Sunday Afternoon Baseball

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Sunday Afternoon Baseball is the de facto branding used for nationally televised live game telecasts of Major League Baseball games on Sunday afternoons during the regular season.


Early versions (1957-1964)[edit]

The first Sunday afternoon broadcasts of its kind occurred in 1957 when, CBS added a Sunday Game of the Week.[1][2][3] Two years later, NBC launched their own Sunday telecasts to go with their Saturday afternoon Game of the Week[4][5][6] broadcasts.

In 1962, CBS dropped the Sunday baseball Game of the Week[7] once the NFL season started, dropping the option clause for affiliates to carry baseball or football in place since 1957.

ABC's Sunday afternoon coverage (1979-1987)[edit]

In 1979, the start of ABC's Monday Night Baseball coverage was moved back to June, due to poor ratings during the May sweeps period. In place of April and May prime time games, ABC began airing Sunday Afternoon Baseball games in September.[8] ABC also had a clause where they could air a game the last day of the regular season if it had playoff implications, such as in 1987 in regards to the Detroit Tigers' American League East pennant chase against the Toronto Blue Jays. However, in 1986, ABC did do a number of early season Sunday afternoon games before they went into Monday Night Baseball. ABC's contract was further modified prior to the 1980 season, with the network airing just five Monday Night Baseball telecasts in June of that year, followed by Sunday Afternoon Baseball in August and September. ABC did Sunday afternoon games late in the season in order to fulfill the number of games in the contract and to not interfere with Monday Night Football.

In 1981, ABC planned to increase coverage to 10 Monday night games and eight Sunday afternoon[9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20] games, but the players' strike that year ended up reducing the network's schedule to three Monday night and seven Sunday afternoon telecasts.

On April 7, 1983, Major League Baseball, ABC, and NBC agreed to terms of a six-year television package worth $1.2 billion. The two networks continued to alternate coverage of the playoffs (ABC in even numbered years and NBC in odd numbered years), World Series (ABC televised the World Series in odd numbered years and NBC in even numbered years), and All-Star Game (ABC televised the All-Star Game in even numbered years[21] and NBC in odd numbered years) through the 1989[22] season, with each of the 26 clubs receiving $7 million per year in return. The last package gave each club $1.9 million per year. ABC contributed $575 million for regular season prime time and Sunday afternoons and NBC paid $550 million for thirty Saturday afternoon games. ABC was contracted to televise 20 prime time regular season games a year in addition to other games (the aforementioned Sunday afternoon games).

During the 1986 season, Don Drysdale did play-by-play ABC's Sunday afternoon games, which aired until July, when Monday Night Baseball began. Al Michaels did the main Sunday game usually with Jim Palmer, while Drysdale and Johnny Bench did the backup contests. No Sunday Afternoon baseball games were telecast nationally in 1988 and 1989.

Sunday afternoon games on CBS (1990-1993)[edit]

CBS initially did not want to start their 1990 coverage[23] until after the network had aired that year's NBA Finals (which was the last time CBS aired the Finals before the NBA's move to NBC[24]). Therefore, only 12 regular season telecasts were scheduled[25] The broadcasts would have been each Saturday from June 16 through August 25 and a special Sunday telecast on the weekend of August 11–12 (the New York Yankees against the Oakland Athletics in Oakland on both days). Ultimately, four more telecasts were added – two in April[26] and two on the last two Saturdays of the season.

TBS's national package (2008-present)[edit]

During the regular season, TBS broadcasts a weekly game nationally on Sunday afternoons,[27] under the title Sunday MLB on TBS. These games are not exclusive to TBS and are blacked out in local markets, to protect the stations that hold the local broadcast rights to the games. In the affected areas, simulcasts of programming from sister network HLN air in place of the games. Under the deal, TBS can show an alternate game in those markets, but the network has elected not to do so thus far.

Despite initial reports that TBS would carry games on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, these holiday games are not part of the contract. For many years, games on these holidays were shown on ESPN, but that network has discontinued them, with the occasional exception of when they fall into the regular Sunday/Monday/Wednesday night slots.

TBS released a partial schedule of its inaugural slate of Sunday games on February 27, 2008. More games would be added as the season progressed, generally two weeks before each telecast date.[28] TBS has the second pick of game after ESPN.

Consequently, due to its non-exclusivity,[29] highlights of a scheduled game that aired on MLB on TBS are not shown on the ESPN baseball highlight show Baseball Tonight, nor are live simulcasts and highlights of the said game on the MLB.TV subscription service; instead local broadcasts of the scheduled game are shown. However, highlights of an MLB on TBS game did air on the MLB on Fox weekly program This Week in Baseball (until it was canceled in 2011), as well as MLB Tonight on the MLB Network.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sunday Baseball TV Plan Proceeds Despite Minors' Pleas". The New York Times. December 17, 1957. p. 61.
  2. ^ "Major League Sunday Game of the Week TV Problems Rages". Hartford Courant. December 22, 1957.
  3. ^ "Minor Prexy Raps CBS for Sunday TV Plans". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. December 26, 1957. p. C5.
  4. ^ "Searchable Network TV Broadcasts - NBC Sports (1950s)".
  5. ^ James R. Walker; Robert V. Bellamy (2008). Center field shot: a history of baseball on television. University of Nebraska Press. p. 104. ISBN 0803248253.
  6. ^ "BASEBALL ON TV TURNS 50 TODAY". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. August 26, 1989.
  7. ^ Brulia, Tim. "A CHRONOLOGY OF PRO FOOTBALL ON TELEVISION: Part 1" (PDF). Pro Football Researchers.
  8. ^ Walker & Bellamy 2008, p. 143
  9. ^ "Saturday 12 noon. ABC, 'Weekend Special.' CBS, 'The New..." UPI. October 3, 1980.
  10. ^ "Major league baseball will once again be televised by..." UPI. March 4, 1981.
  11. ^ The National Pastime: Summer 2015 Issue: North Side, South Side, All Around ... SABR, Inc.
  12. ^ Katz, Jeff. "Split Season 1981, Chicago Style". SABR.
  13. ^ Stewart, Larry (May 29, 1987). "Not Much Fanfare as CBS, Brookshier Go Separate Ways". Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ Walker, Bellamy, James R., Robert V. Center Field Shot: A History of Baseball on Television. U of Nebraska Press. p. 143.
  15. ^ Wenner, Lawrence A. Media, Sports, and Society. SAGE. p. 111.
  16. ^ Chad, Norman (April 14, 1985). "NBC's Adjustments Improve Baseball Coverage". Washington Post.
  17. ^ "ABC Sports and Major-League Baseball have reached agreement on..." UPI. April 7, 1983.
  18. ^ Sandomir, Richard (April 24, 1995). "SPORTS JOURNALISM; 'He Made People Listen, Made People Think'". The New York Times.
  19. ^ Silverman, Matthew. One-Year Dynasty: Inside the Rise and Fall of the 1986 Mets, Baseball's ... Rowman & Littlefield. p. 292.
  20. ^ Berkow, Ira (February 2, 1986). "SPORTS OF THE TIMES; THE TURNSTILES STILL RATTLE". The New York Times.
  21. ^ 1988 MLB All-Star Game - COMPLETE on YouTube
  22. ^ Goodwin, Michael (February 18, 1986). "TV SPORTS; SWANSON, NEW ABC CHIEF, PROVES DEFT". New York Times.
  23. ^ "CBS Baseball Schedule for 1990, more of the same". 22 March 1990.
  24. ^ "NBA Flips Channel, Decides to Play Ball With NBC in 1990". The Los Angeles Times. 9 November 1989.
  25. ^ Craig, Jack (19 March 1989). "STUCK WITH THE SHORT END CBS' BALLPARK FIGURE FOR 1990 IS NOT LIKELY TO INCREASE". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 29 March 2015.
  26. ^ Meyers, Kate (September 28, 1990). "CBS' successful baseball coverage". Entertainment Weekly.
  27. ^ Fang, Ken (October 25, 2016). "DOES THE MLB ON TBS PACKAGE REALLY BENEFIT FANS AND VIEWERS?". Awful Announcing.
  28. ^ Singer, Tom (2008-02-27). "TBS releases 2008 baseball schedule". Retrieved 2008-03-02.
  29. ^ Karp, Austin (9 October 2012). "MLB Regular Season Sees Record-Low Viewership On Fox, TBS; ESPN Worst Since '05". SportsBusiness Daily. Retrieved 9 October 2012.

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