tastefully enwrapped in pink, to Lynne Adrine and Bill Bean, proud parents of Vanessa Adrine Bean, who arrived at Washington Adventist Hospital Saturday weighing 7 pounds 4 ounces ...

Vanessa joins her 3-year-old brother, Andrew, in the Bean family. Mom's been a producer on ABC News's "The Health Show." Dad's the satellite marketing manager for National Public Radio ...