Major League Baseball on ABC

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Major League Baseball on ABC
Genre Major League Baseball telecasts
Created by Edgar J. Scherick
Directed by Chet Forte
Ken Fouts
Craig Janoff
Larry Kamm
Presented by See Major League Baseball on ABC broadcasters
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Production
Executive producer(s) Roone Arledge
Geoffrey Mason
Producer(s) Bob Goodrich
Curt Gowdy, Jr.
Chuck Howard
Peter Lasser
Dennis Lewin
Bob Rosburg, Jr. (co-producer)
Editor(s) Dean Hovell
Conrad Kraus
Pamela Peterson
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 180 minutes or until end of game
Production company(s) ABC Sports
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Original run
  • First run: 1953 (1953) – October 2, 1965 (1965-10-02)
  • Second run: April 12, 1976 (1976-04-12) – July 27, 1989 (1989-07-27)
  • Third run: July 16, 1994 (1994-07-16)
 – October 26, 1995 (1995-10-26)
Chronology
Related shows Major League Baseball Game of the Week
Monday Night Baseball
Thursday Night Baseball
Baseball Night in America
External links
Website
Production website

Major League Baseball on ABC is the de facto branding used for broadcasts of Major League Baseball (MLB) games produced by ABC Sports, and televised on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). Major League Baseball games have been broadcast on the network in various forms[1] from c. 1953 to 1965 (ABC Game of the Week), 1976 to 1989 (Monday Night Baseball, Thursday Night Baseball and Sunday Afternoon Baseball), and finally from 1994 to 1995 (Baseball Night in America).

History[edit]

1950s[edit]

In 1953, ABC executive Edgar J. Scherick (who would later go on to create Wide World of Sports) broached a Saturday Game of the Week,[2] TV sport's first network series. At the time, ABC was labeled a "nothing network" that had fewer affiliates than CBS or NBC, and also needed paid programming or, as Scherick put it, "anything for bills". At first, the network hesitated at the idea of a nationally televised regular-season baseball program. ABC executives wondered how exactly the Game of the Week would reach television in the first place and if it would reach many viewers. To make matters worse, Major League Baseball barred the Game of the Week from airing within 50 miles of any ballpark.[3] According to Scherick, the league insisted on protecting local coverage and did not care about national appeal. ABC, though, did care about the national appeal and claimed that "most of America was still up for grabs."

In April 1953, Edgar Scherick set out to sell teams rights but instead, only got the Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland Indians,[4] and Chicago White Sox[5][6] to sign on.[7] These were not "national" broadcast contracts since they were assembled through negotiations with individual teams to telecast games from their home parks. Until the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 was passed by Congress, antitrust laws barred "pooled rights" television contracts negotiated with a central league broadcasting authority.

In 1953, ABC's Game of the Week telecasts earned an 11.4 rating for the network. Blacked-out cities had 32% of households; in the rest of the United States, three out of every four television sets in use watched Dizzy Dean[8] and Buddy Blattner[9] (or backup announcers Bill McColgan and Bob Finnegan) call the games for ABC. CBS took over the rights to the Saturday Game in 1955 (the rights were actually set up through the Falstaff Brewing Corporation[10]) retaining Dean/Blattner and McColgan/Finnegan as the announcing crews (as well as Gene Kirby, who produced the Dean/Blattner games and alternated with them on play-by-play) and adding Sunday coverage in 1957. Edgar Scherick said regarding the package's success, "In '53, no one wanted us. Now teams begged for "Game" '​s cash."

In 1959, ABC broadcast the best-of-three playoff series[11][12][13] (to decide the National League pennant) between the Milwaukee Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers. Cigarette manufacturer L&M was in charge of the telecasts. George Kell[14] and Bob DeLaney served as the announcers.

1960s[edit]

1960–1961[edit]

In 1960, ABC returned to baseball broadcasting with a series of late-afternoon Saturday games. Jack Buck and Carl Erskine[15][16] were the lead announcing crew for this series, which lasted one season.[17] ABC typically did three games a week. Two of the games were always based in either the Eastern and/or Central Time Zone. The late games (which did not feature any doubleheaders) were usually San Francisco Giants[18] or Los Angeles Dodgers' home games. However, the Milwaukee Braves[19] used to start many of their Saturday home games late in the afternoon; as such, if the Giants and Dodgers were both the road at the same time, ABC still would be able to show a late game.

Despite temporarily losing the Game of the Week package in 1961, ABC still televised several games in prime time (with Jack Buck returning to call the action). This occurred as Roger Maris[20][21] was poised to tie and subsequently break Babe Ruth's regular-season record of 60 home runs. As with all Major League Baseball games in those days, the action was completely blacked out[22] in markets with major league franchises. As a matter of fact, as documented in the HBO film 61*, the Maris family was welcomed into the studios of ABC's Kansas City, Missouri affiliate KMBC-TV so they could watch the in-house feed of the game, which was blacked out within the Kansas City market.

1965[edit]

In 1965, ABC provided the first nationwide baseball coverage ever with weekly Saturday games that were broadcast on a regional basis. ABC paid US$5.7 million for the rights to the 28 Saturday/holiday Games of the Week. ABC's deal[23][24] covered all of the teams except the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies[25] (which had their own television deals) and called for two regionalized games on Saturdays, Independence Day and Labor Day.[26] Each Saturday, ABC would broadcast two 2:00 p.m. games and one 5:00 p.m. game for the Pacific Time Zone. ABC blacked out the games in the home cities of the clubs playing those games.[27] Major League Baseball, however, had a television deal with NBC for the All-Star Game and World Series. At the end of the season, ABC declined to exercise its $6.5 million option for 1966, citing poor ratings,[28][29] especially in the New York City market.

According to ABC announcer Merle Harmon's profile in Curt Smith's book Voices of Summer, in 1965, CBS' Yankee Game of the Week beat ABC in the ratings in at least Dallas and Des Moines. To make matters worse, local television split the big-city audience. Therefore, ABC could show the Cubs vs. the Cardinals in the New York market, and yet the Mets would still trump them in terms of viewership. Harmon, Chris Schenkel, Keith Jackson,[30] and (on occasion) Ken Coleman[31] served as ABC's principal play-by-play voices for this series. Also on the network's announcing team were pregame host Howard Cosell and color commentators Leo Durocher, Tommy Henrich, Warren Spahn (who worked with Chris Schenkel on a July 17 Baltimore-Detroit contest), and Hall of Fame Brooklyn Dodger great Jackie Robinson (who, on April 17, 1965, became the first black network broadcaster for Major League Baseball[32]). According to ABC Sports producer Chuck Howard, "(Robinson) had a high, stabbing voice, great presence, and sharp mind. All he lacked was time."

Schedule[edit]
Date Teams Announcers
April 17, 1965 San Francisco at New York Mets
Baltimore at Boston
Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
April 24, 1965[33] St. Louis at Cincinnati
Boston at Baltimore
New York Mets at San Francisco
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
May 1, 1965 Minnesota at Chicago White Sox
Boston at Detroit
Philadelphia at Milwaukee
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
May 8, 1965 New York Yankees at Washington
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco
Merle Harmon and Leo Durocher
Chris Schenkel and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
May 15, 1965 Reds at New York Mets
Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox
Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers
Merle Harmon and Tommy Henrich
Chris Schenkel and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Leo Durocher
May 22, 1965 Baltimore at Detroit
San Francisco at Houston
Pittsburgh at Milwaukee
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
May 29, 1965 New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox
Cleveland at Detroit
Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
June 5, 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee
Houston at St. Louis
Baltimore at Los Angeles Angels
Chris Schenkel and Jackie Robinson
Merle Harmon and Leo Durocher
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
June 12, 1965[34] Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Mets
San Francisco at Pittsburgh
Cleveland at Kansas City
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
Chris Schenkel and Jackie Robinson
Merle Harmon and Leo Durocher
June 19, 1965 Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati
Los Angeles Angels at Cleveland
Philadelphia at Los Angeles Dodgers
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
June 26, 1965 Baltimore at Chicago White Sox
Detroit at Minnesota
Pittsburgh at Los Angeles Dodgers
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
July 3, 1965 New York Yankees at Boston
San Francisco at Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox at Los Angeles Angels
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
July 10, 1965 New York Yankees at Minnesota
Los Angeles Dodgers at Pittsburgh
Detroit at Kansas City
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
July 17, 1965 Baltimore at Detroit
Los Angeles Angels at Chicago White Sox
Houston at San Francisco
Chris Schenkel and Warren Spahn[35]
Merle Harmon and Tommy Henrich
Keith Jackson and Jackie Robinson
July 24, 1965 Chicago White Sox at Detroit
Los Angeles Angels at Boston
Milwaukee at San Francisco
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
July 31, 1965 San Francisco at Milwaukee
Baltimore at Minnesota
Chris Schenkel and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
August 7, 1965 San Francisco at St. Louis
Cleveland at Chicago White Sox
Keith Jackson and Jackie Robinson
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
August 14, 1965 Cincinnati at St. Louis
Minnesota at Cleveland
Keith Jackson and Jackie Robinson
Merle Harmon and Leo Durocher
August 21, 1965 St. Louis at New York Mets
Milwaukee at Pittsburgh
Keith Jackson and Jackie Robinson
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
August 28, 1965 Houston at Pittsburgh
Cleveland at Minnesota
New York Yankees at Kansas City
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
September 4, 1965 San Francisco at Chicago Cubs
Pittsburgh at Milwaukee
Los Angeles Dodgers at Houston
Chris Schenkel and Jackie Robinson
Merle Harmon and Leo Durocher
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
September 6, 1965 San Francisco at Los Angeles Dodgers
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Chris Schenkel, Leo Durocher and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
September 11, 1965 Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Milwaukee at New York Mets
Chicago Cubs at San Francisco
Chris Schenkel and Jackie Robinson
Merle Harmon and Tommy Henrich
Keith Jackson and Leo Durocher
September 18, 1965 San Francisco at Milwaukee
Washington at Minnesota
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
September 25, 1965 Milwaukee at San Francisco
Pittsburgh at Chicago Cubs
Minnesota at Washington
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
October 2, 1965 Baltimore and Cleveland
Cincinnati at San Francisco
Milwaukee at Los Angeles
Merle Harmon and Tommy Henrich
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Keith Jackson and Jackie Robinson

1970s[edit]

Under the initial agreement with ABC, NBC and Major League Baseball (lasting through the 1976 to 1979 seasons), both networks paid $92.8 million for the league television rights. ABC paid $12.5 million per year to show 16 Monday night games in 1976, 18 in the next three years, plus half the postseason (the League Championship Series in even-numbered years and World Series in odd-numbered years) and the All-Star Game in even-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) and the All-Star Game in odd-numbered years. 1976 marked the first time that all LCS games were televised nationally. Major League Baseball media director John Lazarus said of the new arrangement between NBC and ABC, "Ratings couldn't get more from one network so we approached another." NBC's Joe Garagiola was not very fond of the new broadcasting arrangement at first saying "I wished they hadn't got half the package. Still, Game, half of the postseason – we got lots left."

1976–1977[edit]

In 1976, ABC would pick up the television rights for Monday Night Baseball games from NBC. 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 did not compete against their stadium box offices. ABC on the other hand, found the arrangement far more complicated. The network often had only one or two games to pick from for each telecast from a schedule determined by Major League Baseball. While trying to give all of the teams national exposure, ABC ended up with far too many games between sub-.500 clubs from small markets.

Just like with Monday Night Football, ABC brought in the concept of the three-man booth (originally with Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf as the primary crew) to their baseball telecasts. Said ABC Sports head Roone Arledge, "It'll take something different for it to work – i.e. curb viewership yawns and lulls with Uecker as the real difference," so Arledge reportedly hoped. Prince disclosed to his broadcasting partner Jim Woods about his early worries about calling a network series for the first time. Prince for one, did not have as much creative control over the broadcasts on ABC as he did calling Pittsburgh Pirates games on KDKA radio. On the June 7, 1976 edition of Monday Night Baseball, Prince returned to Pittsburgh, where he had been exiled from for over a year. Although Prince received a warm reception, he was confused when the next day when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette read:

On June 28, 1976, the Detroit Tigers faced the New York Yankees on Monday Night Baseball; with 47,855 attending at Tiger Stadium and a national television audience, Tigers pitcher Mark "The Bird" Fidrych talked to the ball and groomed the mound, as the Tigers won, 5-1 in a game that lasted only one hour and 51 minutes. After the game, the crowd would not leave the park until Fidrych came out of the dugout to tip his cap.[36]

For ABC's coverage of the 1976 All-Star Game, the team of Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf alternated roles for the broadcast. For the first three innings, Prince did play-by-play with Wolf on color commentary and Uecker doing field interviews. For the middle innings, Uecker worked play-by-play with Prince on color and Wolf doing the interviews. For the final three innings, Wolf worked play-by-play with Uecker on color and Prince doing interviews.

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

Howard Cosell said of Bob Uecker that he was the only person in the series to have his reputation helped. Cosell, who hated athletes-turned-announcers, considered Uecker to be the exception. Cosell gloated that "The man's bigger than the game, bigger than the team, bigger than the league, bigger than the sport. They talk about a new commissioner, if I had my pick, it would be you, Bob Uecker." Uecker replied by sighing and telling Cosell that he wished he "had the time."

Keith Jackson was unavailable to call Game 1 of the 1976 ALCS because he had just gotten finished calling an Oklahoma-Texas college football game for ABC. As a result, Bob Uecker filled in for Jackson for Game 1. Uecker also took part in the postgame interviews for Game 5 of the 1976 ALCS, while Warner Wolf did an interview with George Brett in the Kansas City locker room.

The 1977 World Series marked the first time that the participating teams' local announcers were not featured[37] as booth announcers on the network telecast of a World Series. 1977 was also the first year in which one announcer (in this case, ABC's Keith Jackson) provided all of the play-by-play for a World Series telecast. In previous years, the play-by-play announcers and color commentators had alternated roles during each game. Meanwhile, Yankees announcer Bill White and Dodgers announcer Ross Porter alternated between pre-game/post-game duties on ABC and calling the games for CBS Radio. White worked the ABC telecasts for the games in New York (including the clubhouse trophy presentation ceremony after Game 6), while Porter did likewise for the games in Los Angeles.

"The Bronx is Burning"[edit]

Howard Cosell was widely attributed with saying the famous phrase "the Bronx is burning". Cosell is credited with saying the quote during Game 2 of the 1977 World Series, which took place at Yankee Stadium on October 12, 1977. For a couple of years, fires had routinely erupted in the South Bronx, mostly due to low-value property owners setting their own properties ablaze for insurance money. During the bottom of the first inning, an ABC aerial camera panned a few blocks from Yankee Stadium to a building on fire, giving the world a real-life view of the infamous Bronx fires. The scene became a defining image of New York City in the 1970s. Cosell supposedly stated, "There it is, ladies and gentlemen, The Bronx is burning."[38] This was later picked up by presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, who then made a special trip to the Bronx, to illustrate the failures of then-day politicians to address the issues in that part of New York City.

In 2005, author Jonathan Mahler published Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning, a book on New York in 1977, and credited Cosell with saying the title quote during the aerial coverage of the fire. ESPN produced a 2007 miniseries based on the book called The Bronx is Burning. Cosell's comment seemed to have captured the widespread view that New York City was on the skids and in a state of decline.

The truth was discovered after Major League Baseball published a complete DVD set of all of the games of the 1977 World Series. Coverage of the fire began with Keith Jackson commenting on the enormity of the blaze, while Cosell added that President Carter had visited that area just days before. As the top of the second inning began, the fire was once again shown from a helicopter-mounted camera, and Cosell commented that the New York Fire Department had a hard job to do in The Bronx as there were always numerous fires. In the bottom of the second inning, Cosell informed the audience that it was an abandoned building that was burning and no lives were in danger. There was no further comment on the fire, and Cosell appears to have never said "The Bronx is Burning" (at least not on camera) during Game 2.[38]

Mahler's confusion could have arisen from a 1974 documentary entitled The Bronx is Burning: it is likely Mahler confused the documentary with his recollection of Cosell's comments when writing his book.[39]

Schedules[edit]
Date Teams Announcers
April 12, 1976[40] New York Yankees at Baltimore
Oakland at Texas
Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf
Al Michaels, Bob Gibson and Norm Cash
April 19, 1976[41] New York Mets at St. Louis
Houston at Los Angeles
Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf
Al Michaels, Bob Gibson and Norm Cash
May 10, 1976 Los Angeles at St. Louis
Chicago White Sox at Texas
Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf
Al Michaels, Bob Gibson and Norm Cash
May 31, 1976[42] New York Yankees at Boston
Cincinnati at Houston
Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf
Al Michaels, Bob Gibson and Norm Cash
June 7, 1976 Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Texas at Baltimore
Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf
Al Michaels, Bob Gibson and Norm Cash
June 14, 1976 Cincinnati at Chicago Cubs
Kansas City at Detroit
Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf
Al Michaels, Bob Gibson and Norm Cash
June 21, 1976 Los Angeles at Cincinnati
Boston at Baltimore
Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf
Al Michaels, Bob Gibson and Norm Cash
June 28, 1976 New York Yankees at Detroit
Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh
Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf
Al Michaels, Bob Gibson and Norm Cash
July 5, 1976[43] Los Angeles at Philadelphia
New York Mets at Houston
Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf
Al Michaels, Bob Gibson and Norm Cash
August 2, 1976 St. Louis at Pittsburgh
Detroit at New York Yankees
Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf
Al Michaels, Bob Gibson and Norm Cash
August 9, 1976 New York Yankees at Kansas City
Los Angeles at Pittsburgh
Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf
Al Michaels, Bob Gibson and Norm Cash
August 16, 1976 Texas at New York Yankees
Baltimore at Minnesota[44]
Bob Prince, Bob Gibson and Norm Cash
Al Michaels, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf[45]
August 23, 1976 St. Louis at Cincinnati[46]
Oakland at Baltimore
Philadelphia at Atlanta
Al Michaels and Bob Uecker
Warner Wolf and Bob Gibson
Bob Prince and Norm Cash
August 30, 1976 Cincinnati at St. Louis
Kansas City at Baltimore
New York Yankees at Oakland[47]
Al Michaels and Bob Uecker
Warner Wolf and Bob Gibson[48]
Bob Prince and Norm Cash
September 6, 1976 Los Angeles at San Diego
Boston at New York Yankees
Al Michaels and Warner Wolf
Bob Uecker and Bob Gibson
April 11, 1977 New York Yankees at Kansas City[49]
Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia
Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Bob Uecker
Al Michaels and Bill White
April 18, 1977 Los Angeles at Cincinnati
New York Mets at St. Louis
Cleveland at Baltimore
Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Bob Uecker
Al Michaels and Bill White
Warner Wolf and Bob Gibson
May 9, 1977 Cincinnati at St. Louis
Chicago White Sox at Texas
Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Bob Uecker
Al Michaels and Bill White
May 23, 1977 San Francisco at St. Louis
New York Mets at Pittsburgh
Al Michaels and Bill White
May 30, 1977[50] New York Yankees at Boston
Los Angeles at Houston
Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Bob Uecker
Al Michaels and Bill White
June 6, 1977 New York Yankees at Texas[51]
Chicago White Sox at Minnesota
Boston at Kansas City
Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Bob Uecker
Warner Wolf and Bill White
Al Michaels and Bob Gibson
June 13, 1977 Chicago White Sox at Boston
Cincinnati at Philadelphia
Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Bob Uecker
Al Michaels and Bill White
June 20, 1977 Philadelphia at Cincinnati
New York Yankees at Detroit
Chicago Cubs at San Francisco
June 27, 1977 Pittsburgh at St. Louis
Los Angeles at Atlanta
July 4, 1977 Cincinnati at Atlanta
New York Mets at Philadelphia
Kansas City at Texas
July 11, 1977 New York Yankees at Baltimore
Kansas City at Chicago White Sox[52]
July 25, 1977[53] Cincinnati at St. Louis
Chicago White Sox at Boston
New York Yankees at Kansas City
August 1, 1977 Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati
Minnesota at Kansas City
August 8, 1977 Chicago Cubs[54] at Pittsburgh[55]
Cincinnati at Los Angeles
August 15, 1977 Kansas City at Boston
Chicago White Sox[56] at New York Yankees
August 22, 1977 Boston at Minnesota
Los Angeles[57] at St. Louis
New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox
August 29, 1977 Oakland at Boston
Chicago White Sox at Cleveland
September 5, 1977 New York Yankees at Cleveland
Boston at Toronto (not broadcast)
Los Angeles at San Diego
Minnesota at Texas

1978–1979[edit]

In 1978,[58] Baseball Hall of Famer Don Drysdale joined ABC Sports with assignments such as Monday Night Baseball, Superstars and Wide World of Sports. In 1979, Drysdale covered the World Series Trophy presentation. According to Drysdale, "My thing is to talk about inside things. Keith [Jackson] does play-by-play. Howard's [Cosell] role is anything since anything can happen in broadcasting." When ABC released and then rehired him in 1981, Drysdale explained it by saying "If there is nothing to say, be quiet." Ultimately, Drysdale seemed to be slowly phased out of the ABC picture as fellow Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer was considered ABC's new poster child "[of] superior looks and...popularity from underwear commercials."

For a national television audience, the 1978 American League East tie-breaker game (New York Yankees/Boston Red Sox) aired on ABC with Keith Jackson and Don Drysdale on the call. Meanwhile, the game aired locally on WPIX in New York City and on WSBK-TV in Boston. Phil Rizzuto, Frank Messer and Bill White called the game on WPIX while Dick Stockton and Ken Harrelson called the game on WSBK. Also in 1978, Keith Jackson called an Oklahoma-Texas college football game for ABC and then, flew to New York, arriving at Yankee Stadium just in time to call Game 4 of the ALCS that same night (October 7).

In 1979, the start of ABC's Monday Night Baseball coverage was moved back to June, due to poor ratings during the May sweeps period. In place of April and May prime time games, ABC would begin airing Sunday Afternoon Baseball games in September.[59] The network also aired one Friday night game (Yankees at Angels) on June 13 of that year. On August 6, 1979 the entire Yankee team attended team captain/catcher Thurman Munson's funeral in Canton, Ohio. Teammates Lou Piniella and Bobby Murcer, who were Munson's best friends, gave eulogies. That night (before a national viewing audience on ABC's Monday Night Baseball) the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 5–4 in New York, with Murcer driving in all five runs with a three-run home run in the seventh inning and a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth.[60]

Schedules[edit]
Date Teams Announcers
April 10, 1978 New York Yankees at Texas
Los Angeles at Houston
April 17, 1978 Cincinnati at Los Angeles
Baltimore at New York Yankees
April 24, 1978 Kansas City at Texas
New York Yankees at Baltimore
May 1, 1978 Philadelphia at Cincinnati
Boston at Baltimore
May 8, 1978 New York Mets at Cincinnati
May 22, 1978 Los Angeles at San Diego
Texas at Minnesota
May 29, 1978 Pittsburgh at Philadelphia
San Francisco at Houston
June 5, 1978 San Francisco at Philadelphia
Los Angeles at New York Mets
Chicago White Sox at Cleveland
June 12, 1978 Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati
Oakland at New York Yankees
Los Angeles at Philadelphia
June 19, 1978 New York Yankees at Boston
Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh
June 26, 1978 Boston at New York Yankees
Kansas City at California
July 3, 1978 New York Yankees at Boston
California at Kansas City
July 17, 1978 Minnesota at Boston
San Francisco at St. Louis
July 24, 1978 New York Yankees at Kansas City
Cincinnati at New York Mets
July 31, 1978 New York Mets at Philadelphia
San Francisco at Houston
August 7, 1978 Atlanta at Cincinnati
California at Oakland
August 14, 1978 New York Yankees at Baltimore
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
August 21, 1978 Los Angeles at Montreal
Chicago Cubs at Houston
August 28, 1978 Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
California at New York Yankees
June 4, 1979 Texas at Boston
Los Angeles at Pittsburgh
June 11, 1979 Boston at Kansas City
Houston at Pittsburgh
June 18, 1979 Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles
Cincinnati at Montreal
June 25, 1979 Cincinnati at Houston
Montreal at St. Louis
July 2, 1979 Boston at New York Yankees
Baltimore at Texas
July 9, 1979 Los Angeles at Montreal
Boston at California
Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Don Drysdale[61]
July 13, 1979 New York Yankees at California Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Bob Uecker[62]
July 23, 1979[63] California at Boston
Kansas City at Texas
Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Bob Uecker[64]
July 30, 1979 Baltimore at Milwaukee
New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox
Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia
August 6, 1979 Baltimore at New York Yankees
Los Angeles at San Francisco
Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Don Drysdale

August 13, 1979 Pittsburgh at Philadelphia
Montreal at Houston
August 20, 1979 Texas at Baltimore
Cincinnati at Montreal
August 27, 1979 Houston at Montreal
Cincinnati at Philadelphia
September 9, 1979 Los Angeles at Cincinnati
San Francisco at Houston
September 23, 1979 Cincinnati at Houston
September 30, 1979 Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh[65]
Montreal at Philadelphia
Don Drysdale and Howard Cosell

1980s[edit]

1980–1982[edit]

ABC's contract was further modified prior to the 1980 season, with the network airing just five Monday Night Baseball telecasts in June of that year, followed by Sunday Afternoon Baseball in August and September. ABC did Sunday afternoon games late in the season in order to fulfill the number of games in the contract and to not interfere with Monday Night Football. Also in 1980, ABC (with Al Michaels and Bob Uecker on the call) broadcast the National League West tie-breaker game between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers.[66] On October 11, 1980, Keith Jackson called an Oklahoma-Texas college football game for ABC in the afternoon, then flew to Houston to call Game 4 of the NLCS).[67] In the meantime, Don Drysdale filled-in for Jackson on play-by-play for the early innings (up until the middle of the fourth inning). Meanwhile, ABC used Steve Zabriskie[68] as a field reporter during the 1980 NLCS.

In 1981, ABC planned to increase coverage to 10 Monday night games and eight Sunday afternoon games, but the players' strike that year ended up reducing the network's schedule to three Monday night and seven Sunday afternoon telecasts. Also in 1981, as means to recoup revenue lost during a players' strike, Major League Baseball set up a special additional playoff round (as a prelude to the League Championship Series). ABC televised the American League Division Series while NBC televised the National League Division Series. The Division Series round wouldn't be officially instituted until 14 years later. Games 3 of the Brewers/Yankees series and Royals/Athletics series were aired regionally. On October 10, Keith Jackson called an Oklahoma-Texas college football game for ABC and missed Game 4 of the Milwaukee-New York series. In Jackson's absence, Don Drysdale filled-in for him on play-by-play alongside Howard Cosell.

In 1982, ABC aired 11 Monday night games and one Sunday afternoon game. Game 1 of the 1982 NLCS had to be played twice. In the first attempt (on October 6), the Atlanta Braves led against the St. Louis Cardinals 1–0 behind Phil Niekro. The game was three outs away becoming official when the umpire stopped it. When the rain did not subside, the game was canceled.[69] Game 1 began from the start the following night in a pitching match-up of Pascual Pérez for the Braves and longtime Cardinal starter Bob Forsch. ABC's Jim Lampley[70] interviewed the winners in the Cardinals' clubhouse after clinching the National League pennant in Game 3.

Schedules[edit]
Date Teams Announcers
June 2, 1980 New York Yankees at Kansas City
Cincinnati at Los Angeles
June 9, 1980 Los Angeles at New York Mets
New York Yankees at California
June 16, 1980 Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Oakland at Boston
June 23, 1980 Los Angeles at Houston
Boston at New York Yankees
June 30, 1980 New York Yankees at Boston
Philadelphia at Montreal
August 17, 1980 Montreal at Pittsburgh
New York Yankees at Baltimore
August 24, 1980 Los Angeles at New York Mets
Baltimore at Oakland
August 31, 1980 Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
September 7, 1980 Oakland at Baltimore
California at New York Yankees
September 14, 1980 Montreal at Pittsburgh
Los Angeles at Cincinnati
September 21, 1980 Houston at San Francisco
Cincinnati at Los Angeles
September 28, 1980[71] Montreal at Philadelphia
St. Louis at Houston
Keith Jackson and Don Drysdale

October 5, 1980 Philadelphia at Montreal
Houston at Los Angeles
June 1, 1981 New York Yankees at Cleveland
St. Louis at Montreal
June 8, 1981 New York Yankees at Kansas City[72]
Los Angeles at St. Louis
Al Michaels, Howard Cosell and Bob Uecker
August 10, 1981 Cincinnati at Los Angeles
St. Louis at Philadelphia
August 16, 1981 Baltimore at Chicago White Sox
St. Louis at Montreal
August 23, 1981 Los Angeles at St. Louis
New York Yankees at Kansas City
September 6, 1981 Cincinnati at Philadelphia
Oakland at Baltimore
September 13, 1981 Boston at New York Yankees
Los Angeles at Cincinnati
September 20, 1981 Oakland at Chicago White Sox
Cincinnati at Los Angeles
September 27, 1981 Milwaukee at Detroit
October 4, 1981 Detroit at Milwaukee
June 7, 1982 Oakland at Chicago White Sox
June 14, 1982 New York Mets at Pittsburgh
June 21, 1982 Detroit at Boston
June 28, 1982 St. Louis at Philadelphia
July 5, 1982 Milwaukee at Chicago White Sox
July 19, 1982 California at Baltimore
July 26, 1982 Toronto at Boston
Chicago White Sox at Baltimore
August 2, 1982 Montreal at Philadelphia
Pittsburgh at St. Louis
August 9, 1982 New York Yankees at Detroit
Cincinnati at Los Angeles
August 16, 1982 California at Oakland
Baltimore at Boston
August 23, 1982 Philadelphia at Atlanta
October 3, 1982 Milwaukee at Baltimore
Atlanta at San Diego
Los Angeles at San Francisco
Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell[73]


1983–1989 television package[edit]

On April 7, 1983, Major League Baseball agreed to terms with ABC and NBC for a six-year television package, worth US$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 30 Saturday afternoon games.

USA Network's coverage became a casualty of the new $1.2 billion television contract between Major League Baseball, ABC and NBC. One of the provisions to the new deal was that local telecasts that aired opposite network games had to be eliminated.[74]

Through the deal, the two networks paid $20 million in advance for the 1983 season; both networks paid a total of $126 million in 1984 (NBC $70 million and ABC $56 million). For the 1985 season, the rights fee totaled $136 million (with NBC paying $61 million and ABC paying $75 million), although 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. The total rights fee increased to $141 million for 1986 (NBC $75 million, ABC $66 million), $171 million for 1987 (NBC $81 million, ABC $90 million) and then to $186 million for the 1988 (NBC $90 million, ABC $96 million). For the final year of the contract in 1989, NBC paid a fee of $106 million and ABC paid $125 million to the league, with the total rising to $231 million.

1983 marked the last time that local telecasts of League Championship Series games were allowed. In 1982, Major League Baseball recognized a problem with this due to the emergence of cable superstations such as WTBS in Atlanta and WGN-TV in Chicago. When TBS tried to petition for the right to do a "local" Braves broadcast of the 1982 NLCS,[75] Major League Baseball got a Philadelphia federal court[76][77] to ban[78] them on the grounds that as a superstation, TBS could not have a nationwide telecast competing with ABC's.

On June 6, 1983, Al Michaels officially succeeded Keith Jackson as the lead play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Baseball. Michaels, who spent seven seasons working backup games, was apparently very miffed over ABC Sports taking their sweet time with making him the network's top baseball announcer. Unlike Jackson, whose forte was college football, Michaels had gigs with the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants before joining ABC in 1976. TV Guide huffed about Jackson by saying "A football guy, on baseball!" Jackson was unavailable for several World Series games in 1979 and 1981 because of conflicts with his otherwise normal college football broadcasting schedule. In his place, Michaels would do play-by-play for games on weekends.

Earl Weaver was the main baseball analyst for ABC[79] in 1983, but was also employed by the Baltimore Orioles as a consultant. At the time, ABC had a policy preventing an announcer who was employed by a team from working games involving that team. Because of this, whenever the Orioles were on the primary ABC game, Weaver worked the backup game. This policy forced Weaver to resign from the Orioles' consulting position in October in order to be able to work the World Series for ABC.

The rather unusual 1984 NLCS schedule (which had an off day after Game 3, rather than Game 2) allowed ABC to have a prime time game each weeknight even though Chicago's Wrigley Field did not have lights at the time (which remained the case until four years later). ABC used Tim McCarver as a field reporter during the 1984 NLCS. During the regular season, McCarver teamed with Don Drysdale (who would team with Earl Weaver and Reggie Jackson for the 1984 NLCS) on backup games[80] while Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver/Howard Cosell formed ABC's main broadcasting team. For ABC's coverage of the 1984 All-Star Game, Jim Palmer only served as a between innings analyst.

Meanwhile, had the 1984 ALCS between the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals gone the full five games (the last year that the League Championship Series was a best-of-five series), Game 5 on Sunday October 7, would have been a 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time start instead of being in prime time. This would have happened because one of the presidential debates between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale was scheduled for that night. In return, ABC was going to broadcast the debates in prime time instead of a baseball game.

In 1985, ABC announced that every game of the World Series would be played under the lights for the largest 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 announcer Michaels and fellow color commentator Jim Palmer), who was beginning his trek of being a part of numerous World Series telecasts. Reportedly, by 1985, Cosell was considered to be difficult to work with on baseball telecasts. Apparently, Cosell and Michaels got into a fairly heated argument following the conclusion of their coverage of the 1984 American League Championship Series due to Cosell's supposed drunkenness, among other problems.[81][82] Rumor has it that Michaels went as far as to have urged ABC executives to remove Cosell from the booth. Ultimately, Michaels went public with his problems with Cosell, claiming that "Howard had become a cruel, evil, vicious person."

By 1986, ABC only televised 13 Monday Night Baseball games.[83] 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. Going into 1987, ABC had reportedly purchased 20 Monday night games but only used eight of those slots. More to the point, CBS Sports president Neal Pilson said "Three years ago, we believed ABC's package was overpriced by $175 million. We still believe it's overpriced by $175 million."[84]

On October 15, 1986, Game 6 of the NLCS ran so long (lasting for 16 innings, five hours and 29 minutes), it bumped up against the start time of Game 7 of the ALCS (which was also airing on ABC). During Game 6 of the NLCS, color commentator Tim McCarver left the booth during the bottom of the 16th, in order to cover the expected celebration in the New York Mets' clubhouse. As a result, play-by-play announcer Keith Jackson was on the air by himself for a short time. Eventually, McCarver rejoined the broadcast just before the end of the game, watching the action on a monitor in the Mets' clubhouse, then doing the postgame interviews with the Mets. Meanwhile, Corey McPherrin, then a sports anchor with WABC-TV (ABC's flagship station in New York City) interviewed Mike Scott when he was presented with the 1986 NLCS MVP award after Game 6. During the late 1980s, McPherrin delivered in-game updates during ABC's Monday Night Baseball and Thursday Night Baseball broadcasts. In his last ever ABC assignment, Don Drysdale interviewed the winners in the Boston clubhouse following Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS.

For the 1987 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals, ABC utilized 12 cameras and nine tape machines. This included cameras positioned down the left field line, on the roof of the Metrodome, and high above third base. There have been a few occasions when two Monday Night Football games were played simultaneously. In 1987, a scheduling conflict arose when the Minnesota Twins went to Game 7 of the World Series (which also aired on ABC[85]), making the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome unavailable for the Minnesota Vikings' scheduled game (against the Denver Broncos) that Sunday.

During the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike, networks benefited from sports programming, including NBC, which relied on the Summer Olympics in September and the World Series in October, and ABC, which in addition to its postseason baseball coverage, moved up the start time for the early weeks of Monday Night Football (when Al Michaels was unavailable to do play-by-play on Monday Night Football, which he had done for ABC beginning in 1986 due to his postseason baseball duties, Frank Gifford would cover for him) from 9:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time (MacGyver, which normally aired at 8:00 p.m., was not yet ready with new episodes).

ABC's coverage of Game 2 of the 1988 NLCS did not start until 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time due to a presidential debate; to date, this is the latest ever scheduled start time for an League Championship Series game.

Gary Bender conducted play-by-play for the 1988 American League Championship Series between the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox. Bender spent two years (1987 and 1988) as the secondary baseball play-by-play announcer for ABC, behind Al Michaels. Bender also worked the backup Monday Night Baseball broadcasts (with Tim McCarver in 1987 and Joe Morgan in 1988) as well as serving as a field reporter for ABC's 1987 World Series coverage. After Bender spent an entire summer developing a team with Joe Morgan, ABC brought in Reggie Jackson to work with the duo for the 1988 ALCS. According to Bender's autobiography Call of the Game (pages 118-120), ABC's decision to bring in Jackson to work with Bender and Morgan caused problems:

During the spare time of his active career, Reggie Jackson worked as a field reporter and color commentator for ABC Sports. During the 1980s (1983, 1985 and 1987, respectively), Jackson was given the task of presiding over the World Series Trophy presentations.

1983-1988 schedules[edit]
Date Teams Announcers
June 6, 1983 California at Milwaukee
June 13, 1983 Philadelphia at St. Louis
June 20, 1983 New York Yankees at Baltimore
June 27, 1983 Baltimore at New York Yankees
July 4, 1983 Kansas City at California
July 11, 1983 St. Louis at Los Angeles
July 18, 1983 Kansas City at Toronto
Chicago White Sox at Cleveland
Al Michaels, Howard Cosell and Earl Weaver[86]
Don Drysdale and Steve Stone
July 25, 1983 New York Yankees at Texas
Baltimore at California
August 1, 1983 New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox
August 8, 1983 Pittsburgh at Philadelphia
August 15, 1983 Boston at Milwaukee
Montreal at St. Louis

Don Drysdale and Steve Stone[87]
August 22, 1983 Chicago White Sox at Kansas City
June 4, 1984 Toronto at Detroit
Cincinnati at Los Angeles
Al Michaels, Howard Cosell and Earl Weaver
Don Drysdale and Tim McCarver
June 11, 1984 Detroit at Toronto
Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver[88]
June 18, 1984 New York Yankees at Detroit
June 25, 1984 New York Mets at Philadelphia
July 2, 1984 Detroit at Chicago White Sox
July 23, 1984 Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia
June 3, 1985 New York Mets at Los Angeles Al Michaels and Jim Palmer[89]
June 10, 1985 New York Yankees at Toronto
Chicago Cubs at Montreal

Don Drysdale and Tim McCarver[90]
June 17, 1985 Chicago Cubs at New York Mets
June 24, 1985 Baltimore at New York Yankees
Chicago White Sox at Oakland

Tim McCarver and Tommy John[91]
July 1, 1985 Cincinnati at Los Angeles
Detroit at Baltimore
Al Michaels, Howard Cosell and Jim Palmer[92]
Don Drysdale and Tim McCarver[93]
July 8, 1985 New York Mets at Cincinnati
Milwaukee at California

Don Drysdale and Tim McCarver[94]
July 22, 1985 New York Yankees at Kansas City
July 29, 1985 New York Mets at Montreal
Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers

Don Drysdale and Tim McCarver[95]
September 29, 1985 Kansas City at Minnesota Al Michaels, Howard Cosell[96] and Jim Palmer
April 13, 1986 New York Mets at Philadelphia
April 27, 1986 New York Mets at St. Louis
May 18, 1986 New York Mets at Los Angeles
June 1, 1986 San Francisco at New York Mets Al Michaels and Jim Palmer[97]
June 30, 1986 New York Mets at St. Louis
July 7, 1986 New York Yankees at Texas
Oakland at Boston

Al Michaels and Jim Palmer[98]
July 21, 1986 New York Mets at Cincinnati
July 28, 1986 Boston at Chicago White Sox
August 4, 1986 Chicago White Sox at Boston
August 11, 1986 New York Mets at Philadelphia
August 18, 1986 New York Mets at Los Angeles
August 25, 1986 California at New York Yankees
June 1, 1987 California at New York Yankees
San Francisco at Cincinnati

Gary Bender[99] and Tim McCarver
June 8, 1987 Toronto at New York Yankees
June 15, 1987 New York Mets at Montreal
June 22, 1987 Montreal at St. Louis
June 29, 1987 St. Louis at New York Mets[100] Al Michaels and Tim McCarver
July 6, 1987 Minnesota at New York Yankees
July 20, 1987 New York Yankees at Minnesota
July 27, 1987 San Francisco at Los Angeles
Chicago White Sox at Detroit[101]
Al Michaels[102] and Tim McCarver
Gary Bender and Jim Palmer
October 4, 1987 Toronto at Detroit Al Michaels,[103] Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
May 30, 1988[104][105] New York Yankees at Oakland Gary Bender and Joe Morgan
June 6, 1988[106] Boston at New York Yankees
Houston at Los Angeles
June 13, 1988 St. Louis at New York Mets
New York Yankees at Boston

Gary Bender and Joe Morgan
June 20, 1988 New York Yankees at Detroit[107]
June 27, 1988 New York Mets at Pittsburgh Al Michaels,[108] Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
July 4, 1988[109] Cincinnati at New York Mets
July 18, 1988 Texas at New York Yankees
July 25, 1988 New York Mets at Philadelphia
Los Angeles at San Francisco

Gary Bender and Joe Morgan[110]
August 1, 1988[111] Pittsburgh at New York Mets
Houston at San Francisco
1989[edit]

In 1989 (the final year of ABC's contract with Major League Baseball), ABC moved the baseball telecasts to Thursday nights[112] in hopes of getting leg up against NBC's The Cosby Show. After braving the traumatic Loma Prieta earthquake[113] and an all-time low 16.4 rating for the 1989 World Series,[114] Al Michaels took ABC's loss of baseball to CBS[115][116] as "tough to accept." Michaels added that "baseball was such an early stepchild at ABC and had come such a long way."[117] Gary Thorne,[118] who served as ABC's backup play-by-play announcer in 1989 and was an on-field reporter for the World Series that year (and covered the trophy presentation in the process), simply laughed while saying "Great reviews, just as ABC baseball ends." Meanwhile, Dennis Swanson, president of ABC Sports, noted in a statement that baseball had been a blue-chip franchise since 1976 for the network, which was disappointed to lose it.[83] After ABC lost the Major League Baseball package to CBS, the network aggressively counterprogrammed CBS' postseason baseball coverage with made-for-TV movies and miniseries geared towards female viewers.[119]

I'll miss it. I've been involved with this (ABC) package since Day One (in 1976). Especially now, because beginning with our postseason coverage in 1985 [when analysts Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver permanently joined ABC's baseball crew, teaming with producer Curt Gowdy Jr. and director Craig Janoff], I really felt we'd put it together the way I'd always dreamed about it. In the early years, we attempted to cover it in a different fashion. ABC had been gigantically successful with 'Wide World of Sports' and with covering the Olympic Games. A number of people in our company wanted to cover baseball (like) gymnastics and swimming and other 'Wide World' events. Attempting to do that was basically, in the early years, an abysmal failure. Baseball needs to be looked at in a certain manner. You need people in it who understand the game and truly love the game. It took us a while to get the right people and the right group together. I know some of the NBC people recently have talked about their cameramen, their audio men, the guys involved with their telecasts are baseball fans. They love baseball. It took us a while to get up to speed in that area. But once we did, we began to cover it as well as it's been covered. I'm tremendously proud of what we have done, especially from the 1985 postseason coverage on. We got to a point, especially in the last couple of years, (where) nothing can stop us now. And the only thing that stopped us was the fact we lost the rights.

—Al Michaels to the Chicago Tribune on October 17, 1989.
Loma Prieta earthquake[edit]

As previously mentioned, Game 3 of the 1989 World Series (initially scheduled for October 17) was delayed by ten days due to the Loma Prieta earthquake.[120] The earthquake struck at approximately 5:04 p.m. Pacific Time. At the moment it occurred, ABC's color commentator Tim McCarver was narrating taped highlights of the previous Series game. Viewers saw the video signal begin to break up, heard McCarver repeat a sentence as the shaking distracted him, and heard McCarver's colleague Al Michaels exclaim, "I'll tell you what-- we're having an earth--."[121] At that moment, the feed from Candlestick Park was lost.[122] The network put up a green ABC Sports graphic as the audio was switched to a telephone link. Michaels cracked, "Well folks, that's the greatest open in the history of television, bar none!" accompanied by the excited screams of fans who had no idea of the devastation elsewhere.[123]

After about a 15-minute delay (ABC aired a rerun of Roseanne and subsequently, The Wonder Years in the meantime), ABC was able to regain power via a backup generator. ABC's play-by-play announcer, Al Michaels (who was familiar with the San Francisco Bay Area dating back to his days working for the San Francisco Giants from 1974-1976) then proceeded to relay reports to Ted Koppel at ABC News' headquarters in Washington, D.C. Al Michaels would ultimately be nominated for an Emmy for his on-site reporting at the World Series.

The Goodyear blimp was aloft above the ballpark to provide aerial coverage of the World Series. Blimp pilot John Crayton reported that he felt four bumps during the quake.[124] ABC was able to use the blimp to capture some of the first images of the damage to the Bay Bridge.[125]

At this very moment ten days ago, we began our telecast with an aerial view of San Francisco; always a spectacular sight, and particularly so on that day because the cloudless sky of October 17 was ice blue, and the late-day sun sparkled like a thousand jewels.

That picture was very much a mirror of the feel and the mood that had enveloped the Bay Area...and most of Northern California. Their baseball teams, the Giants and A's, had won pennants, and the people of this region were still basking in the afterglow of each team's success. And this great American sporting classic, the World Series, was, for the time being, exclusively theirs.

Then of course the feeling of pure radiance was transformed into horror and grief and despair – in just fifteen seconds.[126] And now on October 27, like a fighter who's taken a vicious blow to the stomach and has groggily arisen, this region moves on and moves ahead.

And one part of that scenario is the resumption of the World Series. No one in this ballpark tonight – no player, no vendor, no fan, no writer, no announcer, in fact, no one in this area period – can forget the images. The column of smoke in the Marina. The severed bridge. The grotesque tangle of concrete in Oakland. The pictures are embedded in our minds.

And while the mourning and the suffering and the aftereffects will continue, in about thirty minutes the plate umpire, Vic Voltaggio will say ‘Play Ball', and the players will play, the vendors will sell, the announcers will announce, the crowd will exhort. And for many of the six million people in this region, it will be like revisiting Fantasyland.

But Fantasyland is where baseball comes from anyway and maybe right about now that's the perfect place for a three-hour rest.[127]
Al Michaels at the beginning of ABC's telecast of the resumption of Game 3 of the 1989 World Series.
Thursday Night Baseball schedule (1989)[edit]
Date Teams Announcers
June 8, 1989 New York Mets at Chicago Cubs
San Diego Padres at Houston Astros
Al Michaels,[128] Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
Gary Thorne[129] and Joe Morgan
June 15, 1989 Chicago Cubs at New York Mets
Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers
June 22, 1989 Baltimore at California
Toronto at Oakland[130]
Gary Thorne[131] and Joe Morgan
June 29, 1989[132] Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver[133]
July 6, 1989 Cincinnati at New York Mets
Kansas City at Oakland
July 13, 1989 Kansas City at New York Yankees[134]
July 20, 1989 San Francisco at Chicago Cubs Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
July 27, 1989 Baltimore[135] at Minnesota Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver

1990s[edit]

Main article: The Baseball Network

On July 10, 1994, Major League Baseball awarded ABC and NBC the broadcast television rights to its games, returning baseball to both networks after a four-year hiatus (and effectively ending its contract with CBS),[136] as part of a revenue sharing venture called The Baseball Network. Under a six-year plan, Major League Baseball was intended to receive 85% of the first US$140 million in advertising revenue (or 87.5% of advertising revenues and corporate sponsorship from the games until sales topped a specified level), 50% of the next $30 million, and 80% of any additional revenue. Prior to this, Major League Baseball was projected to take a projected 55% cut in rights fees and receive a typical rights fee from the networks.

The Baseball Network, which kicked off its coverage on July 12, 1994 with NBC's coverage of the 1994 All-Star Game. After NBC concluded their six weeks of regular-season baseball coverage following the All-Star Game, ABC (with a reunited Al Michaels, Tim McCarver and Jim Palmer as the primary crew) would then begin its coverage left off by televising six more regular season games. Joining the team of Michaels, McCarver and Palmer was Lesley Visser, who served as the lead field reporter for CBS' baseball coverage from 1990 to 1993, where she had worked alongside McCarver. The regular season games aired under the Baseball Night in America umbrella, which premiered on July 16, 1994. On the subject of play-by-play announcer Al Michaels returning to baseball for the first time since the infamous 1989 World Series, Jim Palmer said "Here Al is, having done five games since 1989 and steps right in. It's hard to comprehend how one guy could so amaze."

In even-numbered years, NBC would have the rights to the All-Star Game and both League Championship Series, while ABC would have the rights to the World Series and newly created Division Series. In odd-numbered years, the television rights to postseason games and the All-Star Game were supposed to alternate between the two networks. ABC won the first-choice rights to broadcast the World Series in August 1993 after ABC Sports president Dennis Swanson won a coin toss by calling "heads." Ken Schanzer, who was the CEO of The Baseball Network, handled the coin toss. Schanzer agreed to the coin toss by ABC and NBC at the outset as the means of determining the order in which the two network would divide up the playoffs.

The long-term plans for The Baseball Network crumbled when the Major League Baseball Players Association went on strike on August 12, 1994 (thus forcing the cancellation of the World Series). In July 1995, ABC and NBC, which both wound up having to share the duties of televising the 1995 World Series as a way to recoup losses from the cancellation of the previous year's Series (with ABC broadcasting Games 1, 4 and 5, and NBC broadcasting Games 2, 3 and 6), announced that they would opt out of their agreement with Major League Baseball. Both networks figured that as the delayed 1995 baseball season opened without a labor agreement, there was no guarantee against another strike. Both networks soon publicly vowed to cut all ties with Major League Baseball for the remainder of the 20th century. ABC Sports president Dennis Swanson, in announcing the dissolution of The Baseball Network, said:

The network's final Major League Baseball game to date was Game 5 of the 1995 World Series on October 26. Calling the final out of the game, Al Michaels yelled, "Back to Georgia!" as the Cleveland Indians took Game 5.

Two weeks after that final game telecast, on November 7, 1995, Major League Baseball reached a television deal with NBC and Fox. Fox, which assumed ABC's portion of the league broadcast television rights, paid US$575 million for the five-year contract, a fraction less than what CBS had paid for the Major League Baseball television rights for the 19901993 seasons.[137][138] Fox reverted to the format of televising regular season games (approximately 16 weekly telecasts that normally began on Memorial Day weekend) on Saturday afternoons, but continued a format that started by The Baseball Network venture by offering a selection of games based purely on region.[138]

After losing its Major League Baseball broadcast rights for the third time, this time to Fox, ABC counterprogrammed against that network's postseason coverage (as it did when it lost the package to CBS) by airing a mix of miniseries and made-for-TV-movies aimed at female viewers. One of the movies that ABC aired, Unforgiven, aired opposite Andy Pettite's shutout in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series (the first World Series to be televised by Fox, and the final game to be played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium).

Announcers[edit]

In relation to ESPN Major League Baseball[edit]

Sister network ESPN (majority owned by ABC parent The Walt Disney Company), which took over ABC Sports' operations in 2006 under the banner "ESPN on ABC", continues to televise MLB contests (having acquired the league's cable television rights beginning in 1990). However, it is contractually prohibited from transferring any of its games to ABC, even if it wanted to, as Fox holds the exclusive broadcast television rights to league in the U.S. Several alumni from ABC's baseball coverage, such as Joe Morgan and Gary Thorne, have regularly worked on ESPN's baseball broadcasts.

References[edit]

Inline citations
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  2. ^ Walker & Bellamy 2008, p. 103
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  4. ^ Walter Ames (June 13, 1953). "Major League Ball Game on KECA-TV; Topper Series Set as 'Irma' Replacement". Los Angeles Times (Times Mirror Company). p. A5. 
  5. ^ "Albany Club Owner Asks for Video Of Major League Games in His Area". Hartford Courant. Associated Press. June 6, 1953. 
  6. ^ Walter Ames (May 8, 1954). "L.A.-Las Vegas Relay Ready by Fall; Lamenting Berle Seeks New Home". Los Angeles Times (Times Mirror Company). p. A5. 
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  18. ^ "ABC Adds Saturday Fights, Fifth Game". Prescott Evening Courier. Associated Press. March 17, 1960. p. 13. 
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  32. ^ Val Adams (March 18, 1965). "Jackie Robinson Is Back in Baseball As a Commentator". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). p. 67. 
  33. ^ Don Page (April 24, 1965). "SPORTSLOOK; Rambling Wrecks of Network Tech". Los Angeles Times (Times Mirror Company). p. B2. 
  34. ^ Don Page (June 12, 1965). "TV RADIO". Los Angeles Times (Times Mirror Company). p. B2. 
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  36. ^ Fidrych 1977, p. 149
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  40. ^ "The Birds Find a Tough Hunter". The New London Day. April 12, 1976. p. 17. 
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  42. ^ "New Family Comedy Premieres". The Sumter Daily Item. May 31, 1976. p. 2A. 
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Bibliography

External links[edit]