The Baseball Network

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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][2]
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
Release
Original network ABC
NBC
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Original release July 12, 1994 (1994-07-12) – October 28, 1995 (1995-10-28)
Chronology
Preceded by Major League Baseball on CBS (19901993)
Followed by Fox Major League Baseball (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.[3] Under the arrangement, beginning in the 1994 season, the league produced its own in-house telecasts of games,[4] 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".[5] The Baseball Network was the first television network in the United States to be owned by a professional sports league.[6]

The package[7] included coverage of games in primetime on selected nights throughout the regular season (under the branding Baseball Night in America[8]), along with coverage of the postseason and the World Series.[9] Unlike previous broadcasting arrangements with the league, there was no national "game of the week"[10] during the regular season;[11] these would be replaced by multiple weekly regional[12] 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,[13] and poor reception from fans and critics over how the coverage[14][15][16][17][18][19] 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[20] 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[21] 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[22]), 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.[23] Before Major League Baseball decided to seek the services of other networks, CBS offered US$120 million in annual rights fees over a two-year period,[24][25][26] as well as advertising revenues in excess of $150 million a season.

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 also 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) would increase[27] the national broadcast revenue for Major League Baseball in the foreseeable future.

After a four-year hiatus, ABC and NBC[28] (who last aired Thursday Night Baseball games and the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week[29] respectively) returned to Major League Baseball under the umbrella of a revenue sharing venture called The Baseball Network.[30][31][32] Under a six-year plan, Major League Baseball was intended to receive 85% of the first US$140 million in advertising[33] revenue (or 87.5%[34] of advertising revenues[35] and corporate sponsorship[36] 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[37] 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 (who each contributed $10 million in start-up funds[38]) 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[39] 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:

Coverage[edit]

The Baseball Network kicked off its coverage on July 12, 1994 on NBC with the All-Star Game from Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.[48] The NBC broadcast team consisted of Bob Costas[49] on play-by-play, with Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker as analysts. Costas, a veteran presence at NBC, had been the network's secondary baseball play-by-play announcer behind Vin Scully during the 1980s. Morgan, who was also working for ESPN at the time, had spent two years at NBC in the mid-1980s. Uecker, the longtime voice of the Milwaukee Brewers, returned to national television for the first time since he worked for ABC in the 1970s.

Greg Gumbel hosted the pre game show; this was one of his first assignments for NBC after having left CBS Sports following the 1994 College World Series.[50] 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.[51]

Baseball Night in America[edit]

After the All-Star Game was complete,[52] ABC took over coverage with what was to be their weekly slate of games.[53] Unlike NBC, ABC kept its former primary baseball team intact; Al Michaels served as the play-by-play announcer with Tim McCarver and Jim Palmer as analysts. Michaels had not called a game since the deciding fourth game of the 1989 World Series, while Palmer put his broadcasting career on hold to try to make a comeback in 1991. McCarver, meanwhile, had moved to CBS after ABC gave up their initial rights to broadcast baseball games.[54]) was scheduled to televise six regular season games on Saturdays[55] or Mondays[56] 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[57][58] would then pick up where ABC left off by televising six more regular season Friday night[59][60] 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[61] broadcaster was allowed[62] to telecast a Major League Baseball game on those dates. Baseball Night in America[63] (which premiered[64] on July 16, 1994) usually aired up to fourteen games[65] based on the viewers' region (affiliates chose games of local interest to carry) as opposed to a traditional coast-to-coast format.[66] 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[67]). 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 games 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.[68]

1994 schedule[edit]

All of these games aired on ABC; due to the strike[69][70] NBC was unable[71] to air its slate of games, which were supposed to begin on August 26.[72][73]

Date Teams Play-by-play Color commentators
July 16[74][75][76] Baltimore at California[77][78] 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[79] Al Michaels Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
Toronto at Texas Steve Busby Buck Martinez
San Francisco at Montreal[80] Claude Raymond Camille Dube
San Diego at New York Mets Gary Thorne Bob Murphy
Los Angeles at Philadelphia Chris Wheeler Jim Kaat
Houston[81] at Pittsburgh Lanny Frattare Larry Dierker
Florida at Atlanta[82][83] Pete Van Wieren[84] Steve Zabriskie
Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati[85] 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[86] at California Al Michaels Jim Palmer[87] and Tim McCarver
Detroit at Chicago White Sox Ken Harrelson[88] Lary Sorensen
New York Yankees at Oakland[89] 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[90] Pete Van Wieren Steve Blass
Florida at Cincinnati Paul Kennedy Johnny Bench
Chicago Cubs at Colorado Steve Physioc Dave Campbell
St. Louis at Houston[91] Joe Buck Larry Dierker
July 25[92] Chicago White Sox[93] at Kansas City Ken Harrelson Steve Palermo[94]
Minnesota at Texas Steve Busby George Frazier
Philadelphia at Florida Chris Wheeler[95] Mike Schmidt
Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh[96] 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[97]
Los Angeles[98] at San Francisco Al Michaels Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
August 6 Cleveland at Boston Tom Hamilton Bob Montgomery
Baltimore at Milwaukee Steve Zabriskie[99] 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[95] and Tim McCarver
Texas at Oakland[100] Dick Stockton Steve Busby
San Diego at Chicago Cubs[101] 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[102] 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[103][104] Minnesota at New York Yankees Al Michaels[105] Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
Kansas City at Baltimore Gary Thorne Paul Splittorff
California at Detroit
Oakland at Cleveland
Milwaukee at Chicago White Sox Ken Harrelson John Wathan
Texas at Boston Brent Musburger Joe Torre
Toronto at Seattle Chip Caray Buck Martinez
Florida at Los Angeles Joel Meyers Tommy Hutton
Cincinnati at Chicago Cubs Johnny Bench Keith Hernandez
Houston at San Francisco Ted Robinson Larry Dierker
Colorado at New York Mets Bob Murphy Dave Campbell
Philadelphia at Montreal Chris Wheeler Ken Singleton
St. Louis at Pittsburgh Dewayne Staats Steve Blass
Atlanta at San Diego Pete Van Wieren Joe Garagiola
July 17 Chicago White Sox at New York Yankees Al Michaels Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
Kansas City at Boston Brent Musburger Jim Kaat
California at Cleveland Tom Hamilton Rick Cerone
Toronto at Minnesota Jim Hunter Buck Martinez
Oakland at Milwaukee Johnny Bench Joe Torre
Baltimore at Texas Steve Busby Tommy Hutton
Detroit at Seattle Steve Physioc Ron Fairly
St. Louis at Montreal Dave Van Horne Billy Sample
New York Mets at Chicago Cubs Gary Thorne Keith Hernandez
Houston at Los Angeles Joel Meyers Larry Dierker
Philadelphia at Colorado Chris Wheeler Dave Campbell
Florida at San Francisco Ted Robinson Duane Kuiper
Cincinnati at San Diego George Grande Joe Garagiola
July 24 Cleveland at California Al Michaels Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
Minnesota at Boston Bob Kurtz George Frazier
New York Yankees at Texas[106] Steve Busby Bobby Murcer and Suzyn Waldman
Milwaukee at Seattle Steve Physioc Ron Fairly
Atlanta at Pittsburgh Pete Van Wieren Steve Blass
Colorado at Philadelphia Chris Wheeler Dave Campbell
New York Mets at Chicago Cubs Gary Thorne Tommy Hutton
Los Angeles at Houston Joel Meyers Larry Dierker
San Francisco at Florida Paul Kennedy Duane Kuiper
San Diego at Cincinnati Bob Carpenter Billy Sample
August 5 Boston at Toronto Dewayne Staats Buck Martinez
Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Ken Harrelson Joe Torre
Kansas City at Minnesota Dave Armstrong John Wathan
Milwaukee at Baltimore Gary Thorne George Frazier
New York Yankees at Detroit Bobby Murcer Lary Sorensen
Seattle at Oakland
Texas at California Ken Wilson Steve Busby
Atlanta at Montreal Pete Van Wieren Ken Singleton
Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Steve Zabriskie Rick Cerone
Florida at New York Mets Bob Murphy Keith Hernandez
Houston at Pittsburgh Lanny Frattare Larry Dierker
Los Angeles at San Francisco Al Michaels Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
Philadelphia at Cincinnati George Grande Chris Wheeler
San Diego at Colorado Steve Physioc Dave Campbell
August 12 Baltimore at Boston Dewayne Staats Bob Montgomery
California at Minnesota Ken Wilson George Frazier
Cleveland at New York Yankees Al Michaels Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
Detroit at Milwaukee Kent Derdivanis Lary Sorensen
Baltimore at Chicago White Sox Ken Harrelson John Wathan
Seattle at Kansas City Dave Niehaus Paul Splittorff
Toronto at Texas Steve Busby Buck Martinez
Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Steve Physioc Duane Kuiper
Cincinnati at Florida Paul Kennedy George Grande
Colorado at Atlanta Pete Van Wieren Dave Campbell
Montreal at Philadelphia Chris Wheeler Mike Schmidt
New York Mets at Houston Bob Murphy Larry Dierker
Pittsburgh at Los Angeles Ted Robinson Steve Blass
St. Louis at San Diego Steve Zabriskie Jerry Reuss
August 19 Baltimore at Oakland Dick Stockton Jerry Reuss
Boston at Seattle Dave Niehaus Bob Montgomery
Kansas City at Toronto Dave Armstrong Buck Martinez
Detroit at Cleveland Tom Hamilton Rick Cerone
Baltimore at Detroit Bob Carpenter Lary Sorensen
New York Yankees at California Ken Wilson Bobby Murcer
Texas at Chicago White Sox Ken Harrelson Steve Busby
Atlanta at St. Louis Pete Van Wieren George Frazier
Chicago Cubs at Colorado Al Michaels Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
Florida at Pittsburgh Paul Kennedy Steve Blass
Houston at Cincinnati George Grande Larry Dierker
Los Angeles at New York Mets Brent Musburger Jim Kaat
San Diego at Montreal Dave Van Horne Ken Singleton
San Francisco at Philadelphia Chris Wheeler Duane Kuiper
NBC scheduled games[edit]
Date Teams Play-by-play Color commentators
August 25 Baltimore at California Ken Wilson John Wathan
Boston at Oakland Joel Meyers Bob Montgomery
Chicago White Sox at Toronto Ken Harrelson Buck Martinez
Detroit at Cleveland Bob Costas Bob Uecker
Minnesota at Milwaukee Jim Hunter George Frazier
New York Yankees at Seattle Dave Niehaus Suzyn Waldman
Texas at Kansas City Steve Busby Paul Splittorff
Atlanta at Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh George Grande Steve Blass
Houston at Florida Paul Kennedy Larry Dierker
Los Angeles at Philadelphia Greg Gumbel[107] Joe Morgan
San Diego at New York Mets Bob Murphy Rick Cerone
San Francisco at Montreal Duane Kuiper Ken Singleton
St. Louis at Colorado Steve Zabriskie Dave Campbell
September 1 California at Boston Bob Costas Bob Uecker
Cleveland at Detroit Tom Hamilton Lary Sorensen
Kansas City at Texas Dave Armstrong John Wathan
Milwaukee at Minnesota Steve Physioc George Frazier
Oakland at New York Yankees Jim Hunter Keith Hernandez and Suzyn Waldman
Seattle at Baltimore Jon Miller Billy Sample
Toronto at Chicago White Sox
Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Greg Gumbel Joe Morgan
Colorado at St. Louis Joe Buck Dave Campbell
Florida at Houston Paul Kennedy Larry Dierker
Montreal at Los Angeles Dave Van Horne Jerry Reuss
New York Mets at San Francisco Bob Murphy Duane Kuiper
Philadelphia at San Diego Joe Garagiola Chris Wheeler
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati Lanny Frattare Johnny Bench
September 8 Baltimore at Cleveland[108] Tom Hamilton[109] Rick Cerone
Boston at New York Yankees Bob Costas Bob Uecker
Chicago White Sox at Oakland Ken Harrelson Jerry Reuss
Detroit at Toronto Gary Thorne Lary Sorensen
Kansas City at Seattle Ron Fairly Paul Splittorff
Minnesota at California Ken Wilson John Wathan
Texas at Milwaukee Steve Busby Billy Sample
Atlanta at Florida Pete Van Wieren Mike Schmidt
Cincinnati at Colorado Greg Gumbel Joe Morgan
Houston at Philadelphia Chris Wheeler Larry Dierker
Los Angeles at Pittsburgh Lanny Frattare George Frazier
New York Mets at Montreal
San Diego at St. Louis Dewayne Staats Buck Martinez
San Francisco at Chicago Cubs
September 15 Boston at Cleveland Tom Hamilton Bob Montgomery
Kansas City at California Bob Costas Bob Uecker
Milwaukee at Toronto Steve Zabriskie Buck Martinez
Minnesota at Oakland Jim Hunter Paul Splittorff
New York Yankees at Baltimore Jon Miller Bobby Murcer
Seattle at Chicago White Sox Ken Harrelson Ron Fairly
Texas at Detroit Steve Busby Lary Sorensen
Atlanta at Cincinnati Greg Gumbel Joe Morgan
Chicago Cubs at San Diego Steve Physioc Jerry Reuss
Florida at Colorado Paul Kennedy Dave Campbell
Houston at Montreal Dave Van Horne Larry Dierker
Los Angeles at St. Louis Joel Meyers John Wathan
Philadelphia at New York Mets Gary Thorne Chris Wheeler
San Francisco at Pittsburgh Ted Robinson Steve Blass
September 22[110] Baltimore at Milwaukee Jim Hunter Rick Cerone
California at Texas Bob Costas Bob Uecker
Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Ken Harrelson George Frazier
Cleveland at Kansas City Tom Hamilton John Wathan
Detroit at New York Yankees Bobby Murcer Lary Sorensen
Oakland at Seattle Dave Niehaus Buck Martinez
Toronto at Boston Gary Thorne Bob Montgomery
Colorado at San Francisco Ted Robinson[111] Dave Campbell
Cincinnati at Philadelphia Chris Wheeler Billy Sample
Montreal at Atlanta Pete Van Wieren Ken Singleton
New York Mets at Florida Bob Murphy Mike Schmidt
Pittsburgh at Chicago Cubs
San Diego at Los Angeles Greg Gumbel Joe Morgan
St. Louis at Houston Steve Zabriskie Larry Dierker
September 29 Boston at Milwaukee Bob Kurtz Jerry Reuss
Detroit at Baltimore Gary Thorne Lary Sorensen
Kansas City at Cleveland Tom Hamilton Paul Splittorff
Minnesotaat Chicago White Sox
New York Yankees at Toronto Jim Hunter Buck Martinez
Oakland at California Ken Wilson George Frazier
Seattle at Texas Bob Costas Bob Uecker
Atlanta at New York Mets Pete Van Wieren Rick Cerone
Cincinnati at Montreal George Grande Ken Singleton
Houston at Chicago Cubs
Los Angeles at San Diego Greg Gumbel Joe Morgan
Philadelphia at Florida
Pittsburgh at St. Louis
San Francisco at Colorado Ted Robinson Dave Campbell

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[112] and newly created Division Series.[113][114] 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.[115] 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[116][117] by calling "heads." Ken Schanzer,[118] 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.[119][120][121] 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[122] in primetime, and affiliates could only air one game each night, which were again determined regionally.[123][124] If one playoff series had already concluded, the remaining games would be aired nationally.[125][126] 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.[127]

Besides the 1994 All-Star Game and Game 6 of the 1995 World Series,[128] 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,[129] broadcast on ABC.[130] 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[131] 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[132] (Mets[133] and Yankees), the Greater Los Angeles Area (Dodgers and Angels), Chicago[134] (Cubs and White Sox), the San Francisco Bay Area (Giants and A's), and even Texas[135] (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[136] or Anaheim[137] 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[138]). 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,[139] 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."[140]

Shortly after the start of the strike, Stanford University's Roger Noll[141] 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[142] wrote in his book Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball[143] 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[144] from watching many of the playoff games that they wanted to see, as all playoff games had been broadcast nationally[145] 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?"[146] (in response to TBN's tagline, "Welcome to the Show"[147]).

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.[148][149] In addition to the cancellation of that year's World Series,[150] ABC was denied its remaining Baseball Night in America telecasts and NBC was shut out of its game broadcast slate (which in 1994, was scheduled to begin on August 26[151]) altogether. Both networks elected to dissolve the partnership with Major League Baseball on June 22, 1995.[152][153][154][155] Both networks figured that as the delayed 1995 baseball season opened without a labor agreement,[156] there was no guarantee against another strike. It should also be noted[157] that under the terms of the agreement, it could be voided by any party if the venture did not produce a minimum of $330 million in revenue over the first two years.

The Baseball Network's contract stipulated that negotiations could only take place with NBC and ABC[158] 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.[159] 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.[160][161] It was rumored that CBS would show Thursday night games[162] (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.[163]

To salvage the remains of the partnership, ABC and NBC elected to share coverage of the 1995 postseason[164] including the World Series.[165] ABC[166] wound up broadcasting Games 1, 4, and 5 of 1995 World Series[112] while NBC would broadcast Games 2,[167] 3,[168] and 6[169] (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[170] 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,[171][172] and Fox[173] signed on to be the exclusive network carrier of Major League Baseball regular season games in 1996.[174] 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[175] and 1999 World Series respectively (Fox had exclusive rights to the 1996, 1998 and 2000 World Series). Beginning in 2001, Fox would become the exclusive broadcast network for the World Series, although it still alternates LCS series with ESPN each year (so that any LCS that is not televised by Fox in a given year is then broadcast on ESPN, and vice versa).

Fox's end of the new contract[176] (which the network paid US$575 million for the initial five-year contract) restored the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week broadcasts[177] 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.[178][179]

With ABC[180] 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.[181] 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.

As far as the primary announce teams for The Baseball Network were concerned, they mostly went their separate ways. Al Michaels remained at ABC until 2006 (his final assignment for ABC Sports was Super Bowl XL), when he moved to NBC to become the voice of their Sunday night NFL coverage. Tim McCarver joined Fox as its primary analyst alongside Joe Buck and stayed there until his retirement from national TV broadcasts in 2013. Jim Palmer, meanwhile, would rejoin the Orioles as their television analyst, where he still remains.

NBC's primary crew remained in place for two more years. Bob Uecker would leave following the 1997 World Series, but Bob Costas and Joe Morgan would continue calling games until NBC's contract expired following the 2000 season. The network's final game to date was Game 6 of the 2000 American League Championship Series. Costas has since become the lead broadcaster for MLB Network, while Morgan kept working for ESPN until the end of the 2010 season.

Announcers[edit]

As previously mentioned announcers who represented each of the teams playing in the respective games were typically paired with each other during games[182] 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,[183][184][185][186] 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[187][188] 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[189] 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[190] 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.[191]

Event Network Teams Play-by-play Color commentators Field reporters Pregame host
1994 Major League Baseball All-Star Game NBC[192][193] Pittsburgh Pirates (host) Bob Costas[194] Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker Hannah Storm and Johnny Bench Greg Gumbel[195]
1995 Major League Baseball All-Star Game ABC[196][197] Texas Rangers[198] (host) Al Michaels[199] Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver Lesley Visser and Rick Dempsey John Saunders[200]
1995 American League Division Series NBC (Games 1-2[201])
ABC (Games 3[202]-5[203])
Seattle Mariners/New York Yankees Gary Thorne (Games 1-2[204])
Brent Musburger (Games 3-5)
Tommy Hutton (Games 1-2)
Jim Kaat (Games 3-5)
NBC (Games 1-[205] 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[206]–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[205]-2[207])
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[208])
NBC (Games 3[209]–6[210][211])
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[212][213])
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,[214] 4[215]–5[216])
NBC (Games 2[217][218]–3 and 6[219])
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...

— NBC's Greg Gumbel.
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.[220]

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]

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
19941995
Succeeded by
Fox & NBC