Major League Baseball television contracts


Baseball Firsts

The first-ever televised baseball game was on May 17, 1939 between Princeton and Columbia; Princeton beat Columbia 2-1 at Columbia's Baker Field. The contest was aired on W2XBS, an experimental station in New York City which would ultimately become WNBC-TV.

On August 26, 1939, the first ever Major League Baseball game was televised (once again on W2XBS). With Red Barber announcing, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds played a doubleheader at Ebbets Field. The Reds won the first 5-2 while the Dodgers won the second, 6-1.

In 1947, the World Series, which was sponsored by Ford Motors and Gillette, was televised for the very first time. The first very televised World Series game had the New York Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers by the score of 5-3.

On April 16, 1948, WGN-TV broadcasted its first big-league game, with Jack Brickhouse calling Chicago White Sox's 4-1 win vs. Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

On July 11, 1950, the All-Star Game out of Chicago's Comiskey Park was televised for the first time.

On November 8, 1950, Commissioner Happy Chandler and player reps agreed on the split of the TV-radio rights from the World Series. A few weeks later, Gillette signed a 6 year deal, worth an estimated $6 million, with Major League Baseball for the TV-radio rights for the World Series.

On August 11, 1951, WCBS-TV in New York City televised the first baseball game (in which the Milwaukee Braves beat the Brooklyn Dodgers by the score of 8-1) in color. In October of that year the first nationally televised baseball game aired as the Dodgers beat the New York Giants by the score of 3-1.

On January 31, 1953, the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, and Boston Red Sox joined forces against St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck. The respective franchises tried to force to Browns to play afternoon games in an attempt to avoid having to share television revenues.

A month later, Major League Baseball owners receive a warning from Senator Edwin Johnson about nationally televising their games. Johnson's theory was that nationally televising baseball games would be a threat to the survival of minor league baseball. The owners pretty much ignored Johnson since the games on NBC in particular, were gaining a large and loyal following. Two years later, NBC would televise the first ever World Series game (in which the Yankees beat the Dodgers 6-5) in color.

In 1956, baseball's owners announced that the players' pension fund will receive 60 percent of World Series and All-Star Game radio and TV revenues.

On July 23, 1962, Major League Baseball had its first satellite telecast (via Telstar Communications). The telecast included portion of a contest between the Chicago Cubs vs. the Philadelphia Phillies from Wrigley Field with Jack Brickhouse commentating.

On March 17, 1965, Jackie Robinson became the first black network (ABC) broadcaster for Major League Baseball. ABC provided the first-ever nationwide baseball coverage with weekly Saturday broadcasts on a regional basis. ABC paid $5.7 million for the rights to the Saturday/holiday Game of the Week. ABC's deal covered all of the teams except the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies (who had their own television deals) and called for two regionalized games on Saturdays, Independence Day, and Labor Day. ABC blacked out the games in the home cities of the clubs playing those games.

On October 13, 1971, the World Series held a night game for the very first time. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who felt that baseball could attract a larger audience by featuring a prime time telecast (as opposed to a mid-afternoon broadcast, when most fans either worked or attended school), pitched the idea to NBC. An estimated 61 million people watched Game 4 on NBC; TV ratings for a World Series game during the daytime hours would not have approached such a record number.

Cable Television

On July 17, 1964, a game out of Los Angeles between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers contest became the first Pay-TV baseball game. Basically, subscription television offered the cablecast to subscribers for money. The Dodgers beat the Cubs by the score of 3-2, with Don Drysdale collecting 10 strikeouts by the way.

In 1980, 22 teams (all but the Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, New York Mets, and St. Louis Cardinals) took part in a one-year cable deal with UA-Columbia. The deal involved the airing of a Thursday night Game of the Week in markets at least 50 miles (80 km) from a major league park. The deal earned Major League Baseball less than $500,000, but lead to a new two-year contract for 40-45 games per season.

On January 5, 1989, Major League Baseball signed a $400 million deal with ESPN, who would show over 175 games in beginning in 1990. For the next four years, ESPN would televise six games a week (Sunday, Wednesday Night Baseball, doubleheaders on Tuesdays & Fridays, plus holidays).

NBC's Bob Costas believed that a large bulk of the regular season coverage beginning in the 1990s to cable because CBS, the network that was taking over from NBC the television rights beginning in 1990 didn't really want the Saturday Game of the Week. Many fans who didn't appreciate CBS' approach to scheduling regular season baseball games believed that they were only truly after the marquee events (i.e. All-Star Game, League Championship Series, and the World Series) in order to sell advertising space (especially the fall entertainment television schedule).

See also

  1. ESPN Wednesday Night Baseball
  2. Ernesto Jerez

Monday Night Baseball

On October 19, 1966, NBC signed a three year contract with Major League Baseball. The year before, NBC lost the rights to the Saturday-Sunday Game of the Week. In addition, the previous deal limited CBS to covering only 12 weekends when its new subsidiary, the New York Yankees, played at home.

Under the new deal, NBC paid roughly $6 million per year for the 25 Games of the Week, $6.1 million for the 1967 World Series & 1967 All-Star Game, and $6.5 million for the 1968 World Series and 1968 All-Star Game. This brought the total value of the contract (which included three Monday night telecasts) up to $30.6 million. From 1972-1975 (under a contract worth $72 million), NBC extended the Monday night telecasts to 10 (with a local blackout).

On September 1, 1975, the last Monday Night Baseball game, in which the Montreal Expos beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-5, was televised on NBC. ABC would pick up the television rights for Monday Night Baseball games in the following year. Just like with Monday Night Football, ABC brought in the concept of the three-man-booth (originally comprised of Bob Prince, Bob Uecker, and Warner Wolf as the primary crew) to their baseball telecasts.

Prince disclosed to his broadcasting partner Jim Woods about his early worries about calling a network series for the first time. Prince for one, didn't have as much creative control over the broadcasts on ABC as he did calling Pittsburgh Pirates games on KDKA radio.

On the June 8, 1976 edition of Monday Night Baseball, Prince returned to Pittsburgh, where he exiled from for over a year. Although Prince received a warm reception, Prince was confused when the next day, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ( read: "Ratings are low, negative reviews rampant."

Bob Prince (and therefore, Warner Wolf) was gone by the fall of 1976 with Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell, and Bob Uecker calling that year's American League Championship Series. On the subject of his dismissal from ABC, Bob Prince said "I hated Houston, and ABC never let me be Bob Prince."

On June 6, 1983, Al Michaels officially succeeded Keith Jackson as the #1 play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Baseball. Michaels was apparently very miffed over ABC Sports taking their sweet time with making im their #1 baseball announcer. Unlike Keith Jackson, whose "bread and butter" was college football, Al Michaels had gigs with the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants before joining ABC in 1976. TV Guide huffed about Keith Jackson by saying "A football guy, on baseball!"

By 1986, ABC only televised 13 Monday Night Baseball games. This was a fairly sharp contrast to the 18 games to that were scheduled in 1978. The Sporting News believed that ABC paid Major League Baseball to not make them televise the regular season. TSN added that the network only wanted the sport for October anyway.

For most of its time on ABC, the Monday night games were held on "dead travel days" when few games were scheduled. The team owners liked that arrangement as the national telecasts didn't compete against their stadium box offices. ABC on the other hand, found the arrangement far more complicated. ABC often had only one or two games to pick from for each telecast from a schedule designed by Major League Baseball. While trying to give all of the teams national exposure, ABC ended up with way too many games between sub .500 clubs from small markets.

In 1989 (the final year of ABC's contract with Major League Baseball), ABC moved the baseball telecasts to Thursday nights in hopes of getting leg up against NBC's Cosby Show. After braving the traumatic Loma Prieta earthquake and an all-time low 16.4 rating for the 1989 World Series Al Michaels took ABC's lost of baseball to CBS as "tough to accept." Michaels added that "baseball was such an early stepchild at ABC and had come such a long way."

ABC's Monday Night Baseball Announcers

See also


  1. ABC Monday Night Baseball (1984, video) (
  2. ABC Baseball (1983) (
  3. ABC Baseball (1988) (
  4. If you spend it, they will sign (
  5. Is it LIVE? or... (

ABC & NBC Alternates Coverage of the All-Star Game, League Championship Series, and World Series: 1976-1989

Under the initial agreement with ABC, NBC, and Major League Baseball (1976-1979), both networks paid $92.8 million. ABC paid $12.5 million per year to show 16 Monday night games in 1976, 18 in next three years, plus half the postseason (the League Championship Series in even numbered years and World Series in odd numbered years); NBC paid $10.7 million per year to show 25 Saturday Games of the Week and the other half of the postseason (the League Championship Series in odd numbered years and World Series in even numbered years).

On April 7, 1983, Major League Baseball, ABC, and NBC agreed to terms of a 6-year television package worth $1.2 billion. The two networks would continue to alternate coverage of the playoffs (ABC in even numbered years and NBC in odd numbered years), World Series (ABC would televise the World Series in odd numbered years and NBC in even numbered years), and All-Star Game (ABC would televise the All-Star Game in even numbered years and NBC in odd numbered years) through the 1989 season, with each of the 26 clubs receiving $7 million per year in return (even if no fans showed up). The last package gave each club $1.9 million per year. ABC contributed $575 million for regular season prime time and Sunday afternoons and NBC paid $550 million for thirty Saturday afternoon games. Breakdown:

  • 1983 - $20 million in advance from the two networks
  • 1984 - NBC $70 million, ABC $56 million, total $126 million.
  • 1985 - NBC $61 million, ABC $75 million, total $136 million.

Note: The networks got $9 million when Major League Baseball expanded the League Championship Series from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven in 1985.

  • 1986 - NBC $75 million, ABC $66 million, total $141 million.
  • 1987 - NBC $81 million, ABC $90 million, total $171 million.
  • 1988 - NBC $90 million, ABC $96 million, total $186 million.
  • 1989 - NBC $106 million, ABC $125 million, total $231 million.

In 1985, NBC's telecast of the All-Star Game out of the Metrodome in Minnesota was the first program to be broadcasted in stereo by a TV network.

Also in 1985, ABC announced that every game of the World Series would be played under the lights for the biggest baseball audience possible. Just prior to the start of the 1985 World Series, ABC removed Howard Cosell from scheduled announcing duties as punishment for his controversial book I Never Played the Game. In Cosell's place came Tim McCarver (joining play-by-play man Al Michaels and fellow color commentator Jim Palmer), who was beginning his trek of being apart of numerous World Series telecasts. Prior to joining Al Michaels & Jim Palmer in the booth, Tim McCarver's most notable assignment for ABC Sports was working as a field reporter during the 1984 National League Championship Series (with Don Drysdale, Earl Weaver, and Reggie Jackson in the booth).

Reportedly, by 1985, Howard Cosell was considered to be difficult to work with on baseball telecasts. Apparently, Cosell and Al Michaels, got into a fairly heated argument following the conclusion of the their coverage of the 1984 American League Championship Series due to Cosell's supposed drunkenness among other problems. Rumor has it that Michaels went as far as to urged ABC executives to remove Cosell from the booth. Ultimately, Al Michaels went public with his problems with Howard Cosell. Michaels claimed that "Howard had become a cruel, evil, vicious person."


  1. ABC Baseball World Series (1983) Opening music (
  2. ABC Baseball World Series (1983) - Closing music (
  3. NBC Baseball (1983 All-Star Game, video) (
  4. The NBC Tracer (
  5. Sweet Music (
  6. Oct 14 1983 (
  7. ABC action (
  8. ABC, Cubs, World Series (
  9. This is an original work by Duffey done for NBC Sports, for the television graphics for the 50th anniversary of the All Star Game, hosted by Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola 1988. The silhouette of Babe Ruth slugging one out of the park at Yankee Stadium connects the present to the past. (
  10. abc and the cubs (
  11. ABC/NBC/CBS (
  12. Is it LIVE? or... (
  13. Can You Picture This ... (
  14. AL championships, Blue Jays, Cosell (
  16. 1982 WS questions (
  17. NBC TV version- Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola #1 (
  18. NBC TV version- Scully and Garagiola #2 (
  19. NBC and other announcers (
  20. DH results (900 poll) (
  21. DH (
  22. mvp allstar (
  23. 1985 Playoff Comments (
  24. National Baseball Company? NBC's World Series telecasts showed it's still the best at covering the national pastime. (

The End of an Era

In 1966, NBC took over the rights to the Game of the Week with Curt Gowdy as the star announcer from 1966-1975. Other announcers to be featured on NBC's Game of the Week for the next 20 plus years include:

Before 1966, local announcers called the World Series. The announcers represented each of the teams that were in the World Series for the respective year. For the 1966 World Series, Curt Gowdy aired half of each set to while in Los Angeles and Baltimore, got Vin Scully and Chuck Thompson, respectively, did the rest. Scully wasn't satisified with the arrangement as he said "What about the road? My fans won't be able to hear me." In Game 1 of the 1966 World Series, Vin Scully called the first 4 1/2 inning. When Curt Gowdy inherited the announcing reigns, Scully was so upset that he refused to say another word.

In April of 1966 in New York City, about fifty baseball, network, and ad officials discussed NBC's first year with the Game of the Week. Ironically, New York couldn't get a primary match-up between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees with Curt Gowdy and Pee Wee Reese calling the action because of local blackout rules. Instead, New York got a backup game (or "'B' game") featuring Tony Kubek and Jim Simpson calling a game between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs.

NBC's final edition of the Game of the Week was televised on October 9, 1989; Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants & Chicago Cubs from Candlestick Park.

Vin Scully, who had been NBC's #1 play-by-play man since 1983 said "It's a passing of a great American tradition. It is sad. I really and truly feel that. It will leave a vast window, to use a Washington word, where people will not get Major League Baseball and I think that's a tragedy." Scully added that "It's a staple that's gone. I feel for people who come to me and say how they miss it, and I hope me."

The legendary Scully had to wait over 15 years to get his shot at calling the Game of the Week. Prior to 1983, Scully only announced the 1966 and 1974 World Series for NBC (during the time-frame of NBC having the Game of the Week) since they both involved Scully's Dodgers. Henry Hecht once wrote "NBC's Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek, and Monte Moore sounded like college radio rejects vs. Scully."

When NBC inked a $550 million contract for six years in the fall of 1982, a return on the investment so to speak demanded Vin Scully to be their star baseball announcer. Vin Scully reportedly made $2 milllion a year during his time with NBC in the 1980s. NBC Sports head Thomas Watson said about Scully "He is baseball's best announcer. Why shouldn't he be ours?" Dick Enberg, who did the Game of the Week the year prior to Vin Scully's hiring mused "No room for me. 'Game' had enough for two teams a week."

Bob Costas, who worked as the NBC's back-up play-by-play man for Vin Scully said "Who thought baseball'd kill its best way to reach the public? It coulda kept us and CBS-we'd have kept the Game-but it only cared about cash." Costas added that he would rather do a Game of the Week that got a 5 rating than host a Super Bowl. "Whatever else I did, I'd never have left Game of the Week" Costas claimed.

The final regular season edition of NBC's Game of the Week by the way, was televised on September 30, 1989. That game featured the Toronto Blue Jays beating Baltimore Orioles 4-3 to clinch the AL East title from the SkyDome. It was the 981st edition of NBC's Game of the Week overall. Tony Kubek, who teamed with Bob Costas since 1983, said "I can't believe it" when the subject came about NBC losing baseball for the first time since 1947. Coincidently, from 1977-1989, Tony Kubek (in addition to his NBC duties) worked as a commentator for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Major League Baseball on CBS-TV: 1990-1993

On December 14, 1988, CBS (under the guidance of Commissioner Peter Ueberroth) paid approximately $1.2 billion for exclusive television rights for over four years (beginning in 1990). CBS paid $275 million for the World Series, League Championship Series, All-Star Game, and the Saturday Game of the Week.

This wasn't the first time that CBS televised Major League Baseball games. Prior to 1990, CBS aired the Saturday Game of the Week from 1954-1965. The star announcers for much of the old Game of the Week on CBS were Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese.

Before the previous television contract (1983-1989) with Major League Baseball was signed, CBS was at one point, interested in a pact which would have called for three interleague games every Thursday night (only). The proposed deal with CBS involved the AL East teams playing the NL East and the AL West playing the NL West respectively.

A trademark of CBS' baseball coverage was its majestic and harmonious theme music. The music was usually set to the opening graphic of an opaque rendition of the CBS insignia entering an big, waving red, white, and blue bunting and then a smaller, unfolding red, white, and blue bunting (over a white diamond) and floating blue banner (which usually featured an indicating year like "1991 World Series" for instance) complete with dark red Old English text. Pat O'Brien anchored the World Series & All-Star Game telecasts while usually delivering the prologue (normally set against the live scenery over the theme music).

Major League Baseball's four year tenure with CBS (1990-1993) was marred by turmoil and shortcomings throughout. For starters, Brent Musburger, who was originally slated to be the #1 play-by-play announcer for baseball telecasts (thus, having the tasks of calling the All-Star Game, National League Championship Series, and World Series) was fired by CBS on April Fools Day of 1990.

Jack Buck was bumped to the top play-by-play spot with just weeks before CBS' first baseball telecast. With Buck now the #1 play-by-play man (with ABC baseball alumni Tim McCarver as his partner), his original back-up spot was filled in by CBS' top NBA announcer Dick Stockton (with Jim Kaat as Stockton's partner); studio host Greg Gumbel took over for Stockton in 1993. After two years of calling baseball telecasts for CBS, Jack Buck was dismissed in December of 1991. According to the radio veteran Buck, he had a hard time adjusting to the demands of a more constricting television production. CBS felt that Buck should've done more to make himself appear to be a set-up man for lead analyst Tim McCarver.

Jack Buck got into deep trouble with CBS executives (namely, director Ted Shaker, who approached Buck in the hotel lobby to tell him that he was in trouble) over questionable comments made towards singer Bobby Vinton. While on air during the 1991 National League Championship Series in Pittsburgh, Buck criticized Vinton's off-key rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. What got Buck into trouble was that his pot-shot towards Vinton sounded as if he was making a prejudicial remark centered on Vinton's Polish heritage. According to Jack Buck's son Joe, he believed that the Bobby Vinton situation was ironic because his father was "trying to help the guy." Legend has it, that Buck soon received death threats from Pirate fans and discovered a footprint on his pillow once he returned to his hotel room.

Jack Buck was soon replaced by Boston Red Sox announcer Sean McDonough. Ted Shaker called McDonough about his interests for the top announcing job. After McDonough hung up the telephone, he claims that he didn't want to act like a 10 year old, but he jumped so high that he put a hole in his ceiling.

In 1992, McDonough at 30 years of age, became the youngest man to call a national broadcast of a World Series. Also in 1992, Tim McCarver ran afoul of Atlanta Braves outfielder Deion Sanders while in the Braves' clubhouse following Game 7 of the NLCS. Sanders dumped a bucket of ice water on McCarver as retaliation for McCarver's on-air comments that criticized Sanders' life as a two-sport athlete (the other sport being as a member of the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL).

Jack Buck himself sized up CBS' handling of the announcers by saying "CBS never got that baseball play-by-play draws word-pictures. All they knew was that football stars analysts. So they said, 'Let [analyst Tim] McCarver run the show.'"

A mildly notorious moment game during CBS' coverage of the 1990 All-Star Game from Wrigley Field in Chicago. In a game that was marred by rain delays for a combined 85 minutes (including a 68 minute monsoon during the 7th inning), CBS annoyed many diehard fans by airing the William Shatner hosted reality series Rescue 911 during the delay.

In the end, CBS wound up losing approximately half a billion dollars from their television contract with Major League Baseball. Reasons for CBS losing so much money may include:

  • CBS alienated fans with their sporadic treatment of regular season telecasts. With a sense of true continuity destroyed, fans eventually figured that they couldn't count on CBS to satisfy their needs. CBS televised about 12 regular season Saturday afternoon games which was 18 less than NBC televised in the previous contract.

Marv Albert, who hosted NBC's studio baseball pre-game show for many years said about CBS' baseball coverage "You wouldn't see a game for a month. Then you didn't know when CBS came back on." Sports Illustrated joked that CBS stood for Covers Baseball Sporadically. USA Today added that Jack Buck & Tim McCarver "may have to have a reunion before [their] telecast."

  • The country at the time was going through a recession.

The final Major League Baseball game that CBS has televised to date, was Game 6 of the 1993 World Series on October 23. Before Major League Baseball decided to seek the services of other networks, CBS offered $130 million per year to renew its previous contract.


  1. Another Use for Film Music (
  3. PATHETIC AMERICAN MEDIA (;output=gplain)
  4. 1991 Postseason schedule (;output=gplain)
  5. Extra playoffs (was: Re: I'm sorry, Jays didn't show me much)  (;output=gplain)
  6. Good Announcers? (;output=gplain)
  7. More CBS (
  8. CBS Coverage of Baseball (
  9. CBS on a roll? (
  10. Baseball and the Young (
  11. CBS' "game of the month" (
  12. CBS and baseball (
  13. Revenue sharing & salary cap (
  14. Sports Endorsements (
  15. CBS lost its shirt... (
  16. CBS All-Star Game Coverage (
  17. Let's Blow Up CBS (
  18. CBS - is it the shoes? (
  19. CBS ruined baseball (
  20. thoughts on broadcasters (
  21. The Shifting Major Leagues (
  22. Realignment (
  23. The CBS Stat of the Week (
  24. MLB and Pay-per-view (
  25. Sox/Ranger game Sat--time change  (
  26. TV by the numbers (
  27. Purist baloney (
  28. Television No Hits but Plenty of Bobbles (,10987,974152,00.html)
  29. Ueberroth as commish (Was: !!!!!!!!Pete Rose!!!!!!!!!)  (
  30. Lock the TV cameras out?  (
  31. Musburger gone!!, Miami rejoices!!!!!!! (
  32. McCarver on Griffin (
  33. Baseball TV Ratings Dropped (
  34. Worst ever weekend for baseball on TV. (
  35. Forget CBS : Go ESPN! (
  36. What if CBS goes belly up? (
  37. Baseball is stupid at times (
  38. Boy, would CBS be upset! (
  39. 1992 ALCS game 5: Why a day game? (
  40. The A's on ESPN (
  41. Jack Buck...was fired by CBS this week (
  42. WIN WIN WIN (
  43. 1991 NLCS Thoughts (
  44. CBS bias against the Braves (
  45. CBS BIAS:Proof Buck SUCKS? (
  46. 1990 NLCS on CBS (
  47. Sanders vs McCarver - a memo to CBS Sports (
  48. Hey, Dibble is the best pitcher in the league (,+Dibble+is+the+best+pitcher+in+the+league&rnum=1#18bc0fbee261f532)
  49. CBS Coverage of the NLCS--something good (;output=gplain)
  50. Idiotic TV Announcer is redundant (
  51. Tim McCarver calls Deion Sanders a Coward... (
  52. Pitcher Wins, and Schilling's performance (,+and+Schilling%27s+performance&rnum=1#16be021ffbc4856e)
  53. CBS--Cover Baseball Shi**ily (;output=gplain)
  54. CBS Baseball Schedule for 1990, more of the same (;output=gplain)
  55. Bonilla goes for third (and CBS rationalizes) (
  56. Blockhead McCarver (
  57. Costas/McDonough (
  58. CBS, How Dumb Can You Get? (,+How+Dumb+Can+You+Get%3F&rnum=1#f70840b068d8c52f)
  59. Baseball on Television - What's Good, What's Bad (,+What%27s+Bad&rnum=1#5c65a128b0bf6dee)
  60. Oct 10 1990, 8:08 pm (;output=gplain)
  61. Clemens Tossed for Foul Mouth (;output=gplain)
  62. McCarver on Rijo (
  63. Gant and Crime Dog blast the 'Stros (
  64. 1993 All Star Game comments... (
  65. Twilight Zone comment on CBS (
  66. McCarver's slip o' the tongue ( was Re: CBS BIAS ) (
  67. Kent Hrbek & Wrestling on WTCN (Channel 11) (
  68. Observations (
  69. Come on Timmy (
  70. McCarver - Post NLCS Commentary (
  71. 1990 World Series | Game 4 (
  72. 1991 World Series | Game 6 (
  73. 1991 World Series | Game 7 (
  74. 1992 NLCS | Game 7 (
  75. 1992 World Series | Game 6 (
  76. 1993 World Series | Game 6 (

The Baseball Network: 1994-1995

After the fall-out from CBS' financial problems from their four year long television contract with Major League Baseball, MLB decided to go into the business of producing the telecasts themselves. After a four year hiatus, ABC and NBC returned to Major League Baseball under the umbrella of a revenue sharing venture called The Baseball Network. The slogan for The Baseball Network was "Welcome to the Show."

Under a five year plan, MLB was intended to receive 85% of the first $140 million in advertising revenue, 50% of the next $30 million, and 80% of any additional money. When compared to the previous TV deal with CBS, The Baseball Network was supposed to bring in 50% less of the broadcasting revenue.

The Baseball Network kicked off its coverage on July 12, 1994 with the All-Star Game out of Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium. The game was televised on NBC with Bob Costas, Joe Morgan, and Bob Uecker calling the action and Greg Gumbel hosting the pre-game show.

After the All-Star Game was complete, NBC was scheduled to televise six regular season games (usually up to 14 based on the viewers' region as opposed to a traditional coast-to-coast format) in prime time (under the Baseball Night in America umbrella). ABC (with a reunited Al Michaels, Tim McCarver, and Jim Palmer as the primary crew) would then pick up where NBC left off by televising six more regular season games.

In even numbered years, NBC would have the rights to the All-Star Game and both League Championship Series while ABC would have the World Series and newly created Division Series. In odd numbered years the postseason and All-Star Game television rights was supposed alternate. The networks also promised not to begin any World Series weekend broadcasts after 7:20 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. When CBS held the television rights, postseason games routinely aired on the East Coast at 9 p.m. at the earliest. This meant that Joe Carter's dramatic World Series clinching home run in 1993 occured after midnight on the East.

What separated The Baseball Network from previous television deals with Major League Baseball was the fact that none of the postseason games outside of the World Series would air nationally. Because of this, games would often be played simultaneously. This was done mainly in hopes of avoiding the possibilities of playoff games airing in the middle of the day (when most viewers would either be at work or at school). The Baseball Network in essence, set out to create areas of "natural" interest. But because so-called neutral markets summarily fell to one or the other league, whatever you saw depended almost entirely on where you lived.

The long term plans for The Baseball Network crumbled when the players went on strike on August 12, 1994 (thus forcing the cancellation of the World Series). In July of 1995, ABC and NBC, who wound up having to share the duties of televising the 1995 World Series as a way to recoup (with ABC having the rights to the odd numbered games and NBC getting the even numbered games), announced that they were opting out of their agreement with Major League Baseball.

Sports Illustrated for one, was very harsh on The Baseball Network, for whom SI dubbed "America's regional pastime" and an "abomination."

The Baseball Network Announcers


  1. Baseball fans to be locked out in LCS (
  2. Ebersol enthused over baseball deal (
  3. Economic Values of Professional Sport Franchises in the United States (
  4. John Feinstein Talks About Baseball-Network Contracts (
  5. Saturday Night Baseball on ABC (
  6. MLB has entered into a joint venture with ABC and NBC called "The Baseball Network" ("TBN") (
  7. New TV Contract - Details (
  8. OPEN STANCE July 1994 (
  9. The Baseball Network: R.I.P. (And Don't Come Back!) (
  10. Two Ways To Go On Baseball - CBS Vs. ABC-NBC. (

Baseball Comes to Fox

Soon after the Baseball Network fiasco, Major League Baseball made a deal with Fox and NBC on November 7, 1995. Unlike The Baseball Network, Fox went back to the tried and true format of televising regular season games (aproximately 16 weekly telecasts that normally began on Memorial Day weekend) on Saturday afternoons. Fox did however, continue a format that The Baseball Network started by offering games based purely on a viewer's region. Fox's approach has usually been to offer four regionalized telecasts, with exclusivity from 1-4 p.m. in each time zone.

27 year old Joe Buck was named Fox's #1 play-by-play man. Ironically, Buck was teamed with Tim McCarver, who was considered the main reason behind the firing of Buck's father Jack from CBS five years earlier. Other commentators for Fox have included Chip Caray (studio host from 1996-1998; play-by-play announcer from 1999-2000), Steve Lyons (studio anaylst from 1996-2000; game anaylst from 2001-Present), Dave Winfield (studio anaylst in 1996), Thom Brennaman, Bob Brenly, Keith Olbermann (studio host from 1999-2000), Kevin Kennedy (studio analyst from 2001-Present), Kenny Albert, Jerry Remy, Mel Proctor, Josh Lewin, John Rooney, Dick Stockton, Jeff Torborg, Rex Hudler, and Jeanne Zelasko (studio host from 2001-Present).

In 2001, Jeanne Zelasko[1] ( became the first woman in more than a decade to regularly host Major League Baseball for a network. Unless you count Hannah Storm, who only hosted selected ball games during NBC's sporatic phase in the 1990s or CBS' Andrea Joyce in 1993, then Zelasko succeeded Gayle Gardner, who hosted for NBC in 1989.

On July 8, 1997, Fox televised its first ever All-Star Game (out of Jacobs Field in Cleveland). For this particular game, Fox introduced "Catcher-Cam" in which a camera was affixed to the catchers' masks in order to provide unique perspectives of the action around home plate. Catcher-Cam soon would become a regular fixture in Fox's baseball broadcasts.

In addition to Catcher-Cam, other so-called "innovations" that Fox has provided for baseball telecasts have been:

  • Between 12 and 16 microphones throughout the outfield, ranging from Sennheiser MKH-416 shotgun microphones to DPA 4061s with Crystal Partners Big Ear parabolic microphones to Crown Audio PCC160 plate microphones.
  • The continuous Fox Box graphic, which contained the score, clock and other information in an upper corner of the TV screen. In recent years, the Fox Box has morphed into a strip across the top of the screen.
  • Audio accompanying graphics and sandwiched replays between "whooshes."
  • Scooter, a 3-D animated talking baseball (voiced by Tom Kenny) that occasionally appears to explain pitching mechanics, purportedly for younger viewers -- approminately the 10- to 12-year-olds --.[2] (
  • Ball Tracer, a stroboscopic comet tail showing the path of a pitch to the catcher's glove.
  • Strike Zone, which shows pitch sequences with strikes in yellow and balls in white. It can put a simulated pane of glass that shatters when a ball goes through the zone (a la the computerized scoring graphics used for bowling).
  • The "high home" camera from high behind home plate. Its purpose is that it can trace the arc of a home run and measure the distance the ball traveled. The "high home" camera can also measure a runner's lead off first base while showing in different colors (green, yellow, red) and how far off the base and into pickoff danger a runner is venturing.

During the 2000 World Series that was televised by Fox, 1% of the televisions in New York watched Game 5. The next 30 largest television markets, during that same exact viewing period, registered double digit percentage losses compared to the market in New York City.

Prior to the 2000 World Series, Bob Brenly, who normally did West Coast games with Thom Brennaman, regularly joined Joe Buck and Tim McCarver in the booth for events such as the World Series and All-Star Game. But during the 2000 World Series, Brenly was relegated to simply being a field reporter. Brenly was on the verge of becoming the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who would win the World Series under Brenly just a year later. After Brenly was dismissed by the Diamondbacks following a disappointing start to the 2004 regular season, Brenly returned to Fox.

In 2004, Fox's Game of the Week telecasts only appeared three times after August 28. One unidentified ex-Fox broadcaster complained by saying "Fox is MIA on the pennant race, and Joe [Buck] doesn't even do [September 18's] Red Sox-Yankees. What kind of sport would tolorate that?" By this point, Joe Buck was unavailable to call baseball games due to his duties as being Fox's #1 NFL announcer (a job he has held since 2002).


  1. Please Take Baseball Away From Fox (
  2. Rupert Murdoch - The Real Commissioner? (
  3. Fox should realize less is more (
  4. Batgirl: All-Star "Game?" (
  5. Blame it on Fox Television (
  6. Buck You, Joe (
  7. 10/28/2004 Archived Entry: "Now That It Is Over, Baseball Coverage on Fox Stinks" (
  8. (
  9. Baseball on Fox: A thing of the future (

Trouble at NBC: 1996-2000

Despite of the failure of The Baseball Network, NBC decided to stay on with Major League Baseball but on a far more restricted basis. Under the five year deal (from 1996-2000), NBC didn't televise any regular season games. Instead, NBC only handled the All-Star Game, three Division Series games, and the American League Championship Series in even numbered years and the World Series, three Division Series games, and National League Championship Series in odd numbered years. Also around this particular period, NBC adopted composer Randy Edelman's theme from the short-lived Fox series The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. as the main theme music for their baseball telecasts.

In 1997, just before the start of NBC's coverage of the World Series, West Coast entertainment division president Don Ohlmeyer came under fire after publicly announcing that he hoped that the World Series would end in a four game sweep. Ohlmeyer believed that baseball now lacked broad audience appeal. In addition, Ohlmeyer feared that the World Series would disrupt NBC's efforts to attract enough viewers for its new fall roster (|L01ham9yX0xlYWd1ZV9CYXNlYmFsbF90ZWxldmlzaW9uX2NvbnRyYWN0cw==|aHR0cDovL25ldHNjYXBlLmVvbmxpbmUuY29tL05ld3MvSXRlbXMvMCwxLDE5MzEsMDAuaHRtbA==) in order to stay on top of the ratings heap.

In 1998, Bob Uecker abruptedly left NBC Sports before a chance to call the All-Star Game from Coors Field in Colorado. Uecker underwent a back operation in which four discs were replaced. For the remainder of contract (1998-2000), only Bob Costas and Joe Morgan called the games.

In 1999, NBC's field reporter Jim Gray, who had previously covered Major League Baseball for CBS, came under fire for a confrontational interview with banned all-time hit king Pete Rose. Just prior to the start of Game 2 of the World Series, Gray pushed Rose, who was on hand in Atlanta's Turner Field to accept the fan voted honor of being named to Master Card's All Century Team, into admitting to betting on baseball games while as manager of the Cincinatti Reds ten years earlier. After NBC was flooded with tons of viewer complaints, Gray was forced to clarify (much less apologize) his actions to the viewers at home prior to Game 3. Regardless of Gray's sincerity, Game 3 hero Chad Curtis of the New York Yankees boycotted Gray's request for an interview live on camera; Curtis had hit a game winning home run to send the World Series 3-0 in the Yankees' favor.

In 2000, NBC was caught in the dilemma of having to televise a first round playoff game between the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics over the first presidential debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore. NBC decided to give its local stations the option of carrying the debate. NBC also placed a crawl at the bottom of the screen to inform viewers that they could see the debate on its sister channel MSNBC. On the other end, Fox said that it would carry baseball on the two nights when its schedule conflicts with the presidential or vice presidential debates.

During NBC's coverage of the 2000 Division Series, regular play-by-play man Bob Costas decided to take a breather after anchoring NBC's prime time coverage of the Summer Olympic Games from Sydney. In Costas' place came Atlanta Braves announcer Skip Caray, who teamed with Joe Morgan before Costas' return for the ALCS.


  1. NBC: The Network that Doesn't Care (

Baseball Leaves NBC Again

Major League Baseball currently has contracts with Fox (worth $2.5 billion through the year 2006) to show Saturday baseball, the All-Star Game, selected Division Series games and exclusive coverage of the League Championship Series and World Series.

ESPN and ESPN2 have contracts to show selected weeknight and Sunday night games, along with selected Division Series playoff games. After Disney bought Fox Family in 2002 to become ABC Family the Division Series games aired on ABC Family (with ESPN's announcers, graphics, and music) for one year.

Under the previous five year deal with NBC, Fox paid $115 million while NBC only paid $80 million. Before NBC decided to part ways with Major League Baseball (for the second time in about 12 years) on September 27, 2000, Fox's payment would've been $345 million while NBC would've paid $240 million. Before 1990, NBC had carried Major League Baseball since 1947.

Under the new deal, Fox would now pay out an average of $417 million a year, which was about a 45 percent increase from the previous deal (worth $290 million a year) that Fox, NBC and ESPN contributed together.

When asked about the new deal with Fox, Commissioner Bud Selig said "We at Major League Baseball could not be happier with the result. They have been a good partner and an innovative producer of our games."

Some observers believed that gaining the relative ratings boost from the League Championship Series and World Series meant more to Fox than the other broadcast networks. That was because Fox had the biggest prime time ratings decline of the four major networks during the 1999-2000 season. Its average prime time audience of 8.97 million was down 17 percent from the year before, according to Nielsen Media Research.


  1. Costas' new NBC deal means no more baseball (

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