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|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||26|
|Running time||20, 30, 40, 60, or 90 minutes|
|Distributor||Hearst Broadcasting (1990–1997)
Hearst Television (1997–)
Capital Cities/ABC (1990–1996)
Buena Vista Television (1996–2007)
Disney–ABC Domestic Television (2007–)
|Original network||ESPN, ESPN2 (1990–)|
|Original release||March 19, 1990 – present|
|Related shows||Sunday Night Baseball
Monday Night Baseball
Wednesday Night Baseball
Baseball Tonight appears nightly on ESPN throughout the baseball season at 10:00 p.m. ET and 12:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2. The 10 PM show airs on ESPN2 in the event of a conflict. Following the cancellation of The Trifecta in late 2006, the 12:00 a.m. run of Baseball Tonight was expanded to a full 40 minutes. The show has permission from Major League Baseball to show in-progress highlights. The show is also seen at 12:30 p.m. ET and 7:00 p.m. ET on Sundays, the latter show leading up to the Sunday Night Baseball telecast. The late-night edition on Sundays is usually just a re-air of the 7:00 show, with a SportsCenter anchor providing highlights of the Sunday night game in place of a game preview segment that airs during the live broadcast. The midnight edition usually re-aired at 12:00 p.m. ET the following day (excluding Saturday, when the show is usually 40 minutes to a full hour). That practice ended Monday August 11, 2008, when SportsCenter went to live editions in the mornings.
Live, on-location episodes
The show also appears live at events throughout the year, such as spring training, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game and the World Series sites, at ESPN the Weekend, and occasionally has remote stunts, i.e. a show from the rooftop at Fenway Park and a show from one of the Wrigley Rooftops at Wrigley Field in 2005. It aired live from the field at Fenway Park on April 26, 2009 before the Sunday Night Baseball game between the Yankees–Red Sox game, which featured an interview with Dustin Pedroia. On June 28, 2009, it aired from Citi Field in anticipation of that night's Subway Series game between the Mets and the Yankees.
The ESPN Baseball Tonight Theme music was written by Jon Cobert for Roger Tallman Associates in 1990. Cobert and Tallman are listed as writers on the Copyright form. The theme has been arranged and re-arranged many times over the years, but the original melody still remains the same.
On January 3, 2000, the segment "Web Gems" was coined and created by then-producer Judson Burch. The segment originally featured great defensive plays followed by viewer internet voting on the "web." The phrase "web gem" is now common vernacular in baseball broadcasts and circles to describe outstanding glove-work.
In 2002, the home run segment "Going, Going, Gone", complete with the immensely popular "screaming baseball" animation was replaced with a tamer segment "Touch 'Em All" sans screaming baseball.
Beginning with the 2005 season, Baseball Tonight has been broadcast in high-definition on ESPNHD from the opposite side of the studio used for Sunday NFL Countdown, NBA Shows and College Football Scoreboard shows, albeit with a baseball demonstration field laid on top of the NFL floor. Airing begins in March during spring training and ends after the World Series in October.
In 2006, Baseball Tonight introduced new graphics. The opening sequence features players on baseball cards moving and a ball going from one to another via a throw or off a bat. A much longer variation of this is also used to open ESPN's live game broadcasts. The theme music also was updated from the normal orchestral treatment to a livelier rock vamp.
In 2007, a new segment entitled "That's Nasty!" was introduced. The new segment featured top pitching performances of the day, including the best individual pitches. These clips often include extremely high velocity fastballs, 12–6 curveballs, or changeups that completely fool the opposing batters. Prior to the 2007 All-Star Game, a modified version of the opening sequence was used which featured various San Francisco landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge.
In 2009, the "screamin' baseball" graphic returned in the "Touch 'Em All" segment.
In 2012, the new Baseball Tonight logo was introduced and the theme music was re-mixed. Steve Berthaiume, who was one of the program's hosts, left ESPN after that season.
In 2013, Adnan Virk replaced Berthiaume as one of the program's hosts, joining Karl Ravech.
In 2015, the roll-out of a new SportsCenter-inspired graphics package, which started the previous year, continued with Baseball Tonight.
Baseball Tonight is split into a number of segments, each of which focuses on a particular aspect of baseball. These segments include:
- 3 up, 3 down: 3 players/teams each that are either on the uprise or downside of their seasons or careers (in the case of players).
- Analysis: a more in-depth look at baseball topics, players, and upcoming games.
- Best Seat in the House: Airs during live editions of Baseball Tonight before Sunday Night Baseball, John Kruk takes a tour on a ballpark and seeks for what he thinks is the best seat in the ballpark.
- Chatter Up: This segment is new for the 2007 season, in which fans get to submit their thoughts on certain subjects via ESPN.com and then they are shown at the bottom of the screen and discussed on the show.
- Cutting The Wedge: an in-depth analysis of a play or situation by former manager and studio analyst Eric Wedge
- Diamond Cuts: Airs on the Sunday edition, a montage of the week's best plays set to music.
- Extra Bases: a more in-depth look at a particular game after the highlights have aired.
- Going, Going, Gone: the day's longest home runs. (Usually one of the last segments of the day.)
- Highlights: the most important happenings from the days' Major League Baseball, occasionally also featuring other baseball competitions such as the World Baseball Classic, the College World Series, Minor League Baseball, or the Little League World Series. Virtually every MLB game is shown at least once, more if there are in-progress highlights to report on.
- Inside Pitch: This segment usually features Buster Olney, or another reporter, giving his insight on the latest news and rumors from around baseball.
- Leading Off: usually the first segment of the show, giving the day's most significant baseball news, for example, trades, injury updates and hirings and firings of managers.
- The Week with Tim "Quirkjian": Tim Kurkjian gives unusual stats from the world of baseball. The segment is a play on the analyst's name.
- Most Important Thing: Analysts' comments on the most important story from the day's happenings in MLB. This is usually the final segment of the show.
- On The Phone: a live phone interview with an MLB player, coach, or general manager, usually regarding the most recent game played and outlooks on the future of the team.
- Out of the Box: This segment is similar to Leading Off, where they preview what is coming up on the show.
- Ridiculous Plays of the Week: Usually aired on Fridays, it recaps the five most hilarious plays (and moments) from the past week.
- Stat of the Night: an interesting baseball statistic from the day's happenings in MLB.
- That's Nasty: New in 2007, a segment showing the best pitches, usually with the most movement, of the night.
- Touch 'Em All: significant home runs of the day, replaced "Going, Going, Gone!"
- Smash of the Night: The most significant home run of the day. Usually the longest or biggest scorer like a "Grand Slam."
- Sport Science: Hosted by John Brenkus, this five-minute segment examines a key play through scientific analysis.
- Web Gems: the day's five best defensive plays. On Sundays, the best defensive plays of the entire week air. Points are given to each player and at the end of the season the player with the most points wins a trophy.
- Greatest Home Runs: begun as a temporary segment in honor of Barry Bonds' ascension to the all-time MLB home run champion. Featured the greatest five home runs in the history of a different franchise every day for the duration of the segment; on August 26 (the final day of the segment), the Top 10 Home Runs of All-Time were featured.
One featured running gag on the show is the spoof segment "Name That Molina", where one of the personalities has to guess which of the three Molina catcher brothers – Bengie, Jose, or Yadier – is being shown. "Name that LaRoche" is another spoof segment featuring the two brothers who play for the Toronto Blue Jays Andy and the Washington Nationals Adam. Another running gag is the Umpire Fantasy League in which "owners" of umpires in this fictitious league are rewarded for their umpires ejecting players or coaches. It is unclear whether this is reference to the real-life Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. Also another gag in session is when an analyst on the show uses the "Stump the host" slogan. This is when the analyst has information on a certain players milestone that has just happened on the telecast. An example is when a player hits a home run, double, steals a base, or strikes someone out and the analyst will say "Stump the Host; Career hr/strikeout/2-B/SB/etc. number __? The host very seldom knows the answer but will take a reasonable, and sometimes ludicrous, guess at what the answer might be. This gag is very seldom used but sometimes is quite comical for the fact that the host has no idea what the answer may be.
ESPN is generally prohibited by Major League Baseball from showing live look-ins of in-progress games, and limited to showing in-progress highlights after they happen. However, an exception is made when there is an extraordinary event taking place, such as a no-hitter or perfect game, and ESPN is allowed to show live look-ins during Baseball Tonight.
Some have criticized the program because of a perceived bias in favor of certain teams. The most vocal comment was expressed by Heath Bell:
|“||I truly believe ESPN only cares about promoting the Red Sox and Yankees and Mets – and nobody else. That's why I like the MLB Network, because they promote everybody. I'm really turned off by ESPN and 'Baseball Tonight.' When Jake Peavy threw 8 1⁄3 innings on Saturday, they showed one pitch in the third inning and that was it. It's all about the Red Sox, Yankees, and Mets.||”|
In late 2012, mobile game company SkyZone Entertainment and TheAppsGames released ESPN Going Going Gone, an arcade style home run derby game for both Android and iOS. The game features an intro and voice over by ESPN's Dan Shulman and ESPN trademark.
- MLB Tonight
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- Hiestand, Michael (April 26, 2009). "NFL Network, ESPN have no limit on weekend draft coverage". USA Today.
- Krasovic, Tom (April 13, 2009). "Black tinkers with pitching rotation". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
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