The Baseball Network

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For the cable and satellite channel that launched in 2009, see MLB Network.
"Baseball Night in America" redirects here. For telecasts with that branding beginning in 2012, see Major League Baseball on Fox.
The Baseball Network
The Baseball Network logo.png
The Baseball Network title card
Also known as Baseball Night in America
Genre Baseball telecasts
Presented by Various
Theme music composer Scott Schreer[1]
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
Production
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 210 minutes or until end of game
Production company(s) Major League Baseball
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
NBC
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Original run July 12, 1994 (1994-07-12) – October 28, 1995 (1995-10-28)
Chronology
Preceded by Major League Baseball on CBS (1990-1993)
Followed by Major League Baseball on Fox (1996-present)
Related shows Major League Baseball on ABC
Major League Baseball on NBC

The Baseball Network was a short-lived television broadcasting joint venture between ABC, NBC and Major League Baseball.[2] Under the arrangement, beginning in the 1994 season, the league produced its own in-house telecasts of games,[3] which were then brokered to air on ABC and NBC. This was perhaps most evident by the copyright beds shown at the end of the telecasts, which stated "THE PROCEEDING PROGRAM HAS BEEN PAID FOR BY THE OFFICE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF BASEBALL".[4]

The package[5] included coverage of games in primetime on selected nights throughout the regular season (under the branding Baseball Night in America[6]), along with coverage of the postseason and the World Series.[7] Unlike previous broadcasting arrangements with the league, there was no national "game of the week"[8] during the regular season;[9] these would be replaced by multiple weekly regional[10] telecasts on certain nights of the week. Additionally, The Baseball Network had exclusive coverage windows; no other broadcaster could televise MLB games during the same night that The Baseball Network was televising games.

The arrangement did not last long; due to the effects of a players' strike on the remainder of the 1994 season,[11] and poor reception from fans and critics over how the coverage[12][13][14][15][16] was implemented, The Baseball Network would be disbanded after the 1995 season. While NBC would maintain rights to certain games, the growing Fox network became the league's new national broadcast partner[17] beginning in 1996, with its then-parent company News Corporation eventually purchasing the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Background[edit]

After the fall-out from CBS's financial problems[18] from their exclusive, four-year-long, US$1.2 billion television contract with Major League Baseball (a contract that ultimately cost the network approximately $500 million[19]), Major League Baseball decided to go into the business of producing the telecasts themselves and market these to advertisers on its own. In reaction to the failed trial with CBS, Major League Baseball was desperately grasping for every available dollar. To put things into proper perspective, in 1991, the second year of the league's contract with the network, CBS reported a loss of around $169 million in the third quarter of the year. A decline in advertiser interest caused revenue from the sale of commercials during CBS' baseball telecasts to plummet. All the while, CBS was still contractually obligated to pay Major League Baseball around $260 million a year through 1993.[20]

As part of MLB's attempt to produce and market the games in-house, it hoped to provide games of regional interests to appropriate markets. Major League Baseball in the process, hoped to offer important games for divisional races to the overall market. Owners hoped that this particular technique, combined with the additional division races created through league expansion (the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins had begun play the year prior) and the quest for wild card spots for the playoffs (1994 was the first year of three divisions for each league) in increasing[21] the national broadcast revenue for Major League Baseball in the foreseeable future.

After a four-year hiatus, ABC and NBC[22] (who last aired Thursday Night Baseball games and the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week[23] respectively) returned to Major League Baseball under the umbrella of a revenue sharing venture called The Baseball Network.[24][25] Under a six-year plan, Major League Baseball was intended to receive 85% of the first US$140 million in advertising[26] revenue (or 87.5% of advertising revenues[27] and corporate sponsorship[28] from the games until sales topped a specified level), 50% of the next $30 million, and 80% of any additional money. 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. When compared to the previous TV deal with CBS, The Baseball Network was supposed to bring in 50% less of the broadcasting revenue. The advertisers[29] were reportedly excited about the arrangement with The Baseball Network because the new package included several changes intended to boost ratings, especially among younger viewers.

Arranging broadcasts through The Baseball Network seemed, on the surface, to benefit NBC and ABC since it gave them a monopoly on broadcasting Major League Baseball games. The deal was similar to a time-buy, instead of a traditional rights fee[30] situation. It also stood to benefit the networks because they reduced the risk associated with purchasing the broadcast rights outright (in stark contrast to CBS's disastrous contract with Major League Baseball from the 1990–1993 seasons). NBC and ABC were to create a loss-free environment for each other and keep an emerging Fox, which had recently made an aggressive and ultimately successful $1.58 billion bid for the television rights for National Football Conference games (thus, becoming a major player in the sports broadcasting game in the process), at bay. As a result of Fox's NFL gain, CBS was weakened further by affiliate changes, as a number of stations jumped to Fox from CBS (for example, in Detroit, WWJ-TV replaced WJBK).

Key figures involved in the creation and production for The Baseball Network:

  • David Alworth[31] (vice president of broadcasting and production management)
  • Chris Bevilacqua (director of corporate sponsorships)
  • Bill Canter (production manager of the 1995 World Series)
  • Rick Clifford
  • Ed Delaney (vice president of operations)
  • Carlos DeMolina (production assistant of the 1995 World Series)
  • Philip Doucet (technical director of the 1995 World Series)
  • Dick Ebersol (president of NBC Sports)
  • Eddie Einhorn[32] (vice chairman of the Chicago White Sox, television producer and a member of Major League Baseball's television committee)
  • John Filippelli[33] (coordinating producer)
  • Sam Flood (pre-game producer of the 1995 World Series)
  • Woody Freiman (associate producer the 1995 World Series)
  • Russell Gabay (coordinating production manager of the 1995 World Series)
  • Bill Giles (Philadelphia Phillies president and chairman of Major League Baseball's television committee)
  • John Gonzalez (coordinating producer & producer of the 1995 World Series for NBC Sports)
  • Steve Hearns (production manager of the 1995 World Series)
  • Steve Hirdt (director of information of the 1995 World Series)
  • Jeff Kibler (associate producer the 1995 World Series)
  • Steve Lawrence (replay producer of the 1995 World Series)
  • Ross Levinsohn
  • Jon Litner[34] (vice president of business affairs)
  • Bill Melanson (production manager of the 1995 World Series)
  • Peter Pascarelli (editorial consultant of the 1995 World Series)
  • Jed Petrick (vice president of sales)
  • Chris Pfeiffer (production assistant of the 1995 World Series)
  • Andy Rosenberg (director of the 1995 World Series)
  • Tom Roy (executive producer of NBC Sports)
  • Ken Schanzer (president[35] and chief operating officer[36])
  • Bud Selig (owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and acting commissioner of Major League Baseball)
  • Ray Stallone (director of marketing communications[37])
  • Dennis Swanson (president of ABC Sports)
  • Mike Trager (executive vice president, marketing and sales)
  • Suzanne Turner (production manager of the 1995 World Series)
  • Tom Werner (owner of the San Diego Padres and a member of Major League Baseball's television committee)

Coverage[edit]

The Baseball Network kicked off its coverage on July 12, 1994 with the All-Star Game from Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. The game was televised on NBC[38] with Bob Costas (who during NBC's last go-around with Major League Baseball in 1989, teamed with Tony Kubek as the backup team to Vin Scully and Tom Seaver on the Game of the Week broadcasts as well as serving as NBC's perennial American League Championship Series broadcast crew in odd-numbered years beginning in 1983), Joe Morgan (who had previously worked for NBC from 1986 to 1987 on regional Game of the Week telecasts alongside Bob Carpenter[39] and served as a pre-game analyst alongside hosts Dick Enberg and Marv Albert during NBC's coverage of 1985 and 1987 National League Championship Series respectively), and Bob Uecker calling the action and Greg Gumbel (who had just recently, left CBS Sports[40] following their losses of the Major League Baseball and National Football League packages to ABC/NBC and Fox respectively) hosting the pre-game show. Helping with 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 30-second spot cost US$300,000.[41]

Baseball Night in America[edit]

After the All-Star Game was complete, ABC (with a reunited Al Michaels,[42] Tim McCarver, and Jim Palmer along with CBS baseball alumnus Lesley Visser as the primary broadcasting crew[43]) was scheduled to televise six regular season games on Saturdays[44] or Mondays[45] in prime time. On the subject of play-by-play announcer Al Michaels returning to baseball for the first time since the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake interrupted the 1989 World Series, Jim Palmer (who along with Michaels and Tim McCarver called the 1985, 1987 and 1989 World Series, as well as the 1986 and 1988 All-Star Games, and 1988 National League Championship Series for ABC) 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." NBC[46][47] would then pick up where ABC left off by televising six more regular season Friday night[48][49] games.

The networks had exclusive rights for the twelve regular season dates, in that no regional or national cable service (such as ESPN or superstations like Chicago's WGN-TV or Atlanta's WTBS) or over-the-air[50] broadcaster was allowed[51] to telecast a Major League Baseball game on those dates. Baseball Night in America[52] (which premiered on July 16, 1994) usually aired up to fourteen games[53] based on the viewers' region (affiliates chose games of local interest to carry) as opposed to a traditional coast-to-coast format.[54] Normally, announcers who represented each of the teams playing in the respective games were paired with each other. More specifically, on regional Saturday night broadcasts and all non-"national" broadcasts, TBN let the two lead announcers from the opposing teams call the games involving their teams together.

Every Baseball Night in America game was scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time (or 8:00 p.m. Pacific Time if the game occurred on the West Coast[55]). A single starting time gave the networks the opportunity to broadcast one game and then, simultaneously, cut to another game when there was a break in action.

Games involving the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos, were not always included in the Baseball Night in America package. Canadian rightsholders were allowed to broadcast the games. When TSN (which owned the cable rights to the Blue Jays and Expos) covered the game in Canada, they re-broadcast the BNA feed across their network. Typically, if the Blue Jays were idle for the day, the Expos would be featured on TSN. Also, CBET (the CBC affiliate in Windsor, Ontario) would air Blue Jays games if the Detroit Tigers were not playing at home that night or if the Blue Jays scheduled to play in Detroit. Whether or not the game would air in the opposing team's market would depend on which time zone they were from, or if they shared a market with another team.

Ratings for both seasons of the Baseball Night in America regular season coverage were substantially higher than CBS' final season in 1993 (3.8) or any subsequent season on Fox. Baseball Night in America earned a 6.2 during the strike-shortened 1994 season and a 5.8 in 1995.[56]

1994 schedule[edit]

All of these games aired on ABC; due to the strike[57] NBC was unable to air its slate of games, which were supposed to begin on August 26.[58]

Date Teams Play-by-play Color commentators
July 16[59][60][61] Baltimore at California[62][63] Ken Wilson Bert Blyleven
Cleveland at Chicago White Sox Ken Harrelson Lary Sorensen
Detroit at Kansas City Tom Hammond Tommy Hutton
Milwaukee at Minnesota George Grande George Frazier
Boston at Oakland Dick Stockton Jerry Remy
New York Yankees at Seattle[64] Al Michaels Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
Toronto at Texas Steve Busby Buck Martinez
San Francisco at Montreal Claude Raymond Camille Dube
San Diego at New York Mets Gary Thorne Bob Murphy
Los Angeles at Philadelphia Chris Wheeler Jim Kaat
Houston[65] at Pittsburgh Lanny Frattare Larry Dierker
Florida at Atlanta[66][67] Pete Van Wieren[68] Steve Zabriskie
Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati[69] Marty Brennaman Thom Brennaman
St. Louis at Colorado Joe Buck Dave Campbell
July 18 Texas at Cleveland Tom Hamilton Steve Busby
Kansas City at Milwaukee Tom Hammond George Frazier
Minnesota at Toronto Jim Hughson Buck Martinez
Boston at California Al Michaels Jim Palmer[70] and Tim McCarver
Detroit at Chicago White Sox Ken Harrelson[71] Lary Sorensen
New York Yankees at Oakland[72] Dick Stockton Dewayne Staats
Baltimore at Seattle Jon Miller Ron Fairly
San Diego at Montreal Dave Van Horne Jerry Coleman
Los Angeles at New York Mets Gary Thorne Jim Kaat
San Francisco at Philadelphia Ted Robinson Garry Maddox
Atlanta at Pittsburgh[73] Pete Van Wieren Steve Blass
Florida at Cincinnati Paul Kennedy Johnny Bench
Chicago Cubs at Colorado Steve Physioc Dave Campbell
St. Louis at Houston Joe Buck Larry Dierker
July 25[74] Chicago White Sox[75] at Kansas City Ken Harrelson Steve Palermo[76]
Minnesota at Texas Steve Busby George Frazier
Philadelphia at Florida Chris Wheeler[77] Mike Schmidt
Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh[78] Steve Physioc Steve Blass
New York Mets at St. Louis Gary Thorne Al Hrabosky
Montreal at Atlanta Pete Van Wieren Ken Singleton
Houston at Cincinnati Brent Musburger Larry Dierker
Colorado at San Diego Jerry Coleman Dave Campbell[79]
Los Angeles[80] at San Francisco Al Michaels Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
August 6 Cleveland at Boston Tom Hamilton Bob Montgomery
Baltimore at Milwaukee Steve Zabriskie[81] Mike Flanagan
Detroit at Toronto Bob Carpenter Rick Cerone
Chicago White Sox at California Ken Harrelson Bert Blyleven
Seattle at Kansas City Dave Niehaus Billy Sample
New York Yankees at Minnesota Al Michaels Jim Palmer[77] and Tim McCarver
Texas at Oakland[82] Dick Stockton Steve Busby
San Diego at Chicago Cubs[83] Steve Physioc Lary Sorensen
Florida at New York Mets Gary Thorne Bob Murphy
Montreal at Philadelphia Dave Van Horne Garry Maddox
St. Louis at Pittsburgh Joe Buck[84] Steve Blass
Atlanta at Cincinnati Brent Musburger Buck Martinez
San Francisco at Houston Ted Robinson Larry Dierker

1995 schedule[edit]

ABC Scheduled Games[edit]
Date Teams Play-by-play Color commentators
July 15[85] Minnesota at New York Yankees Al Michaels[86] Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
Kansas City at Baltimore
California at Detroit
Oakland at Cleveland
Milwaukee at Chicago White Sox
Texas at Boston
Toronto at Seattle
Florida at Los Angeles
Cincinnati at Chicago Cubs
Houston at San Francisco
New York Mets at Colorado
Philadelphia at Montreal
St. Louis at Pittsburgh
Atlanta at San Diego
July 17 Chicago White Sox at New York Yankees
Kansas City at Boston
California at Cleveland
Toronto at Minnesota
Oakland at Milwaukee
Baltimore at Texas
Detroit at Seattle
St. Louis at Montreal
New York Mets at Chicago Cubs
Houston at Los Angeles
Philadelphia at Colorado
Florida at San Francisco
Cincinnati at San Diego
July 24 Cleveland at California
Minnesota at Boston
New York Yankees at Texas
Milwaukee at Seattle
Atlanta at Pittsburgh
Colorado at Philadelphia
New York Mets at Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles at Houston
San Francisco at Florida
San Diego at Cincinnati
August 5 Boston at Toronto
Chicago Whte Sox at Cleveland
Kansas City at Minnesota
Milwaukee at Baltimore
New York Yankees at Detroit
Seattle at Oakland
Texas at California
Atlanta at Montreal
Chicago Cubs at St. Louis
Florida at New York Mets
Houston at Pittsburgh
Los Angeles at San Francisco
Philadelphia at Cincinnati
San Diego at Colorado
August 12 Baltimore at Boston
California at Minnesota
Cleveland at New York Yankees
Detroit at Milwaukee
Baltimore at Chicago White Sox
Seattle at Kansas City
Toronto at Texas
Chicago Cubs at San Francisco
Cincinnati at Florida
Colorado at Atlanta
Montreal at Philadelphia
New York Mets at Houston
Pittsburgh at Los Angeles
St. Louis at San Diego
August 19 Baltimore at Oakland
Boston at Seattle
Kansas City at Toronto
Detroit at Cleveland
Baltimore at Detroit
New York Yankees at California
Texas at Chicago White Sox
Atlanta at St. Louis
Chicago Cubs at Colorado
Florida at Pittsburgh
Houston at Cincinnati
Los Angeles at New York Mets
San Diego at Montreal
San Francisco at Philadelphia
NBC Scheduled Games[edit]
Date Teams Play-by-play Color commentators
August 25 Baltimore at California
Boston at Oakland
Chicago White Sox at Toronto
Detroit at Cleveland
Minnesota at Milwaukee
New York Yankees at Seattle
Texas at Kansas City
Atlanta at Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
Houston at Florida
Los Angeles at Philadelphia
San Diego at New York Mets
San Francisco at Montreal
St. Louis at Colorado
September 1 California at Boston
Cleveland at Detroit
Kansas City at Texas
Milwaukee at Minnesota
Oakland at New York Yankees
Seattle at Baltimore
Toronto at Chicago White Sox
Chicago Cubs at Atlanta
Colorado at St. Louis
Florida at Houston
Montreal at Los Angeles
New York Mets at San Francisco
Philadelphia at San Diego
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
September 8 California at Cleveland
Boston at New York Yankees
Chicago White Sox at Oakland
Detroit at Toronto
Kansas City at Seattle
Minnesota at California
Texas at Milwaukee
Atlanta at Florida
Cincinnati at Colorado
Houston at Philadelphia
Los Angeles at Pittsburgh
New York Mets at Montreal
San Diego at St. Louis
San Francisco at Chicago Cubs
September 15 Boston at Cleveland
Kansas City at California
Milwaukee at Toronto
Minnesota at Oakland
New York Yankees at Baltimore
Seattle at Chicago White Sox
Texas at Detroit
Atlanta at Cincinnati
Chicago Cubs at San Diego
Florida at Colorado
Houston at Montreal
Los Angeles at St. Louis
Philadelphia at New York Mets
San Francisco at Pittsburgh
September 22[87] Baltimore at Milwaukee
California at Texas
Chicago White Sox at Minnesota
Cleveland at Kansas City
Detroit at New York Yankees
Oakland at Seattle
Toronto at Boston
Colorado at San Francisco Ted Robinson[88] Dave Campbell
Cincinnati at Philadelphia
Montreal at Atlanta
New York Mets at Florida
Pittsburgh at Chicago Cubs
San Diego at Los Angeles
St. Louis at Houston
September 29 Baltimore at Cleveland
California at Oakland
Chicago White Sox at Kansas City
Detroit at Seattle
New York Yankees at Boston
Texas at Minnesota
Toronto at Milwaukee
Atlanta at New York Mets
Cincinnati at Montreal
Houston at Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles at San Diego
Philadelphia at Florida
Pittsburgh at St. Louis
San Francisco at Colorado

Postseason coverage[edit]

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[89] and newly created Division Series.[90] In odd-numbered years, the postseason and All-Star Game television rights were supposed to alternate. When ABC and NBC last covered baseball together from 1976 to 1989, ABC had the rights to the World Series in odd-numbered years while NBC would cover the All-Star Game and both League Championship Series in said years. Likewise, this process would alternate in even numbered years, with ABC getting the All-Star Game and both LCS in years that NBC had the World Series.

The networks also promised not to begin any World Series weekend broadcasts after 7:20 p.m. Eastern Time.[91] When CBS held the television rights, postseason games routinely aired on the East Coast at 8:30 p.m. at the earliest. This meant that Joe Carter's dramatic World Series clinching home run in 1993 occurred after midnight in the East. As CBS' baseball coverage progressed, the network dropped the 8:00 p.m. pregame coverage (in favor of airing sitcoms such as Evening Shade) before finally starting its coverage at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The first pitch would generally arrive at approximately 8:45 p.m.

ABC won the rights to the first dibs at the World Series in August 1993 after ABC Sports president Dennis Swanson won a coin toss[92][93] by calling "heads." Ken Schanzer,[94] 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 they would divide up the playoffs.

What separated The Baseball Network from previous television deals with Major League Baseball, and was by far the most controversial part of the deal, was that not all postseason games (aside from the World Series) were guaranteed to be shown nationally.[95][96][97] To increase viewership by preventing games from being played in the afternoon (the league was the only professional sports league in the country to play postseason games during the afternoon), the National League and American League's division and championship series games were instead played simultaneously in primetime, and affiliates could only air one game each night, which were again determined regionally.[98][99] If one playoff series had already concluded, the remaining games would be aired nationally.[100] Despite the frustration of not being able to see both League Championship Series on a national level, the 1995 LCS averaged a 13.1 rating.[101]

Besides the 1994 All-Star Game and Game 6 of the 1995 World Series,[102] arguably, the most famous Baseball Network broadcast was Game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners, broadcast on ABC.[103] It ended with the Mariners winning in 11 innings (via Edgar Martínez's game winning double), to clinch their first ever trip to the American League Championship Series.

Criticisms[edit]

A major problem with Baseball Night in America was the idea that viewers could not watch "important" games. Marty Noble put it in perspective by saying "With the Network determining when games will begin and which games are made available to which TV markets, Major League Baseball can conduct parts of its pennant races in relative secrecy." What added to the troubles of The Baseball Network was the fact that Baseball Night in America held exclusivity over every market. This most severely impacted markets with two teams, specifically New York City[104] (Mets[105] and Yankees), the Greater Los Angeles Area (Dodgers and Angels), Chicago[106] (Cubs and White Sox), the San Francisco Bay Area (Giants and A's), and even Texas[107] (Astros and Rangers). For example, if Baseball Night in America showed a Yankees game, this meant that nobody in New York could see that night's Mets game and vice versa.

Things got so bad for The Baseball Network that even local broadcasters objected to its operations. KSMO-TV in Kansas City, the primary over-the-air station for the Kansas City Royals, went as far as to sue the Royals for breach of contract resulting from their broadcasts being "overexposed" and violating its territorial exclusivity. Worse yet, even if a market had only one team, the ABC or NBC affiliate could still not broadcast that team's game if the start time was not appropriate for the time zone. For example, if the Detroit Tigers (the only team in their market) played a road game in Seattle, Oakland[108] or Anaheim[109] beginning at 8:00 p.m. Pacific Time (a late game), Detroit's Baseball Network affiliate (either WXYZ-TV or WDIV, depending on the network which held the rights to the game) could not air the game because the start time was too late for the Detroit area (11:00 p.m. Eastern Time[110]). Detroit viewers only had the option of viewing the early game of the night.

Sports Illustrated columnist Tom Verducci for one, was very harsh on The Baseball Network, dubbing it both "America's regional pastime" and an "abomination." ABC Sports president Dennis Swanson, in announcing the dissolution of The Baseball Network, said "The fact of the matter is, Major League Baseball seems incapable at this point in time, of living with any long term relationships, whether it's with fans, with players, with the political community in Washington, with the advertising community here in Manhattan, or with its TV partners."[111]

Shortly after the start of the strike, Stanford University's Roger Noll[112] argued that the Baseball Network deal (and the bargain-basement ESPN cable renewal, which went from $100 million to $42 million because of their losses) reflected "poor business judgment on the part of management about the long-run attractiveness of their product to national broadcasters." He added that the $140 million that owners expected to share for the 1994 season (before the strike) from TBN was underestimated by "one-third to one-half" and fell below the annual average of $165 million needed to renew the TBN deal after two years. Meanwhile, Andy Zimbalist, author of Baseball and Billions, and a players' union consulting economist, insisted that baseball "could have done better than the TBN deal with some combination of CBS (which offered $120 million last-ditch bid for renewal), Fox and TBS. Baseball shut out CBS and could have waited longer before closing them out."

Five years after The Baseball Network dissolved, NBC Sports play-by-play announcer Bob Costas[113] wrote in his book Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball that The Baseball Network was "stupid and an abomination." Costas further wrote that the agreement involving the World Series being the only instance of The Baseball Network broadcasting a nationally televised game was an unprecedented surrender of prestige, as well as a slap to all serious fans. He believed that The Baseball Network fundamentally corrupted the game and acknowledged that the most impassioned fans in baseball were now prevented[114] from watching many of the playoff games that they wanted to see, as all playoff games had been broadcast nationally for decades. 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.

According to Curt Smith's book, The Voice - Mel Allen's Untold Story, the longtime New York Yankees broadcaster and This Week in Baseball host was quoted as saying "You wonder how anything would be worse [than CBS]. What kind of show cancels a twenty-six-week-season's first fourteen weeks?" (in response to TBN's tagline, "Welcome to the Show"[115]).

During the 1995 Division Series, the fan frustration with The Baseball Network was so bad that the mere mention of it during the MarinersYankees ALDS from public address announcer Tom Hutyler at Seattle's Kingdome brought boos from most of the crowd.

Downfall and demise[edit]

The long-term plans for The Baseball Network began to crumble after players and owners went on strike on August 12, 1994.[116] In addition to the cancellation of that year's World Series,[117] ABC was denied its remaining Baseball Night in America telecasts and NBC was shut out of its game broadcast slate altogether. Both networks elected to dissolve the partnership with Major League Baseball on June 22, 1995.[118][119][120][121] Both networks figured that as the delayed 1995 baseball season opened without a labor agreement, there was no guarantee against another strike.

The Baseball Network's contract stipulated that negotiations could only take place with NBC and ABC[122] for 45 days, starting on August 15, 1995. But with NBC and ABC's refusal to continue after the 1995 season, baseball had to look at its future options.[123] In October 1995, when it was a known fact that ABC and NBC were going to end their television deal/joint venture with Major League Baseball, preliminary talks rose about CBS returning.[124][125] It was rumored that CBS would show Thursday night games[126] (more specifically, a package of West Coast interleague games scheduled for the 11:30 Eastern/8:30 Pacific Time slot) while Fox would show Saturday afternoon games. CBS and Fox were also rumored to share rights to the postseason. In the end however, CBS' involvement did not come to pass and NBC became Fox's over-the-air national television partner. Whereas each team earned about $14 million in 1990 under CBS the later TV agreement with NBC and Fox beginning in 1996 earned each team about $6.8 million.[127]

To salvage the remains of the partnership, ABC and NBC elected to share coverage of the 1995 postseason[128] including the World Series.[129] ABC[130] wound up broadcasting Games 1, 4, and 5 of 1995 World Series[89] and NBC broadcasting Games 2,[131] 3,[132] and 6[133] (which turned out to be the decisive game). Had the 1995 World Series gone to a seventh game, it would have then been broadcast by ABC. As it stands, Game 5 of the 1995 World Series is to date, the final Major League Baseball game to be broadcast on ABC.

Others would argue that a primary reason for its failure was its abandoning of localized markets in favor of more lucrative and stable advertising contracts afforded by turning to a national model of broadcasting, similar to the National Football League's television package, which focuses on localized games, with one or two "national" games.

Aftermath[edit]

In the end, the venture would lose US$95 million in advertising[134] and nearly $500 million in national and local spending. The Baseball Network generated only about $5.5 million per team in revenue for each of the two years that it operated. To put things into proper perspective, in 1993 alone, CBS generated about $14.7 million per team. Much of this could possibly be traced back to the strike causing a huge drop in revenue, which in return caused baseball salaries to decrease by approximately $140,000 on average in 1995.

Both ABC and NBC soon publicly vowed to cut all ties with Major League Baseball for the remainder of the 20th century,[135][136] and Fox[137] signed on to be the exclusive network carrier of Major League Baseball regular season games in 1996.[138] However, NBC kept a postseason-only (with the exception of even-numbered years when NBC had the rights to the All-Star Game) deal in the end, signing a deal to carry three Division Series games, one half of the League Championship Series (the ALCS in even numbered years and the NLCS in odd numbered years; Fox would televise the other LCS in said years), and the 1997 and 1999 World Series respectively (Fox had exclusive rights to the 1996, 1998 and 2000 World Series).

Fox's end of the new contract (which the network paid US$575 million for the initial five-year contract) restored the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week broadcasts during the regular season (approximately 16 weekly telecasts annually that normally began on Memorial Day weekend), although it continued to offer a selection of games based on region, with usually three regionalized telecasts airing each week.[139][140]

With ABC[141] being sold to The Walt Disney Company in 1996, ESPN would pick up daytime and late-evening Division Series games with a provision similar to its National Football League games, in which the games would only air on network affiliates in the local markets of the two participating teams. ESPN's Major League Baseball contract was not affected then, but would take a hit in 1998 with the new National Football League contract.

In 2012, Fox would revive the Baseball Night in America title (previously used for The Baseball Network's games) for a series of Saturday night games.[142] Unlike The Baseball Network, Fox did not carry every game that was scheduled for a given Saturday, only choosing five to six games to distribute to its affiliates.

Announcers[edit]

Announcers who represented each of the teams playing in the respective games were typically paired with each other during games[143] on regular season Baseball Night in America telecasts. Also as previously mentioned, ABC used Al Michaels, Jim Palmer, Tim McCarver and Lesley Visser as the lead broadcasting team (Brent Musburger, CBS alumnus Jim Kaat, and Jack Arute became the secondary team for ABC). Meanwhile, NBC used Bob Costas, Joe Morgan, Bob Uecker and Jim Gray as their lead broadcasting team. John Saunders[144][145] was the studio host for ABC's Baseball Night in America coverage. Hannah Storm hosted NBC's studio show for the lone season in which the network was able to participate in The Baseball Network; Greg Gumbel[146] was NBC's studio host for its coverage of the 1994 All-Star Game (as previously mentioned). In 1995, Gumbel became the secondary play-by-play announcer for NBC (working with Joe Morgan on the National League Championship Series) behind Bob Costas. Dick Enberg was supposed to be the secondary play-by-play announcer in 1994 for NBC, but by the following season, his other commitments for NBC such as golf and football rendered him unavailable to broadcast baseball.[147]

Event Network Teams Play-by-play Color commentators Field reporters Pregame host
1994 Major League Baseball All-Star Game NBC[148][149] Pittsburgh Pirates (host) Bob Costas[150] Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker Hannah Storm and Johnny Bench Greg Gumbel[151]
1995 Major League Baseball All-Star Game ABC[152] Texas Rangers[153] (host) Al Michaels[154] Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver Lesley Visser and Rick Dempsey John Saunders[155]
1995 American League Division Series NBC (Games 1-2[156])
ABC (Games 3[157]-5[158])
Seattle Mariners/New York Yankees Gary Thorne (Games 1-2[159])
Brent Musburger (Games 3-5)
Tommy Hutton (Games 1-2)
Jim Kaat (Games 3-5)
NBC (Games 1-[160] 2)
ABC (Game 3)
Cleveland Indians/Boston Red Sox Bob Costas (Games 1-2)
Steve Zabriskie (Game 3)
Bob Uecker (Games 1-2)
Tommy Hutton (Game 3)
1995 National League Division Series NBC (Games 1[161]–2)
ABC (Games 3–4)
Atlanta Braves/Colorado Rockies Pete Van Wieren (Games 1–3)
Al Michaels (Game 4)
Larry Dierker (Games 1–3)
Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver (Game 4)
NBC (Games 1[160]-2[162])
ABC (Game 3)
Cincinnati Reds/Los Angeles Dodgers Greg Gumbel (Games 1–2)
Al Michaels
Joe Morgan (Games 1–2)
Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver (Game 3)
1995 American League Championship Series ABC (Games 1–2[163])
NBC (Games 3[164]–6[165])
Cleveland Indians/Seattle Mariners Brent Musburger (Games 1–2)
Bob Costas (Games 3–6)
Jim Kaat (Games 1–2)
Bob Uecker (Games 3–6)
Jack Arute (Games 1–2)
Jim Gray (Games 3–6)
1995 National League Championship Series ABC (Games 1–2[166][167])
NBC (Games 3–4)
Atlanta Braves/Cincinnati Reds Al Michaels (Games 1–2)
Greg Gumbel (Games 3–4)
Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver (Games 1–2)
Joe Morgan (Games 3–4)
Lesley Visser (Games 1–2)
1995 World Series ABC (Games 1,[168] 4[169]–5[170])
NBC (Games 2[171][172]–3 and 6[173])
Atlanta Braves/Cleveland Indians Al Michaels (ABC)
Bob Costas (NBC)
Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver (ABC)
Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker (NBC)
Lesley Visser (ABC)
Jim Gray (NBC)
John Saunders (ABC)
Hannah Storm (NBC)

Notable calls[edit]

1995 American League Division Series:

Oh man, oh man, Tony Peña on 3 and 0! Sends everybody home! Tony Peña spells good night! And this team that won 27 games in its final at-bat, that had 48 come-from-behind wins, that was 13–0 in extra inning games...did all those things...when Tony Peña connected.

Bob Costas, calling the walk-off home run by Tony Peña in Game 1, Cleveland vs. Boston.

(before the pitch) The fans want a dinger out of him...This one by Mattingly, OH HANG ON TO THE ROOF...GOODBYE, HOME RUN! DON MATTINGLY!!!

Gary Thorne after Don Mattingly's first and only playoff home run in his last game at Yankee Stadium.

Oh yeah, tie game, Paul O'Neill, GOODBYE into the night of New York!!!!

Gary Thorne calling Paul O'Neill's game-tying home run off Norm Charlton in Game 2 vs. Mariners.

Line drive, we are tied! Griffey is coming around! In the corner is Bernie! He's going to try and score! Here's the division championship! Mariners win it, Mariners win it!!!

Brent Musburger calling the series winning hit by Edgar Martínez.
1995 National League Division Series:

The Braves a strike away from advancing..a half swing and they'll go to Cincinnati for the National League Championship Series.

Al Michaels, calling the final out, Atlanta vs. Colorado.
1995 American League Championship Series:

The Cleveland Indians, after a 41 year wait, are in the World Series.

—Bob Costas
1995 National League Championship Series:

Wohlers looks...and the strike two pitch to Sanders...a swing and a miss! And the Atlanta Braves have won the 1995 National League pennant! And as you can imagine the celebration begins, down on the natural surface of this ballpark...

1995 World Series:

Back to Georgia!

—Al Michaels calling the final out of Game 5 as the Cleveland Indians took it.

Dave Justice, all is forgiven in Atlanta.

—Bob Costas after Justice's Game 6 home run which would prove the deciding run.

Left-center field...Grissom, on the run...the team of the '90s has its World Championship!

—Bob Costas calling the final out in Game 6.[174]

Ratings[edit]

All-Star Game[edit]

Year Rating Share Households
1994 15.7 28 14,790,000
1995 13.9 25 13,260,000

1995 World Series[edit]

For more details on this topic, see World Series television ratings.
Rating Share
19.5 33

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

Preceded by
CBS
Major League Baseball network broadcast partner
1994 – 1995
Succeeded by
Fox & NBC