Thursday Night Baseball
|Thursday Night Baseball|
|Also known as||The USA Thursday Game of the Week|
ABC's Thursday Night Baseball
ESPN Thursday Night Baseball
MLB Network Showcase
Fox Thursday Night Baseball
|Developed by||USA Sports|
|Theme music composer||NJJ Music |
|Opening theme||"NFL on Fox theme music" (2019)|
"MLB on Fox theme music" (2020–present)
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||180 minutes (or until game ends)|
|Original network||USA Network|
Fox Sports Net
|Original release||April 26, 1979 (USA Network)
June 8, 1989(ABC)
1997(Fox Sports Net)
April 9, 2009September 12, 2019 (MLB Network) (Fox)
|Related shows||USA Thursday Game of the Week|
Major League Baseball on ABC
Major League Baseball on Fox
ESPN Major League Baseball
MLB Network Showcase
The USA Thursday Game of the Week (1979–1983)
The series began April 26, 1979 with a doubleheader: Cleveland at Kansas City (Jim Woods/Bud Harrelson) followed by Baltimore at California (Monte Moore/Maury Wills). The second game of the night was typically, based out of the West Coast. The games were usually blacked out of the competing teams' cities. Once in a while, when USA did a repeat of the telecast late at night, local cities were allowed to show the rerun.
From 1980 to 1981, Woods and Nelson Briles (replacing Harrelson) did the early games (except for a game at Montreal on October 2, 1980, which reunited Woods with onetime Boston Red Sox radio partner Ned Martin), while Moore and Wes Parker (replacing Wills) called the late game.
In 1982, doubleheaders did not start until June 17. Prior to the doubleheaders starting, Moore and Parker did the individual game until then. When the doubleheaders finally began, Moore and Parker moved over to the late game for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, Eddie Doucette (replacing Jim Woods) and Nelson Briles were assigned to call the early game.
USA continued with the plan of not starting doubleheaders until June in the final year of the package in 1983. Steve Zabriskie and Al Albert filled in for Eddie Doucette in September 1982 (Steve Grad also occasionally substituted) while Albert replaced Doucette for a game or more in 1983.
ABC's Thursday Night Baseball (1989)
In 1989, the ABC network aired Thursday night Major League Baseball games after having broadcast Monday Night Baseball (and occasional Sunday afternoon games) since 1976. This was ABC's final year of consecutive baseball coverage (teaming with NBC, which had telecast Saturday afternoon games since 1966 and Major League Baseball in general since 1947) due to CBS signing a four-year contract (spanning from 1990 to 1993) to become the exclusive national broadcast network provider for Major League Baseball games.
Al Michaels, Jim Palmer, and Tim McCarver formed ABC's lead broadcast team. Meanwhile, Gary Thorne was the backup play-by-play man alongside Joe Morgan (who had worked with Gary Bender the previous season) on color commentary.
Rumors of Thursday night games on CBS
In 1990, CBS replaced ABC and NBC as the broadcast network television home of Major League Baseball. But before the previous television contract (which ran from 1984 to 1989) with Major League Baseball was signed, CBS was at one point, interested in a pact which would have called for three interleague games airing only on Thursday nights during the season. The proposed deal with CBS involved respectively American League East teams playing the National League East, and the American League West playing the National League West.
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 arose about CBS resuming its role as the league's national over-the-air broadcaster. It was rumored that CBS would show Thursday night games (more specifically, a package of West Coast inter-league games scheduled for the 11:30 p.m. 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 television agreement with NBC and Fox beginning in 1996 earned each team about $6.8 million.
Fox Sports Net coverage (1997–2001)
In 1997, as part of the contract with Major League Baseball it had signed the year before, Fox gained an additional outlet for its coverage. Its recently launched cable sports network, Fox Sports Net, was given rights to two Thursday night games per week, one for the Eastern and Central time zones and one for the Mountain and Pacific time zones.
In 2000, as part of an exclusive contract Fox signed with MLB, that coverage passed to Fox Family Channel and was reduced to one game per week. After the 2000 season, Fox also gained rights to the entire postseason and moved a large portion of its Division Series coverage to Fox Family. This lasted for one season due to The Walt Disney Company making a bid for Fox Family. As part of the negotiations Fox Family was renamed ABC Family and ESPN gained the rights to Fox Family and FX's MLB coverage, although the 2002 Division Series aired on ABC Family due to contractual issues, but with ESPN production, a sign of things to come at ABC Sports. Control of the overall contract remained with Fox, meaning they could renegotiate following the 2006 season and not allow ESPN to retain its postseason coverage. For the 2007 season, Fox did exactly that, and TBS is now the cable home of the postseason as part of its new baseball contract.
Play-by-play announcers for the FSN/Fox Family coverage included Kenny Albert, Thom Brennaman, Chip Caray, Josh Lewin, and Steve Physioc. Color analysts included Bob Brenly, Kevin Kennedy, Steve Lyons, and Jeff Torborg. Occasionally FSN would simulcast a local-team feed of a game from one of its affiliated regional sports networks in lieu of a dedicated national production.
ESPN Thursday Night Baseball (Consistently: 2003–2006) (Select Games: 1996, 2002, 2011-2012, 2015, 2017-Present)
Because ESPN has the rights to select baseball games played on July 4th in 1996 and again in 2002, ESPN aired baseball on Thursday nights during those years.
ESPN Thursday Night Baseball aired on either ESPN or ESPN2 from 2003 to 2006 and featured one game per week. It aired every Thursday at either 1 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. ET, 7:30 p.m. ET or 8:00 ET. Castrol served as the presenting sponsor for the telecasts.
ESPN Thursday Night Baseball was officially discontinued after the 2006 season because the broadcast rights to the package were lost to TBS. TBS shows the games on Sunday afternoons that ESPN previously aired on Thursday nights. Thursday Night Baseball was replaced with MLS Primetime Thursday.
Even though Thursday Night Football was officially discontinued after the 2006 season ESPN has still aired select games on Thursday Nights. This occurred in 2011, 2012, 2015, and every year since 2017. i
|April 1, 2021, 10:00PM||Astros||Athletics|
|July 1, 2021, 9:30PM||Giants||Diamondbacks|
|July 8, 2021, 8:00PM||Phillies||Cubs|
|Aug 5, 2021, 8:00PM||Braves||Cardinals|
MLB Network Showcase (2009-present)
On April 9, 2009, MLB Network aired its first ever self-produced live baseball telecast. The network typically produces 26 non-exclusive live games a year during the regular season; since one or both teams' local TV rights holders also carry the games, the MLB Network feed is subject to local blackouts. In that event, the cities in the blacked-out markets will instead see a simulcast of another scheduled game via one team's local TV rights holder.
Fox Sports Thursday Night Baseball (2014–present)
For the 2019 season, Fox Sports announced that they would air two games on Thursday nights in September. Four Thursday night games were aired on Fox in a regionalized form, with the Atlanta Braves vs the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers vs the Baltimore Orioles airing September 12 at 7:15. The following week, the St. Louis Cardinals vs the Chicago Cubs and the Detroit Tigers vs the Cleveland Indians were aired. The primary games were called by Joe Davis, John Smoltz, and Ken Rosenthal, while the secondary games were called by Kenny Albert, A.J. Pierzynski, and Jon Morosi in 2019.
With the 2020 season being abbreviated to just 60 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fox announced that they would broadcast at least four games on Thursday nights beginning on July 30 and continuing through the month of August. Fox aired three weekends of Thursday night games in 2020, with July 30 and August 6 being regionalized, while August 13 was a national broadcast for the whole country. Fox was supposed to air another week of regional games on August 27, but they were postponed in the wake of player protest after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
While not weekly FS1 has aired baseball on Thursday nights occasionally since 2014. 1 game was aired on Thursdays in 2014 and 2015, 2 games in 2016, 1 game in 2017 and 2018, and 3 games were aired in 2020. FS1 usually airs baseball games on Fridays and Saturdays.
|2014||May 15, 2014||Padres||Reds||FS1|
|2015||June 18, 2015||Brewers||Royals|
|2016||April 7, 2016||Rangers||Angels|
|April 21, 2016||Tigers||Royals|
|2017||May 18, 2017||Yankees||Royals|
|2018||May 10, 2018||Twins||Angels|
|June 14, 2018||Rays||Yankees|
|2019||September 12, 2019*||Braves||Phillies||Fox|
|September 19, 2019*||Cardinals||Cubs|
|2020||July 30, 2020*||Red Sox||Mets|
|August 6, 2020*||Cubs||Royals||Fox|
|August 13, 2020||Brewers||Cubs|
|August 20, 2020||Brewers||Twins||FS1|
|September 24, 2020||Tigers||Royals|
|2021||August 12, 2021||Yankees||White Sox||Fox|
*Fox games distributed regionally
Since 2019, YouTube has aired a select amount of Major League Baseball games. These games are produced by MLB Network but are available exclusively through the MLB YouTube channel. While not consistently on Thursdays, games in 2019 and 2021 on YouTube aired on Thursdays. 
- "SEARCHABLE NETWORK TV BROADCASTS". sabrmedia.org. Archived from the original on 2019-04-18.
- Apr 26, 1979, Indians at Royals Play by Play and Box Score
- Apr 26, 1979, Orioles at Angels Play by Play and Box Score
- on YouTube
- "Gary Thorne". ESPN Press Room.
- Nidetz, Steve (June 9, 1989). "FOR ABC, WRIGLEY'S A NEW BALLGAME". Chicago Tribune.
- "NBC, ABC IN LAME DUCK YEAR FOR COVERAGE OF MAJORS". The Buffalo News. April 1, 1989.
- on YouTube
- Brooks, Marsh, Tim, Earle F. (24 June 2009). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. Random House Publishing Group. p. 105. ISBN 9780307483201.
- Warner, Rick (November 12, 1988). "It's 'Let's Make a Deal' time for networks, cable". Gadsden Times. Associated Press. p. B5.
- Martzke, Rudy (June 6, 1989). "Stockton: NBA Finals emerging as top interest". USA Today. p. 3C.
- Mahoney, Larry (February 23, 1989). "Thorn adds ABC baseball position". Banger Daily News.
- on YouTube
- on YouTube
- Solomon, Alan (June 23, 1989). "Bits & Pieces on Chicago's teams". Chicago Tribune. p. 11.
- "Sports Game Library - MLB LIBRARY". Archived from the original on October 21, 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- "ABC spoils outing for Minnesota kids". Chicago Tribune. July 22, 1989. p. 5.
- "Baseball Bidding in Extra Innings". Miami Herald. March 25, 1983.
- Shea, Stuart (7 May 2015). Calling the Game: Baseball Broadcasting from 1920 to the Present. SABR, Inc. p. 374. ISBN 9781933599410.
- Pappas, Doug. "Summer 1997: 75 Years of National Baseball Broadcasts". Outside the Lines.
- Sandomir, Richard (October 15, 1993). "WORLD SERIES: TV SPORTS; CBS Is Getting Out Just as It Gets It Right". New York Times.
- "Baseball may return to its TV roots". Eugene Register-Guard. 18 October 1995.
- "Networks set to bid on baseball Fox, CBS expected to make big play for new TV deal". Toronto Star. Associated Press. October 11, 1995.
- Martzke, Rudy (October 11, 1995). "Baseball, O.J. go head-to-head". USA Today.
- Bruton, Mike (24 June 1995). "Baseball Up For Grabs As Abc, Nbc Dissolve Venture With Owners Cbs And Fox Are Likely Bidders. The Baseball Network Will Finish Out The 1995 Season". Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Sandomir, Richard (April 5, 1996). "TV SPORTS;Fox Baseball Coverage Is Sure to Include Some Curveballs". The New York Times.
- Deardorff, Donald L. (2000). Sports: A Reference Guide and Critical Commentary, 1980–1999. p. 33. ISBN 9780313304453.
- Reynolds, Mike (July 23, 2001). "Baseball Connects with Younger Viewers". Multichannel News. Retrieved 2008-05-21.
- Dougherty, Pete (February 21, 2019). "Fox to air two Thursday night MLB games in September". Times Union.
- "FOX Sports Celebrates 25th Season as America's Home for Baseball". The Fulton Critic. July 6, 2020.