Major League Baseball on NBC
|Major League Baseball on NBC|
|Developed by||NBC Sports|
|Directed by||Harry Coyle
|Starring||Major League Baseball on NBC broadcasters|
|Theme music composer||Clark Gault
Mitch & Ira Yuspeh
|Country of origin||United States|
|Executive producer(s)||Scotty Connal
John J. Filippelli
Kenneth Roy Edmundson
|Camera setup||Tom Adza
Eric A. Eisenstein
Thomas K. Hogan
Albert Rice, Jr.
|Running time||180 minutes (or until game ends)|
|Original run||July 8, 1947 – October 17, 2000|
|Related shows||Baseball Night in America
Major League Baseball Game of the Week
Major League Baseball: An Inside Look
Monday Night Baseball
Major League Baseball on NBC is the de facto name for a weekly presentation of Major League Baseball games televised on the NBC television network from 1947 to 1989, and from 1994 to 2000. There have been several variations of the program dating back to the 1940s, including The NBC Game of the Week and Baseball Night in America.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Early years
- 1.2 NBC begins airing the Game of the Week (1957–1965)
- 1.3 The Game of the Week exclusivity era (1966–1989)
- 1.3.1 1960s
- 1.3.2 1970s
- 1.3.3 1980s
- 1.4 The Baseball Network: 1994–1995
- 1.5 Trouble at NBC: 1996–2000
- 2 Related coverage
- 3 Announcers
- 4 References
- 5 External links
From 1947–1956 and again in 1965, NBC only aired the All-Star Game (beginning in 1950) and World Series. From 1957–1989, they aired the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week (or a variation of it prior to 1966, when NBC didn't have exclusive over-the-air rights). From 1994–1995, they aired games under the umbrella called The Baseball Network. And from 1996–2000, NBC only aired postseason games (three Division Series games in prime time, the American League Championship Series in even numbered years, and the National League Championship Series and World Series in odd numbered years) as well as the All-Star Game in even numbered years (years NBC didn't have the rights to the World Series).
To date, Game 6 of the 2000 American League Championship Series (October 17, 2000) was the last Major League Baseball game televised by NBC in history.
NBC television's relationship with Major League Baseball technically dates back to August 26, 1939. It was on that particular date that W2XBS (an experimental television station out of New York City which would ultimately become NBC's flagship station, WNBC) the first ever Major League Baseball game was televised. 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. Barber called the game without the benefit of a monitor and with only two cameras capturing the game. One camera was on Barber and the other was behind the plate. Barber had to guess from which light was on and where it pointed.
By 1947, television sets (most with five and seven-inch screens) were selling almost as fast as they could be produced. Because of this, Major League teams began televising games and attracted a whole new audience into ballparks in the process. This was because, people who had only casually followed baseball began going to the games in person and enjoying themselves. As a result, the following year, Major League attendance reached a record high of 21 million.
1947 also saw the first televised World Series. The games were shown in the New York area by NBC's WNBT, CBS's WCBS-TV, and DuMont's WABD and sponsored by Gillette and Ford. The 1947 World Series brought in an estimated 3.9 million people, becoming television's first mass audience. In addition to New York, live coverage of the Series was also seen on WRGB Schnectady/Albany, WPTZ Philadelphia, WMAR-TV Baltimore, and WTTG Washington.
In 1948 and 1949, the World Series would be seen in the above series as well as on WBZ-TV and WNAC-TV in Boston, WNHC-TV New Haven, and WTVR Richmond, Virginia. In 1949, the World Series was also seen live in other Northeastern and Midwestern cities (Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, Detroit, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, Indianapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Louis) that had been hooked up to network lines over the previous year.
In 1950, the Mutual Broadcasting System acquired the television as well as radio broadcast rights to the World Series and All-Star Game for the next six years. Mutual may have been reindulging in TV network dreams or simply taking advantage of a long-standing business relationship; in either case, the broadcast rights were sold to NBC in time for the following season's games at an enormous profit.
NBC aired the second and third games of the 1951 National League tie-breaker series between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, necessitated by the teams' finishing the regular season in a tie for first place. The three-game pennant playoff, which featured the first baseball games televised live from coast to coast (with CBS airing the first game), culminated on October 3 when the Giants won the third and deciding game by the score of 5–4 (off Bobby Thomson's home run). Ernie Harwell called the game for Giants television flagship WPIX — the independent station's broadcast was simulcast nationally by NBC – and his description of the home run was a simple shout of "It's gone!" almost at the moment Thomson's bat struck Ralph Branca's pitch. Harwell later admitted he had probably called it "too soon", but fortunately for him, the call proved to be correct. "And then," Harwell recalled, "the pictures took over."
The 1951 playoff between Brooklyn and the New York Giants and that year's World Series were the first major league baseball games telecast live from coast-to-coast; transcontinental network transmission lines had been completed and activated in September, in-time for the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference in San Francisco and the start of the 1951-52 television season.
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 the Browns to play afternoon games in an attempt to avoid having to share television revenues. A month later, Major League Baseball owners received 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.
- By 1950, World Series games could be seen in most of the country, but not all. 1950 also marked the first time that there was an exclusive network television broadcaster (NBC). As noted above, West Coast viewers finally saw live major league games on television during the 1951 postseason.
- The 1952 All-Star Game in Philadelphia was the first nationally televised All-Star Game, but it was shortened by rain.
- 1951, as mentioned above, marked the first time that the World Series was televised coast to coast.
- 1955 marked the first time that the World Series was televised in color, as previously mentioned.
- Chicago White Sox announcer Bob Elson missed a chance to call the 1959 World Series—the White Sox' first since 1919, and Elson's first since 1943—on NBC because the then head of NBC Sports, Tom Gallery (who incidentally, grew up on the same block as Elson) didn't like him. Elson was, however, allowed to call the Series on the White Sox' radio flagship, WCFL.
NBC begins airing the Game of the Week (1957–1965)
In 1957, NBC started airing weekend Game of the Week telecasts (Sunday telecasts were added in 1959) with Lindsey Nelson and Leo Durocher calling the action. NBC during this period (as rival CBS had the rights to broadcast at least eight teams), typically broadcast from Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, Chicago's Wrigley Field, or Milwaukee's County Stadium. NBC purchased the rights to 11 Milwaukee Braves games, 11 Pittsburgh Pirates games, two Washington Senators games, and two Chicago Cubs games. Leo Durocher was succeeded as color commentator by Fred Haney in 1960, and Joe Garagiola in 1961, while Bob Wolff replaced Nelson on play-by-play in 1962.
From 1958 to 1960, NBC aired a special regional feed of its games in the southeast, where NBC had a different sponsor (e.g. National Bohemian beer) than for the rest of the country. This feed featured its own announcing team, with Chuck Thompson calling the games with Bill Veeck (1958) and Al Rosen (1959–60). NBC never had a true backup game until 1966, when they got network Game of the Week exclusivity. In the process, the brought in Curt Gowdy and Pee Wee Reese for primary game, and Jim Simpson and Tony Kubek for the alternate (which was always shown in the markets of teams playing in the primary game) game.
As previously mentioned, in 1961, NBC hired Joe Garagiola to be their Major League Baseball colorman. The following year, Bob Wolff began play-by-play. "You work your side of the street [interviewing players]," said Garagiola to Wolff "and I'll work mine." Wolff liked Garagiola's pizazz as he would say stuff like "The guy stapled him to the bag" or a runner's "smilin' like he swallowed a banana peel." Also in 1962, NBC broadcast the National League tie-breaker series between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. Bob Wolff and George Kell were the announcers for the playoff series. Bob Wolff also hosted the pregame shows for NBC's World Series coverage from 1962–1965.
By 1964, CBS' Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese called games from Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. New York got US$550,000 of CBS' $895,000. Meanwhile, six clubs that exclusively played nationally televised games on NBC got $1.2 million.
The Game of the Week exclusivity era (1966–1989)
In 1966, the New York Yankees, who in the year before, played 21 Games of the Week for CBS joined NBC's package. The new package under NBC called for 28 games compared to 1960s three-network 123. On October 19, 1966, NBC signed a three-year contract with Major League Baseball. The year before, Major League Baseball sold an exclusive league-wide TV package for the rights to the Saturday-Sunday Game of the Week to ABC. (NBC only covered the All-Star Game and World Series in 1965) to ABC. In addition, a previous deal limited CBS to covering only 12 weekends when its new subsidiary, the New York Yankees, played at home. As previously mentioned, before 1965, NBC aired a slate of Saturday afternoon games beginning in 1957.
Under the new deal, NBC paid roughly US$6 million per year for the 25 Games of the Week, $6.1 million for the 1967 World Series and 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 such as a Labor Day 1966 contest between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers) up to $30.6 million.
On April 16, 1966 in New York City, about fifty baseball, network, and ad officials discussed NBC's first year with the Game of the Week. New York could not 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. That rule would be eliminated after the 1983 season.
NBC, replacing CBS traded a circus for a seminar. Pee Wee Reese said "Curt Gowdy was its guy (1966–1975), and didn't want Dizzy Dean – too overpowering. Curt was nice, but worried about mistakes. Diz and I just laughed." Falstaff Brewery hyped Dean as Gowdy in return said "I said, 'I can't do "Wabash Cannonball." Our styles clash.-" then came Pee Wee Reese. Gowdy added by saying about the pairing between him and Reese "They figured he was fine with me, and they'd still have their boy." To many, baseball meant CBS' 1955–1964 Game of the Week thoroughbred. A year later, NBC bought ABC's variant of a mule so to speak. "We had the Series and All-Star Game. 1966–1968's Game meant exclusivity," said NBC Sports head Carl Lindemann. Lindemann added by saying "[Colleague] Chet Simmons and liked him [Gowdy] with the Sox and football-" also, getting two network sports for the price of one. As his analyst, Gowdy wanted his friend Ted Williams. NBC's lead sponsor, Chrysler said no when Williams, a Sears spokesman, was pictured putting stuff in a Ford truck.
Before 1966, local announcers exclusively called the World Series. Typically, the Gillette Company, the Commissioner of Baseball, and NBC television would choose the announcers. 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 in Los Angeles, while in Baltimore, Vin Scully and Chuck Thompson did the rest. Scully was not satisfied 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 4½ innings. When Curt Gowdy inherited the announcing reigns, Scully was so upset that he refused to say another word.
Tony Kubek initially had trouble adjusting to the world of broadcasting. Although he had a lot to say, he was gangling, he tended to stutter, and talked too fast. Curt Gowdy soon suggested to Kubek that he should work offseason to improve his delivery. Buying a recorder, Kubek often read poetry aloud for 20 minutes a day. In 1968, Tony Kubek wowed as a World Series field reporter. Pee Wee Reese, who was soon fired by NBC (and replaced by Kubek as the top analyst) said of Kubek "He wormed his way around, but I wasn't bitter. I just think if you don't have anything to say, you should shut your mouth."
- As previously mentioned, before 1966, NBC typically paired the top announcers for the respective World Series teams to alternate play-by-play during each game's telecast. For example, if the Yankees played the Dodgers in the World Series, Mel Allen (representing the Yankees) would call half the game and Vin Scully (representing the Dodgers) would call the other half of the game. But in 1966, NBC wanted their regular network announcer, Curt Gowdy, to call most of the play-by-play at the expense of the top local announcers. So instead of calling half of every World Series game on television (as Vin Scully had done in 1953, 1955, 1956, 1959, 1963, and 1965) they would only get to call half of all home games on TV, providing color commentary while Gowdy called play-by-play for the remaining half of each game. The visiting teams' announcers would participate in the NBC Radio broadcasts. In broadcasts of Series-clinching (or potentially Series-clinching) games on both media, NBC would send the announcer for whichever team was ahead in the game to that team's clubhouse in the ninth inning in order to help cover the trophy presentation and conduct postgame interviews.
- In the early years of the League Championship Series, NBC typically televised a doubleheader on Saturday, a single game on Sunday (because of football coverage). They then, covered the weekday games with a 1.5 hour overlap, joining the second game in progress when the first one ended. NBC usually swapped announcer crews after Game 2.
- In 1967, main Game of the Week was broadcast everywhere except in the two cities playing. Those cities in question got their local crews (for example, Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett calling the May 27, Los Angeles/San Francisco contest on KTTV 11), if it was televised there at all.
- The May 6, San Francisco-Pittsburgh game was shown in Johnstown's NBC affiliate (WJAC 6), but if you were in the city of Pittsburgh, you needed a ticket to see the game at all. It was also not broadcast on NBC's San Francisco affiliate (KRON 4), but was on NBC's affiliates in Monterey (KSBW 8) and Sacramento (KCRA 3).
- The June 8, 1968 Game of the Week broadcast was cancelled due to coverage of Robert F. Kennedy's funeral/burial. The scheduled games were Cleveland at Detroit and Atlanta at Chicago Cubs.
- Games 3, 4 and 5 of the 1969 World Series are believed to be the oldest surviving color television broadcasts of World Series games (even though World Series telecasts have aired in color since 1955). However, they were "truck feeds" in that they do not contain original commercials, but show a static image of the Shea Stadium field between innings. Games 1 and 2 were only saved as black and white kinescopes provided by the CBC. CBC also preserved all seven games of the 1965 and 1968 World Series (plus the 1968 All-Star Game) in black and white kinescope.
In 1971, Sandy Koufax signed a ten-year contract with NBC for $1 million to be a broadcaster on the Saturday Game of the Week. Koufax never felt comfortable being in front of the camera; he quit before the 1973 season.
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.
For World Series night games, NBC normally came on the air for baseball at 8:00 pm Eastern Time for the pregame show (with first pitch around 8:20–8:25). However, in 1986 and 1988, for Game 5 of the World Series (on Thursday night), NBC did not come on the air for baseball until 8:30. This allowed them to air the highly rated Cosby Show in its normal Thursday, 8:00 pm timeslot. NBC went with a very short pregame show and got to the first pitch at around 8:40 pm
Game of the Week schedules (1970–1972)
Monday Night Baseball (1972–1975)
From 1972–1975, NBC televised Monday games under a contract worth $72 million. In 1973, NBC extended the Monday night telecasts (with a local blackout) to 15 straight. September 1, 1975 saw NBC's last Monday Night Baseball game, in which the Montréal Expos beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6–5. Curt Gowdy called the games for NBC with Tony Kubek in 1972–1974 (meanwhile, Jim Simpson and Sandy Koufax called the backup telecasts), being joined in the 1973 and 1974 seasons by various celebrity guests from both in and out of the baseball world (among them Dizzy Dean, Joe DiMaggio, Satchel Paige, Bobby Riggs, Dave DeBusschere, Howard Cosell, Mel Allen, Danny Kaye, and Willie Mays). Joe Garagiola hosted the pre-game show, The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola, and teamed with Gowdy to call the games in 1975.
On April 8, 1974, when Hank Aaron hit his record-breaking 715th career home run, Tony Kubek, who was calling the game with Curt Gowdy and Joe Garagiola, criticized Commisssioner Bowie Kuhn on air for failing to be in attendance at Atlanta on that historic night. Kuhn argued that he had a prior engagement that he could not break.
|June 12, 1972||Detroit @ Minnesota
Montreal @ Houston
|June 19, 1972||New York Mets @ Houston|
|June 26, 1972|
|July 3, 1972||Baltimore @ Detroit
Atlanta @ Houston
|July 17, 1972||St. Louis @ Houston|
|July 31, 1972|
|August 7, 1972||Atlanta @ Cincinnati|
|August 14, 1972|
|August 28, 1972|
|September 4, 1972||Baltimore @ New York Yankees|
|May 21, 1973||San Francisco @ Houston||Dizzy Dean|
|May 28, 1973||Joe DiMaggio|
|June 4, 1973||Kansas City @ Boston||Satchel Paige|
|June 11, 1973||Bobby Riggs|
|June 18, 1973||California @ Chicago White Sox||Dave DeBusschere|
|June 25, 1973||Howard Cosell|
|July 2, 1973||Mel Allen|
|July 9, 1973||Cincinnati @ Montreal||Danny Kaye|
|July 1, 1974||Kansas City @ Chicago White Sox||Willie Mays|
Joe Garagiola replaces Curt Gowdy
Starting in 1975, Joe Garagiola and Curt Gowdy alternated as the Saturday Game of Week play-by-play announcers with Tony Kubek doing color analysis. Then on weeks in which NBC had Monday Night Baseball, Gowdy and Garagiola worked together. One would call play-by-play for four and a half innings, the other would handle color analysis. Then in the bottom of the 5th inning, their roles switched. Ultimately, in November 1975, Chrysler forced NBC to totally remove Curt Gowdy from NBC's top baseball team. Instead, they wanted their spokesman, Joe Garagiola, to call all "A" regular season games, All-Star Games (when NBC had them), the top League Championship Series (when NBC had it), and the World Series (when NBC had it).
NBC hoped that, in replacing Curt Gowdy, Joe Garagiola's charm and unorthodox dwelling on the personal would stop the decade-long ratings dive for the Game of the Week. Instead, the ratings bobbed from 6.7 (1977) via 7.5 (1978) to 6.3 (1981–1982). "Saturday had a constituency but it didn't swell" said NBC Sports executive producer Scotty Connal. Some believed that millions missed Dizzy Dean while local-team TV split the audience. Scotty Connal believed that the team of Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek were "A great example of black and white". Connal added by saying "A pitcher throws badly to third, Joe says, 'The third baseman's fault.' Tony: 'The pitcher's'." Media critic Gary Deeb termed theirs "the finest baseball commentary ever carried on network TV."
Another factor behind Gowdy's dismissal was because of criticism from the national media alleging that he sided with the Boston Red Sox (a franchise that he had covered prior to his days at NBC) over a controversial play in the 10th inning of Game 3 of the 1975 World Series. Cincinnati Reds pitcher Ed Armbrister reached base on what was ruled an error by Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk on Armbrister's bunt attempt. Gowdy said numerous times that, in his opinion, Armbrister had interfered with Fisk. Gowdy had been given the correct interpretation by NBC Radio Producer Jay Scott (who was a Triple-A fill-in umpire at the time as well), but did not use it. Umpire Larry Barnett claimed he had received death threats on account of Gowdy's criticism. More to the point, Tony Kubek, on the NBC telecast, immediately charged that Armbrister interfered (with the attempted forceout), even though home plate umpire Barnett did not agree. Later, Kubek got 1,000 letters dubbing him a Boston stooge. Prior to Game 2 of the 1986 World Series, NBC did a feature on replays narrated by Bob Costas. One of the plays cited by Costas was the Armbrister play, and Barnett and Costas both insisted that Barnett had made the correct call, although Barnett declared, "You won't find many people in Boston who believe it was the right call." Costas used the feature to condemn the suggested notion of instant replay to settle calls, noting that it was the "same kind of mentality that adds color to classic movies and calls it progress."
While Gowdy was on hand in the press box for Carlton Fisk's legendary home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, the actual calls went to two of Gowdy's Red Sox successors, Dick Stockton on TV and Ned Martin on radio. Gowdy was Martin's color man on that home run. Meanwhile, according to the NBC cameraman Lou Gerard located above the third base stands, cameramen at the time were instructed to follow the flight of the ball. Instead Gerard was distracted by a rat nearby, thus he lost track of the baseball and instead decided to capture the image of Fisk "magically" waving the ball fair.
- In 1970, NBC televised the second games of both League Championship Series on a regional basis. Some markets got the NLCS at 1 pm ET along with a 4 pm football game while other markets got the ALCS at 4 pm along with a 1 pm football game.
- In 1971, Game 1 of the ALCS was rained out on Saturday, October 2. NBC did not televise the rescheduled Game 1 the following day (they had only planned an NLCS telecast that day), but added a telecast of Game 2 on Monday, October 4 (which had been a scheduled travel day).
- Except for Game 1 in both series, all games in 1975 were regionally televised. Game 3 of both League Championship Series were aired in prime time, the first time such an occurrence happened.
On June 18, 1977, in the New York Yankees' 10–4 loss to the Boston Red Sox in a nationally-televised game at Fenway Park in Boston, Jim Rice, a powerful hitter but a slow runner, hit a ball into right field that Reggie Jackson seemed to get to without much speed, and Rice reached second base. Furious, Yankees manager Billy Martin removed Jackson from the game without even waiting for the end of the inning, sending Paul Blair out to replace him. When Jackson arrived at the dugout, Martin yelled that Jackson had shown him up. They argued, and Jackson said that Martin's heavy drinking had impaired his judgment. Despite Jackson being eighteen years younger, about two inches taller and maybe forty pounds heavier, Martin lunged at him, and had to be restrained by coaches Yogi Berra and Elston Howard. Red Sox fans could see this in the dugout and began cheering wildly, and the NBC TV cameras showed the confrontation to the entire country.
Alternating coverage with ABC: 1976–1979
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 the 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).
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 wasn't 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." By 1980, income from TV accounted for a record 30% of the game's $500 million in revenues.
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 1, 3 and 5 of the Phillies/Expos series and Games 2, 3 and 5 of the Dodgers/Astros series were regionally televised.
Even though Dick Enberg did play-by-play for the 1981 NLCS for NBC (working alongside Tom Seaver), Merle Harmon was for the most part, NBC's backup baseball play-by-play man (serving behind Joe Garagiola, who called that year's ALCS for NBC with Tony Kubek) in 1981. Harmon's broadcast partner during this period was Ron Luciano. In late 1979, Harmon left the Milwaukee Brewers completely in favor of a multi-year pact with NBC. Harmon saw the NBC deal as a perfect opportunity since according to The Milwaukee Journal he would make more money, get more exposure, and do less traveling. At NBC, Harmon did SportsWorld, the backup Game of the Week, and served as a field reporter for the 1980 World Series. Harmon most of all, had hoped to cover the American boycotted 1980 Summer Olympics from Moscow. After NBC pulled out of their scheduled coverage of the 1980 Summer Olympics, Harmon considered it to being "A great letdown." To add insult to injury, NBC fired Harmon in 1982 in favor of Bob Costas.
According to his autobiography, Oh My, Dick Enberg (then the lead play-by-play voice for The NFL on NBC) was informed by NBC that he would become the lead play-by-play voice of Major League Baseball Game of the Week beginning with the 1982 World Series (where he shared the play-by-play duties with Joe Garagiola alongside analyst Tony Kubek) and through subsequent regular seasons. He wrote that on his football trips, he would read every Sporting News to make sure he was current with all the baseball news and notes. Then he met with NBC executives in September 1982, and they informed him that Vin Scully was in negotiations to be their lead baseball play-by-play man (teaming with Joe Garagiola while Tony Kubek would team with Bob Costas) and would begin with the network in the spring of 1983. Therefore, rather than throw him in randomly for one World Series, Enberg wrote that he hosted the pregame/postgame shows while the team of Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek did the games. According to the book, Enberg was not pleased about the decision (since he loved being the California Angels' radio voice in the 1970s and was eager to return to baseball) but the fact that NBC was bringing in Scully, arguably baseball's best announcer, was understandable. Enberg added that NBC also gave him a significant pay increase as a pseudo-apology for not coming through on the promise to make him the lead baseball play-by-play man.
Alternating coverage with ABC: 1983–1989
On April 7, 1983, Major League Baseball, ABC, and NBC agreed to terms of a six-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.
The New York Times observed the performance of the team of Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola by saying "The duo of Scully and Garagiola is very good, and often even great, is no longer in dispute." A friend of Garagiola's said "He understood the cash" concerning NBC's 1984–1989 407% Major League Baseball hike. At this point the idea was basically summarized as Vin Scully "being the star" whereas, Joe Garagiola was Pegasus or NBC's junior light. 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 million 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 mused "No room for me. 'Game' had enough for two teams a week." Henry Hecht once wrote "NBC's Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek, and Monte Moore sounded like college radio rejects vs. Scully." Vin Scully earned approximately $2 million per year for his NBC baseball broadcasting duties. Scully also reworked his Dodgers schedule during this period, as he would only broadcast home games on the radio and road games for television.
When Tony Kubek first teamed with Bob Costas in 1983, Kubek said "I'm not crazy about being assigned to the backup game, but it's no big ego deal." Costas said about working with Kubek "I think my humor loosened Tony, and his knowledge improved me." The team of Costas and Kubek proved to be a formidable pair. There were even some who preferred the team of Kubek and Costas over the musings of Vin Scully and the asides of Joe Garagiola. Costas was praised by fans for both his reverence and irreverence while Kubek was praised for his technical approach and historical perspective. One of the pair's most memorable broadcasts was the "Sandberg Game" on June 23, 1984. Bob Costas considered the Game of the Week his dream job saying "You can put a personal stamp on a baseball broadcast, be a reporter, something of a historian, a storyteller, conversationalist, dispenser of opinion."
- 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 the latter part of his career, National League umpire Doug Harvey became known for appearing in the "You Make the Call" segments on NBC's televised Game of the Week.
- For NBC's 1983 All-Star Game coverage, Don Sutton was in New York, periodically tracking pitches with the aid of NBC's "Inside Pitch" technology.
- During the 1984 regular season, the reason for most of the changes from the traditional 2:00 pm ET start was because of NBC's golf or tennis commitments as well as September 1 title fight featuring Eusebio Pedroza.
- 1984 World Series – As champions of the National League, the San Diego Padres had home-field advantage (at the time, the NL automatically gained home-field advantage in even years of the World Series). But had the Chicago Cubs won the National League Championship Series (which appeared likely after the Cubs took a 2–0 lead in the best-of-5 series), the Detroit Tigers would have gained home-field advantage despite the fact the American League's Baltimore Orioles had it the season before. NBC was contractually obligated to show all midweek series games in prime time, something that would have been impossible at Wrigley Field, since the Cubs' venerable facility lacked lights at the time (they wouldn't install lights until four years later). Had the Cubs advanced to the Series, Detroit would have hosted Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 (on Tuesday and Wednesday nights), while the Cubs would have hosted Games 3, 4 and 5 (on Friday, Saturday and Sunday), with all three games in Chicago starting no later than 1:30 pm Central time.
- In 1985, NBC's telecast of the All-Star Game out of the Metrodome in Minnesota was the first program to be broadcast in stereo by a TV network.
- Dick Enberg was in Toronto for Games 1 and 7 of the 1985 ALCS on NBC. Enberg hosted the pregame show alongside Rick Dempsey (who was still active with Baltimore at the time). Meanwhile, Bill Macatee provided a report on Game 2 of the ALCS during the pregame of the NLCS opener.
- NBC's broadcast of Game 7 of the 1986 World Series (which went up against a Monday Night Football game between the Washington Redskins and New York Giants on ABC) garnered a Nielsen rating of 38.9 and a 55 share, making it the highest-rated single World Series game to date. Game 7 landed on a Monday because of a rainout that pushed things up a day.
- NBC used Don Sutton as a pre and postgame analyst for their 1987 LCS coverage. Marv Albert went back-and-forth during both 1987 LCS. He hosted the pregame for Game 1 of the NLCS with Joe Morgan, and in fact had to read the lineups to the viewing audience. There was a problem with the St. Louis P.A. feed, so he ended up reading the script from the Cardinal dugout while the players were introduced to the crowd. He then went to Minnesota the next night to host the ALCS pregame with Don Sutton. Jimmy Cefalo hosted the pregame coverage for Game 5 of the NLCS, as Marv Albert was away on a boxing assignment for NBC.
The end of an era
After calling the 1988 World Series with Vin Scully, Joe Garagiola resigned from NBC Sports. Although it wasn't official at the time, NBC was on the verge of losing the television rights to cover Major League Baseball to CBS. Garagiola claimed that NBC left him "twisting" while he was trying to renegotiate his deal. Joe Garagiola was replaced by Tom Seaver for the 1989 season.
NBC's final Major League Baseball broadcast was televised on October 9, 1989; Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs from Candlestick Park. Vin Scully 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. 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."
Bob Costas said that he would rather do a Game of the Week that got a 5 rating than host a Super Bowl. "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. Whatever else I did, I'd never have left 'Game of the Week'" Costas claimed. Tony Kubek, who (as previously mentioned) 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.
Arthur Watson, president of NBC Sports, said in a statement that NBC had aggressively bid to continue its 41-year involvement in baseball (NBC's bid was reportedly in the $800 million range) and was deeply saddened when learning of CBS' deal.
After NBC lost the Major League Baseball package to CBS, they aggressively counterprogrammed CBS' postseason baseball coverage with made-for-TV movies and miniseries geared towards female viewers.
Since this is indeed...a sad moment for us as we sever our relationship with baseball...for a while at least, we would like to ask your indulgence and let us take this time to thank a lot of people!
And to all of the marvelous and wonderful cameramen and technicians who have represented NBC...over the 42 years of baseball broadcasts...and I think that can sum it up, each and everyone of us...we gave it our best shot! As did the Giants and the Cubs! And it's the Giants who go to the World Series, beating the Cubs 3 to 2. And we get the BART Series, the Bay Area Rapid Transit, the series that will be played in the memory of A. Bartlett Giamatti. There's a sweetness to that thought! It's over for us...time to surrender the stage...and the Giants have won the pennant! For Tom Seaver and for Mike Schmidt, this is Vin Scully saying so long...for the last time...from San Francisco!
Additional notes (1989)
- Former President of the United States, Ronald Reagan (who had just left office) served as the color commentator instead of Tom Seaver (Vin Scully's normal NBC broadcasting partner at the time) for the first inning of the 1989 game.
- Bo Jackson became a popular figure for his athleticism in multiple sports through the late 1980s and early 1990s. He endorsed Nike and was involved in a popular ad campaign called "Bo Knows" which envisioned Jackson attempting to take up a litany of other sports, including tennis, golf, luge, auto racing, and even playing blues music with Bo Diddley, who scolded Jackson by telling him, "You don't know diddley!" (In a later version of the spot, Jackson is shown playing the guitar expertly, after which an impressed Diddley says, "Bo...you do know Diddley, don't you?") Serendipitously, the original spot first aired during the commercial break immediately following Jackson's lead-off home run in the 1989 Major League Baseball All-Star Game (as Vin Scully exclaimed, "Look at that one! Bo Jackson says hello!").
- Then Texas Rangers manager Bobby Valentine worked as an on-the-field analysis for NBC's 1989 ALCS coverage. Likewise, recently retired Philadelphia Phillies legend Mike Schmidt did the same for the NLCS.
- Vin Scully was unable to call Game 2 of the 1989 National League Championship Series (on Wednesday, October 4) because he had laryngitis. Thus, number two play-by-play man Bob Costas filled-in for him. Around the same time, Costas was assigned to call the American League Championship Series between Oakland and Toronto. Game 2 of the NLCS occurred on Thursday, October 5, which was an off day for the ALCS. NBC then decided to fly Costas from Toronto to Chicago to substitute for Scully on Thursday night. Afterwards, Costas flew back to Toronto, where he resumed work on the ALCS the next night.
- Jimmy Cefalo hosted the pregame show for Game 4 of the 1989 ALCS as Marv Albert was away on an NFL assignment for NBC.
The Baseball Network: 1994–1995
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. Helping with the interviews were Hannah Storm and Johnny Bench. The 1994 All-Star Game reportedly sold out all its advertising slots. This was considered an impressive financial accomplishment, given that one thirty-second spot cost $300,000.
After the All-Star Game was complete, NBC was scheduled to televise six regular season games on Fridays or Saturdays in prime time. The networks had exclusive rights for the 12 regular season dates, in that no regional or national cable service or over-the-air broadcaster may telecast a Major League Baseball game on those dates.
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 were supposed to alternate.
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 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 broadcasting Games 1, 4, and 5 and NBC broadcasting Games 2, 3, and 6), announced that they were opting 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.
Five years after The Baseball Network dissolved, NBC Sports play-by-play man Bob Costas wrote in his book Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball that The Baseball Network was stupid and an abomination. Costas wrote that the agreement involving the World Series being the only instance of The Baseball Network broadcasting a national telecast, believed that it was an unprecedented surrender of prestige, as well as a slap to all serious fans. Unlike the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association the so-called Big Two of North American professional sports leagues, the National Football League and Major League Baseball had nationally televised all playoff games for decades. While he believed that The Baseball Network fundamentally corrupted the game (except in Costas' point-of-view, the sense that the fans steadfast, spaniel-like loyalty), Costas himself acknowledged that the most impassioned fans in baseball were now prevented from watching many of the playoff games they wanted to see. Costas added that both the divisional series and the League Championship Series now merited scarcely higher priority than regional coverage provided for a Big Ten football game between Wisconsin and Michigan.
- Prior to Game 3 of the 1995 World Series, Cleveland Indians slugger Albert Belle unleashed a profanity-laced tirade at reporter Hannah Storm of NBC. Storm was waiting in the Indians' dugout for a prearranged interview with Indians leadoff man, Kenny Lofton. Then out of nowhere, Belle came screaming profanities towards Storm. On the same day, Belle snapped at a photographer near the first base line during batting practice. Belle was ultimately fined US$50,000 for his behavior towards Storm. This particular World Series was remembered for baseball television history being made two times by Hannah Storm. Prior to Game 2, she became the first female sportscaster to serve as solo host of a World Series game, and after Game 6 she would be the first female sportscaster to preside over the presentation of the Commissioner's Trophy to the World Series champions. But she was not the first female sportscaster to cover the World Series. That honor fell to CBS Sports reporter Lesley Visser, who served as a field reporter for the 1990 World Series-1993 World Series. She would also cover that same World Series but for a different network ABC Sports
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) for a total of approximately $400 million, NBC didn't televise any regular season games. Instead, NBC only handled the All-Star Game, three Division Series games (on Tuesday /Friday/Saturday nights), and the American League Championship Series in even numbered years and the World Series, three Division Series games (also on Tuesday/Friday/Saturday nights), and National League Championship Series in odd numbered years. Also around this particular period, NBC adapted 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. It should be mentioned however, that for their 1996 All-Star Game coverage only, NBC used Edelman's "Emotions Run High" from the film The Big Green as the baseball theme.
In 1997, just before the start of NBC's coverage of the World Series, West Coast entertainment division president and former NBC Sports executive producer 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 (especially in the aftermath of the 1994–95 Major League Baseball strike). As opposed to teams from the big three television markets (New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago) in the country, the 1997 World Series featured match-up of the upstart Florida Marlins and the Cleveland Indians, who made their second World Series appearance in three years. In addition, Ohlmeyer feared that the World Series would disrupt NBC's efforts to attract enough viewers for its new fall roster in order to stay on top of the ratings heap. Ohlmeyer said "If the A&E channel called, I'd take the call." Game 5 fell on a Thursday, which had long been the highest rated night on NBC's schedule, if not on all of television.
In 1998, Bob Uecker abruptly 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 the contract (1998–2000), only Bob Costas and Joe Morgan called the games. Also in 1998, NBC's coverage of the ALCS was the highest rated for any League Championship Series since before the 1994 strike. NBC averaged a 9.4 rating for the six games, which was a 6% increase than the network's coverage of the 1997 NLCS in the same time slot. The rating was 13% more than Fox's ALCS coverage in 1997 and 12% more than NBC's coverage in 1996.
The Jim Gray/Pete Rose interview
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—on hand (by permission of Commissioner Bud Selig) at Atlanta's Turner Field as a fan-selected member of MasterCard's All-Century Team—to admit to having wagered on baseball games as manager of the Cincinnati Reds ten years earlier. After NBC was flooded with tons of viewer complaints, Gray was forced to clarify 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. Curtis said to Gray "Because of what happened with Pete, we decided not to say anything."
Despite the heavy criticism he received, Gray offered no apology for his line of questioning toward Rose:
|“||I stand by it, and I think it was absolutely a proper line of questioning. I don't have an agenda against Pete Rose. Pete was the one who started asking me questions. I definitely wouldn't have gone (that) direction if he had backed off. My intent was to give Pete an opportunity to address issues that have kept him out of baseball. I thought he might have had a change of heart. He hadn't had an opening in 10 years.||”|
Although Dick Ebersol (then-president of NBC Sports) and Keith Olbermann—among others—have maintained that Gray was simply doing his job, It should be noted that in 2004, Pete Rose would admit to betting on baseball (along with other sports) while the manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
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 or the baseball game. If the NBC affiliate decided to carry the debate, then local Pax affiliate could carry the game. 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. NBC spokeswoman Barbara Levin said "We have a contract with Major League Baseball. The commission was informed well in advance of their selecting the debate dates. If we didn't have the baseball conflict we would be televising it." Although there has not been confirmation, anecdotal reports indicate that many NBC affiliates in swing states (i.e., Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania) chose to air the debate over the baseball game. This is an option that CBS affiliates did not have in 1992, when that network refused to break away from Game 4 of the American League Championship Series (which had gone into extra innings) to the first Clinton-Bush-Perot debate. Like NBC and Fox would do in 2000, CBS cited its contract with Major League Baseball.
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.
Baseball leaves NBC again
In September 2000, Major League Baseball signed a six year, $2.5 billion contract with Fox to show Saturday baseball, the All-Star Game, selected Division Series games and exclusive coverage of the League Championship Series and World Series. 90% of the contract’s value to Fox, who is paying Major League Baseball $417 million per year, comes from the postseason, which not only attracts large audiences, but also provides an irreplaceable opportunity for the network to showcase its fall schedule to people who don’t otherwise watch much TV. Under the previous five-year deal with NBC (1996–2000), Fox paid $115 million while NBC only paid $80 million per year. Fox paid about $575 million overall while NBC paid about $400 million overall. The difference between the Fox and the NBC contracts implicitly values Fox's Saturday Game of the Week at less than $90 million for five years. Before NBC officially decided to part ways with Major League Baseball (for the second time in about 12 years) on September 26, 2000, Fox's payment would've been $345 million while NBC would've paid $240 million. As previously mentioned, before 1990, NBC had carried Major League Baseball (in some shape or form) since 1947.
We have notified Major League Baseball that we have passed on their offer and we wish them well going forward.—NBC Sports president Ken Schanzer
NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol added that it wasn't cost-effective for NBC to be putting out the kind of money that Major League Baseball wanted. NBC was also reportedly concerned over disruption to their regular fall prime time programming that would result from presentation of the playoffs and World Series. Also, NBC had several NASCAR auto races scheduled during the summer.
As previously mentioned, Game 6 of the 2000 ALCS is the last baseball game that NBC has televised to date. In Houston, due to the coverage of the 2000 Presidential Debate, KPRC-TV elected to carry NBC News' coverage of the debate while KNWS-TV carried NBC's final baseball game.
The loss of Major League Baseball was part of a slow decline for NBC's sports division. This began with their loss of the National Football League's American Football Conference rights to CBS at the end of the 1997 season. In 2002, NBC lost its National Basketball Association rights to ABC. This all culminated in the unproductive 2004–05 prime time season (despite heavy lineup promotion during the 2004 Summer Olympics), when NBC carried no major sporting championships during prime time. NBC did however, acquire National Hockey League rights in 2004, but that league was in lockout).
In 2001, Bob Costas claimed that despite still loving the game, he now felt a certain alienation from the institution. By the time that NBC lost Major League Baseball for the second time in 12 years, the sport endured a strike, realignment, the wild card, and NBC's complete loss of the regular season Game of the Week. Costas would add that since NBC only did a few games each year and he lacked the forum that he would eventually have (HBO's On the Record with Bob Costas, Inside the NFL, and Costas Now as well as Costas on the Radio) to express his views, he to some extent, started editorializing in games. When asked about whether or not the fact that NBC no longer had the baseball rights was disappointing, Bob Costas said "I'm a little disappointed to lose baseball, but that's the way the business is. And it's not nearly as disappointing as it was when we lost it at the end of the '80s. Because then it was like baseball was the birthright for NBC. ... (Baseball is) not going to affect any decision that I have in the future. It's nowhere near as devastating as a decade ago. Different circumstances, different time. I miss it a little bit but not a lot. I am very philosophical about this stuff. I have had wonderful opportunities in my career and no one wants to hear me complain about anything." In 2009, Costas would become a contributor and occasional play-by-play announcer for MLB Network.
Future of Major League Baseball on NBC
A June 4, 2006 article from Broadcasting & Cable stated that Fox may have considered a partnership with another network (which ultimately, turned out to be TBS) for the next contract. NBC was the only network named in connection to a possible partnership in the article. The setup being suggested was similar to the last time NBC had the rights to baseball, that being NBC getting some League Championship Series games and alternating the World Series and All-Star Game with Fox, who may or may not have kept the Game of the Week. After weeks of speculation and rumors, on July 11, 2006 at the All-Star Game, Major League Baseball and the Fox Broadcasting Company announced a renewal of their current contract through 2013. The contract would continue to give Fox exclusive rights to televise the World Series and the All-Star Game for the duration of the contract. The World Series would begin the Wednesday after the League Championship Series are completed. OLN (now NBC Sports Network) was briefly considering picking up the rights to the Sunday and Wednesday games, which expired after the 2005 season. On September 14, 2005 however, ESPN, then the current rights holder, signed an eight-year contract with Major League Baseball, highlighted by the continuation of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball series with additional, exclusive team appearances.
The New York Times however, reported that NBC was unlikely to get baseball, as they would have to preempt up to three weeks of National Football League coverage on Sunday nights. But the NFL used to not schedule a Sunday night game on the second night of the World Series, which meant that NBC was not completely out of the question (however, the following Sunday, which would possibly be Game 7 of the World Series, a Sunday night NFL game is scheduled). In addition to this, other Sunday playoff games, such as the ALCS and NLCS could be pushed to the afternoon. This might not be appetizing to baseball, as major playoff games would go up head-to-head against highly rated afternoon NFL games (as opposed to today's system, where only one game out of two for the day would go up against network NFL fare).
On July 11, 2006, Fox and Major League Baseball signed a seven-year contract, which gives the network exclusive coverage of the All-Star Game and World Series through 2013. Also, Fox will retain the Fox Saturday Baseball Game of the Week and will broadcast one League Championship Series every year. This will rule out baseball returning to NBC until at least 2014, as the two annual showpiece events will not be available in any contract the network might obtain before then. Currently, the owner of NBC Universal, Comcast, owns a 5.44% stake in the MLB Network and featured a New York Mets-San Francisco Giants game with Bob Costas and Al Michaels (who while working for the Cincinnati Reds had previously helped NBC call the 1972 World Series and as of 2006, serves as the play-by-play voice for NBC's Sunday Night Football telecasts) in July 2011.
During the summer of 2012, NBC Sports was reportedly involved in negotiations for Major League Baseball TV rights. The NBC Sports Network (which was transformed from Versus in January 2012) was expected to play a large part of NBC's bid. However, it was likely that NBC would want either marquee event (All-Star Game and World Series) to air on the NBC network rather than cable. This could've potentially conflict with Sunday Night Football on NBC, which generally has had a game or two on World Series nights since 2010; however, prior to this no game was scheduled on these nights so it would not be unprecedented. Besides the potential conflicts with Sunday Night Football, another disadvantage for NBC Sports Network is that it's (as of September 2012) in fewer than 80 million homes, trailing both Fox Sports 1 (formerly Speed Channel) and TBS.
On August 28, 2012, Major League Baseball and ESPN agreed to an eight-year, $5.6 billion contract extension, the largest broadcasting deal in Major League Baseball history. It gives ESPN up to 90 regular-season games, one of the two Wild Card games which will rotate between American League and National League teams each year, and the rights to all regular-season tiebreaker games. On September 19, 2012, Sports Business Daily reported that Major League Baseball would agree to separate eight-year television deals with Fox Sports and Turner Sports through the 2021 season. On October 2, 2012, the new deal between Major League Baseball and TBS was officially confirmed NBC looked to be left without a package, because though it made an offer, MLB didn’t consider NBC a serious bidder after the ESPN deal was made public. Sources said that NBC did not make a strong offer, and that it was most interested in ESPN’s package, which includes exclusivity on Sunday night and the two midweek games. When ESPN took that package, NBC’s interest waned.
Major League Baseball on NBC Radio
For many years, the NBC Radio Network also had a role in Major League Baseball coverage. The network shared World Series broadcast rights with CBS beginning in 1927, with All-Star Game broadcasts added in 1933. The Mutual network joined NBC and CBS in 1935; the three networks continued to share coverage of baseball's "jewels" in this manner through 1938, with Mutual gaining exclusive rights to the World Series in 1939 and the All-Star Game in 1942.
In 1957, NBC replaced Mutual as the exclusive national radio broadcaster for the World Series and All-Star Game. The network would continue in this role through 1975, with CBS taking over the rights the following year. NBC Radio did not air regular season games in this period (save for the three-game National League pennant playoff series in 1959 and 1962); nor did the network cover the League Championship Series from 1969–1975, those series instead having local team radio broadcasts syndicated nationally over ad hoc networks.
Major League Baseball on former NBC-owned radio stations
|Chicago White Sox||WMAQ-670 (now WSCR)||1924-1934; 1967-1970; 1982-1995; 2006-present|
|Cleveland Indians||WTAM-1100||1929-1931; June 28, 1946; 1973-present|
|New York Mets||WFAN-660||1988-2013|
|San Francisco Giants||KNBR-680||1979-present|
Major League Baseball coverage on NBC's owned and operated television stations
|New York Yankees||W2XBS, later WNBT||1939-1945|
|San Diego Padres||KCST 39 (later KNSD)||1971-1972; 1984-1986|
|San Francisco Giants||KNTV 11||2008–present|
|Philadelphia Phillies||WCAU 10||2014-present|
As the result of the acquisition of a majority share in NBC Universal by Comcast in February 2011, the operations of CSN, along with sister national sports channels (Versus) and Golf Channel, were aligned into a new NBC Sports Group division. While plans were made to re-brand the Comcast SportsNet channels under the NBC name as well, these plans have since been shelved. However, they will soon take on graphical elements from the new NBC Sports design.
In the Summer 2011, NBC Owned Television Stations started to sell national advertising on behalf of affiliated cable channel, New England Cable News (NECN). With the success of the NECN advertising partnership in April 2012, NBC Owned Stations and the Comcast Sports Group extended the partnership nationwide with four additional markets where there are both a Comcast SportsNet channel and a NBC Owned station (New England, Mid-Atlantic, Northwest and Philadelphia). For "unwired sales", the Group will be continue to be represented by Home Team Sports.
|Name||Region served||Year Joined/ Launced||Home to||Former Name||Notes|
|Bay Area||Northern and central California, northwestern Nevada (including the Lake Tahoe-Reno-Carson City region), and parts of southern Oregon.||2008||San Francisco Giants (MLB), Golden State Warriors (NBA), San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) and local coverage of the Pacific-12, West Coast, Mountain West, and Western Athletic conferences.||Pacific Sports Network (PSN),
SportsChannel Bay Area,
FSN Bay Area
|Acquired majority share from Cablevision in April 2007. Comcast owns 45%, the Giants own 25%, and Fox owns 25%. While previously branded as an FSN affiliate, it switched to the Comcast SportsNet branding in March 2008.|
|California||Northern and central California.||2008||Oakland Athletics (MLB), Sacramento Kings (NBA), San Jose Sharks (NHL), San Jose Earthquakes (MLS), San Jose SaberCats (AFL), California Golden Bears (NCAA), other local sports coverage.||CSN West||Created in conjunction with Maloof Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Kings and Monarchs, after they did not renew their previous contract with FSN Bay Area. Originally launching as CSN West, the channel was renamed CSN California on Sept. 4, 2008 to serve as a compliment to CSN Bay Area.|
|Chicago||Illinois, northwestern Indiana, Iowa, non-Milwaukee market areas of southern Wisconsin||2004||Chicago Bulls (NBA), Chicago Cubs (MLB), Chicago White Sox (MLB), Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), Chicago Fire S.C. (Major League Soccer), coverage of local women's college basketball games, as well as softball (the Chicago Bandits), and arena football (mainly the Chicago Rush).||Created in conjunction with the Bulls, Blackhawks, White Sox, and Cubs (who own 20% each) in order to effectively replace FSN Chicago by giving them better editorial control over their broadcasts.|
|Houston||Houston area||2012||Will become exclusive home of the Houston Rockets starting in the 2012-13 NBA season and the Houston Astros starting in the 2013 MLB season.|
|New York (SNY)||New York City, New York state, Connecticut (except northeastern areas), northern and central New Jersey, northeastern Pennsylvania||2006||New York Mets (MLB), Big East, Sun Belt and other athletic conferences.||Owned jointly by the New York Mets, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast SportsNet.|
|Philadelphia||Philadelphia, eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, southern and central New Jersey||1997||Philadelphia Phillies (MLB), Philadelphia Flyers (NHL), Philadelphia 76ers (NBA), Philadelphia Union (MLS), Philadelphia Wings (NLL), and college sports.||PRISM & SportsChannel Philadelphia||Flagship of the Comcast regional sports networks. Originally a joint venture between Comcast, the Phillies, and Spectacor (owner of the Flyers and 76ers), controlling interest in Spectacor was acquired by Comcast in 1996. Due to its re-use of the infrastructure from PRISM (which does not use any satellite uplinks to distribute programming to providers), it was legally exempt from requirements to offer its programming to satellite broadcasters until the FCC closed the loophole in 2010. Until then, CSN Philadelphia was exclusive to Comcast Cable and Verizon FiOS.|
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- Baseball – MSNBC.com
- NBC Baseball (1983, video)
- NBC Tracer
- Baseball's Best
- NBC's Major League Baseball theme music circa 1986.
- Major League Baseball Standings History, 1901 – current