The Baseball Network
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The Baseball Network

The Baseball Network
The Baseball Network logo.png
The Baseball Network title card
Also known asBaseball Night in America
GenreBaseball telecasts
Presented byVarious
Theme music composerScott Schreer[1][2]
Country of originUnited States
Original English
No. of seasons2
Production
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time210 minutes or until end of game
Production Major League Baseball
ABC Sports
NBC Sports
Release
Original networkABC
NBC
Picture format480i (SDTV)
Original releaseJuly 12, 1994 (1994-07-12) -
October 28, 1995 (1995-10-28)
Chronology
Preceded byMajor League Baseball on CBS (19901993)
Followed byFox Major League Baseball (1996-present)
Related showsMajor 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[4] telecasts of games,[5] 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".[6] The Baseball Network was the first television network in the United States to be owned by a professional sports league.[7] In essence, The Baseball Network could be seen as a forerunner to the MLB Network,[8] which would debut about 15 years later.

The package[9] included coverage of games in prime time[10] on selected nights throughout the regular season (under the branding Baseball Night in America),[11] along with coverage of the postseason and the World Series.[12] Unlike previous broadcasting arrangements with the league, there was no national "game of the week"[13] during the regular season;[14] these would be replaced by multiple weekly regional[15] 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,[16] and poor reception from fans and critics over how the coverage[17][18][19][20][21][22][23] was implemented, The Baseball Network would be disbanded after the 1995 season.[24] While NBC would maintain rights to certain games, the growing Fox network (having established its own sports division two years earlier in 1994) became the league's new national broadcast partner[25] beginning in 1996, with its then-parent company News Corporation eventually purchasing the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1998 (the company would sell the team in 2004).

Background

After the fallout from CBS's financial problems[26] from their exclusive, four-year-long, US$1.8 billion[27] television contract with Major League Baseball (a contract that ultimately cost the network approximately $500 million[28]), Major League Baseball decided to go into the business of producing the telecasts themselves[29] and market these to advertisers on its own. In reaction to the failed trial with CBS,[30] 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's baseball telecasts to plummet. All the while, CBS was still contractually obligated to pay Major League Baseball around $260 million a year through 1993.[31] 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,[32][33][34] 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 and the wild card) would increase[35] the national broadcast revenue for Major League Baseball in the foreseeable future.

After a four-year hiatus, ABC and NBC[36] (who last aired Thursday Night Baseball games and the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week[37] respectively) returned to Major League Baseball under the umbrella of a revenue sharing venture called The Baseball Network.[38][39][40] Under a six-year plan (with an option for two additional years[41]), Major League Baseball was intended to receive 85% of the first US$140 million[42] in advertising[43] revenue (or 87.5%[44] of advertising revenues[45] and corporate sponsorship[46] 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[47] 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[48]) 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[49] 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: Key figures involved in the creation and production for The Baseball Network:

  • David Alworth[50] (vice president of broadcasting and production management)
  • Bill Canter (production manager)
  • Ed Delaney (vice-president of operations for The Baseball Network)
  • Carlos DeMolina (production associate)
  • Philip Doucet (technical director)
  • Dick Ebersol[51][52][53] (president of NBC Sports)
  • Eddie Einhorn[54][55] (vice chairman of the Chicago White Sox, television producer and a member of Major League Baseball's television committee)
  • John Filippelli[56] (coordinating producer)
  • Sam Flood (World Series pre-game producer)
  • Barry Frank[57] (chief television negotiator)
  • Woody Freiman (associate producer)
  • John Gonzalez (coordinating producer and producer of the World Series for NBC Sports)
  • Russell Gabay (coordinating production manager)
  • Lance Garrett (producer for The Baseball Network)
  • Bill Giles (Philadelphia Phillies president and chairman of Major League Baseball's television committee)
  • Steve Hearns (production manager)
  • Steve Hirdt (director of information)
  • Jeff Kiebler (associate producer)
  • Richard Levin[58] (baseball spokesman)
  • Steve Lawrence (World Series replay producer)
  • Ross Levinsohn
  • Jon Litner[59] (vice president of business affairs)
  • Bill Melanson (production manager)
  • Jack O'Hara[60] (executive producer of ABC Sports)
  • Peter Pascarelli (editorial consultant)
  • Chris Pfeiffer (production associate)
  • Andy Rosenberg (director of World Series)
  • Tom Roy (executive producer of NBC Sports)
  • Ken Schanzer (president[61] and chief operating officer[62])
  • Bud Selig (owner of the Milwaukee Brewers and acting commissioner of Major League Baseball)
  • Ray Stallone (director of marketing communications[63])
  • Dennis Swanson (president of ABC Sports)
  • Mike Trager (Baseball Network exec VP of sales & marketing)
  • Suzanne Turner (production manager)
  • Bill Webb[64][65] (director of World Series)
  • Tom Werner (owner of the San Diego Padres and a member of Major League Baseball's television committee)

This wasn't the first time that Major League Baseball considered creating its very own television network. Back in 1988, then commissioner Peter Ueberroth contemplated creating an all-baseball basic cable channel[66] that would show as many as four games each night. Ueberroth wanted to set up a national cable package for one or two nights a week without undercutting the value of some teams' local television deals. This of course, would soon happen when Major League Baseball signed a deal to broadcast games on ESPN, but prior to this, Ueberroth envisioned the owners pooling games already being shown on regional pay-TV services. Viewers would see (and pay for) the telecast of the team in their market if a game was scheduled; otherwise, they would be sent games of regional or divisional interest. Eventually baseball could've also shared the channel with the NHL or NBA in the off-season.

Coverage

The Baseball Network kicked off its coverage on July 12, 1994 on NBC with the All-Star Game[67] from Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh.[68] This was NBC's first telecast of a Major League Baseball game since Game 5 of the 1989 National League Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs on October 9 of that year. The NBC broadcast team consisted of Bob Costas[69] on play-by-play, with Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker[70] as analysts[71]. Costas,[72] 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 and two years at ABC from 1988-1989. Uecker, the longtime voice of the Milwaukee Brewers, returned to national television for the first time since he worked for ABC in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Greg Gumbel hosted the pre game show;[73] this was one of his first assignments for NBC after having left CBS Sports following the 1994 College World Series.[74] Helping with interviews were Hannah Storm (reporting from the American League dugout) and Johnny Bench (reporting from the National League dugout). 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.[75]

ABC, meanwhile, was able to have its primary broadcast team from 1989 return intact. Al Michaels[76] served as the play-by-play announcer once again. Tim McCarver, who had just spent four years at CBS, returned as an analyst along with Jim Palmer.[77] On the subject of Michaels returning to baseball for the first time since the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake interrupted the 1989 World Series, Jim Palmer 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."

Baseball Night in America

The list of dates for Baseball Night in America on ABC and NBC respectively for the 1994[78][79][80][81][82][10] and 1995[83][84] seasons.

After the All-Star Game was complete,[85] ABC took over coverage with what was to be their weekly slate of games.[86] ABC was scheduled to televise six[87] regular season games on Saturdays[88] or Mondays[89] in prime time. NBC[90][91] would then pick up where ABC left off by televising six more regular season Friday night[92][93] games. Every Baseball Night in America game was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Eastern Time (or 8 p.m. Pacific Time if the game occurred on the West Coast[94]). 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.

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[95] or Atlanta's WTBS) or over-the-air[96] broadcaster was allowed[97] to telecast a Major League Baseball game on those dates. Baseball Night in America[98] (which premiered[99] on July 16, 1994) usually aired up to fourteen games[100] based on the viewers' region (affiliates chose games of local interest to carry) as opposed to a traditional coast-to-coast format.[101] 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.

Games involving either of the two Canadian-based MLB teams at the time, 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 BNIA 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 were 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.

All of the 1994 games aired on ABC; due to the strike[102][103] NBC was unable[104] to air its slate of games, which were supposed to begin on August 26.[105][106]

Hi everyone, and welcome to Baseball Night in America, I'm Al Michaels. And those of us at ABC are delighted to be back in the business of broadcasting baseball for the first time since the 1989 World Series. And it's a brand new concept, we'll have six regular season games on ABC, including tonight and again on Monday night. Then, we'll bring you the Division playoffs in October, part of baseball's new expanded playoff format, and the World Series in late October. Baseball Night in America, a regionalized concept, you'll see a game in your region that's important to those of you in those particular areas. It also gives us the capability of updating games as never before. So sit back, relax and enjoy the premiere of Baseball Night in America as we take you out to the ballgames.

-- ABC's Al Michaels on site at Seattle's Kingdome on the premiere broadcast of Baseball Night in America on July 16, 1994.

Postseason coverage

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[107] and newly created Division Series.[108][109] In odd-numbered years, the postseason and All-Star Game[110] 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 League Championship Series in years that NBC had the World Series.[111]

The networks also promised not to begin any World Series weekend broadcasts after 7:20 p.m. Eastern Time.[112] 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 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[113][114] by calling "heads." Ken Schanzer,[115] 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.[116][117][118][119] 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[120] in primetime, and affiliates could only air one game each night, which were again determined regionally.[121][122] If one playoff series had already concluded, the remaining games would be aired nationally.[123][124]

Ken Schanzer, The Baseball Network's president[125] said "We've been given a responsibility to broadcast the games regionally and, within that context, we tried to come up with a plan that makes it as exciting as possible". On that end, The Baseball Network implemented a strategy that included cutting in to one game with highlights from other games--sometimes between batters, and more often, between pitches. Therefore, viewers watching one divisional series or League Championship Series game would often see action continuing on one reduced screen while a clip from another game is shown on another screen and vice versa. The theory was that by inserting highlights, even live action from other games, into the natural lulls, The Baseball Network could produce an exciting, technology-enhanced experience. 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.[126]

Besides the 1994 All-Star Game and Game 6 of the 1995 World Series,[127] 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,[128] broadcast on ABC.[129] It ended with the Mariners winning in 11 innings (via Edgar Martínez's game winning double), to clinch both their first postseason series win, and their first ever trip to the American League Championship Series. However, because the public would only be permitted to see one postseason game per day, the Division Series between the Mariners and Yankees would only be seen in its entirety by 20% of the country.[130] Meanwhile, 30% could see the Braves-Rockies series, 27% could see the Reds-Dodgers series, and 23% could see the Red Sox-Indians series.[131]

Furthermore, WNBC-TV/Channel 4, the NBC-owned station in the New York market, would carry Games 1 and 2 of the Yankees-Mariners series, and WABC-TV/Channel 7, owned by ABC, would carry Games 3, 4 and 5. WVIT, the NBC affiliate in the New Haven-Hartford area, would carry the Red Sox-Indians series in Games 1 and 2, but WTNH, ABC's affiliate would alternate with the Yankees in Game 3, the Red Sox in Game 4, and the Yankees in Game 5. In Ohio at the start of the playoffs, NBC stations in Cleveland, Steubenville, Columbus, Toledo, and Youngstown would get to see the Red Sox-Indians series. Cincinnati and all other cities would receive the Reds-Dodgers series. The remaining telecasts, on WSYX, the ABC affiliate in Columbus, would be of the Indians series. In South Dakota, viewers would get to in to Braves-Rockies series, while North Dakotans would have access to the Red Sox-Indians series. Only about 20%[132] of the country in itself, had access of the 15-inning long second game of the Mariners-Yankees series.

Criticisms

A major problem with Baseball Night in America[133] 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[134] (Mets[135] and Yankees), the Greater Los Angeles Area (Dodgers and Angels), Chicago[136] (Cubs and White Sox), the San Francisco Bay Area (Giants and A's), and even Texas[137] (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[138] or Anaheim[139] beginning at 8 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 p.m. Eastern Time[140]). 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,[141] 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."[142]

Shortly after the start of the strike, Stanford University's Roger Noll[143] 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[144] wrote in his book Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball[145] 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 also acknowledged that the most impassioned fans in baseball were now prevented[146] from watching many of the playoff games that they wanted to see, as all playoff games had been broadcast nationally[147] 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. When Costas was preparing call the 1995 American League Division Series between Boston-Cleveland for NBC, he told the New York Times that "It's baseball's objective to market itself nationally, but TBN makes it a local sport." Costas added "Baseball says the wild card is supposed to save baseball, but TBN shows you as little as possible."

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?"[148] (in response to TBN's tagline, "Welcome to the Show"[149][150]).

During the 1995 Division Series, the fan frustration with The Baseball Network was so bad that the mere mention of it during the Mariners-Yankees ALDS from public address announcer Tom Hutyler at Seattle's Kingdome brought boos[151] from most of the crowd. To further put things into perspective, 55%[152] of the country was able to get the American League Championship Series (Cleveland-Seattle) while 45% got the National League Championship Series (Atlanta-Cincinnati) for at least the first two games on ABC.

Downfall and demise

The long-term plans for The Baseball Network began to crumble after players and owners went on strike[153] on August 12, 1994.[154][155] In addition to the cancellation of that year's World Series,[156][157] 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[158]) altogether. Both networks elected to dissolve the partnership with Major League Baseball on June 22, 1995.[159][160][161][162] Both networks figured that as the delayed 1995 baseball season opened without a labor agreement,[163] there was no guarantee against another strike. 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.[164]

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.

The Baseball Network's contract stipulated that negotiations could only take place with NBC and ABC[165] 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.[166] 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.[167][168] It was rumored that CBS would show Thursday night games[169] (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's 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.[170]

To salvage the remains of the partnership, ABC and NBC elected to share coverage[171] of the 1995 postseason[172] including the World Series.[173] ABC[174] wound up broadcasting Games 1, 4, and 5 of 1995 World Series[107] while NBC would broadcast Games 2,[175] 3,[176] and 6[177] (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. Game 5 of the 1995 World Series was the final Major League Baseball game to be broadcast on ABC until the 2020 postseason.

Al Michaels would later write in his 2014 autobiography You Can't Make This Up: Miracles, Memories, and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television[178] that the competition between the two networks could be so juvenile that neither ABC nor NBC wanted to promote each other's telecasts during the 1995 World Series.[179] To give you a better idea, in the middle of Game 1, Michaels was handed a promo that read "Join us here on ABC for Game 4 in Cleveland on Wednesday night and for Game 5 if necessary, Thursday." Michaels however would soon add "By the way, if you're wondering about Games 2 and 3, I can't tell you exactly where you can see them, but here's a hint: Last night, Bob Costas, Bob Uecker, and Joe Morgan[180] [NBC's broadcast crew] were spotted in Underground Atlanta." Naturally, Bob Costas soon made a similar reference to ABC's crew (Michaels, Jim Palmer, and Tim McCarver) on NBC.

A strange and in a sense, scarred baseball season ends in glory. There were great moments in the postseason. For these two guys and the folks at ABC too, goodnight!

-- NBC's Bob Costas at the end of The Baseball Network's final telecast, Game 6 of the 1995 World Series.[181]

Aftermath

In the end, the venture lost US$95 million in advertising[182] and nearly $500 million[183] 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,[184][185] and Fox[186][187] signed on to be the exclusive network carrier of Major League Baseball regular season games in 1996.[188] 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 televised the other LCS in said years), and the 1997[189] and 1999 World Series respectively (Fox had exclusive rights to the 1996, 1998 and 2000 World Series). Beginning in 2001, Fox became the exclusive broadcast network for the World Series.

Fox's end of the new contract[190] (which the network paid US$575 million for the initial five-year contract) restored the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week broadcasts[191] 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.[192][193]

With ABC[194] being sold to The Walt Disney Company in 1996, ESPN picked 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.[195] 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 (as previously alluded towards, MLB Network's self-produced, live MLB Showcase telecasts could be seen as a spiritual successor to The Baseball Network's broadcasts), while Morgan kept working for ESPN until the end of the 2010 season.

On July 8, 2011, Al Michaels and Bob Costas teamed up (with the two announcers alternating between play-by-play and color commentary) to call a game between the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants on MLB Network.[196] It was Michaels' first appearance as a primary announcer on a baseball telecast since Game 5 of the 1995 World Series on ABC (as previously mentioned, Michaels had called Games 1,[197] 4 and 5 of that series with Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver, while Costas called Games 2, 3 and 6 with Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker[198] for NBC). Michaels and Costas also made appearances on SportsNet New York and Comcast SportsNet Bay Area during the game's middle innings, since the MLB Network broadcast was blacked out in the Mets' and Giants' respective home markets.[]

On September 28, 2020, it was announced that ABC would carry at least four Wild Card Series games for the expanded 2020 Major League Baseball postseason. Produced by ESPN, they would mark ABC's first national MLB broadcasts since 1995.[199]

Announcers

As previously mentioned announcers who represented each of the teams playing in the respective games were typically paired with each other during games[200] 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,[201][202][203][130]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[204][205] was the studio host for ABC's Baseball Night in America coverage. Hannah Storm[206] hosted NBC's studio show for the lone season in which the network was able to participate in The Baseball Network; Greg Gumbel[207] 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[208] 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.[209]

Prior to Game 3 of the 1995 World Series, Cleveland Indians slugger Albert Belle[210] unleashed a profanity-laced tirade at NBC reporter Hannah Storm as she was waiting in the Indians' dugout for a prearranged interview with Indians lead-off man, Kenny Lofton. On the same day, Belle snapped at a photographer near the first base line during batting practice. Belle was ultimately fined US$50,000 for his behavior towards Storm. This particular World Series was remembered for baseball television history being made twice by Storm. Prior to Game 2, she became the first female sportscaster to serve as solo host of a World Series game, and after Game 6, she would be the first female sportscaster to preside over the presentation of the Commissioner's Trophy to the World Series champions.

Event Network Teams Play-by-play Color commentators Field reporters Pregame host
1994 Major League Baseball All-Star Game NBC[211][212] Pittsburgh Pirates (host) Bob Costas[213] Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker Hannah Storm and Johnny Bench Greg Gumbel[214]
1995 Major League Baseball All-Star Game ABC[215][216] Texas Rangers[217] (host) Al Michaels[218] Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver Lesley Visser and Rick Dempsey John Saunders[219]
1995 American League Division Series NBC (in New York) Seattle Mariners/New York Yankees Gary Thorne Tommy Hutton
ABC (in Seattle) Brent Musburger Jim Kaat Jack Arute (Game 5)
NBC (in Cleveland[220]) Cleveland Indians/Boston Red Sox Bob Costas Bob Uecker
ABC (in Boston) Steve Zabriskie Tommy Hutton
1995 National League Division Series NBC (in Colorado) 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)
ABC (in Atlanta)
NBC (in Los Angeles[220]) Cincinnati Reds/Los Angeles Dodgers Greg Gumbel Joe Morgan
ABC (in Cincinnati) Al Michaels Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
1995 American League Championship Series ABC (Games 1-2[221]) Cleveland Indians/Seattle Mariners Brent Musburger Jim Kaat Jack Arute
NBC (Games 3[222]-6[223][224]) Bob Costas Bob Uecker Jim Gray
1995 National League Championship Series ABC (in Cincinnati[225][226][227]) Atlanta Braves/Cincinnati Reds Al Michaels Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver Lesley Visser (in Cincinnati)
NBC (in Atlanta[228]) Greg Gumbel Joe Morgan
1995 World Series ABC (Games 1,[229] 4[230]-5[231]) Atlanta Braves/Cleveland Indians Al Michaels Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver Lesley Visser John Saunders
NBC (Games 2[232][233]-3 and 6[234]) Bob Costas Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker Jim Gray Hannah Storm

Notable calls

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 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.

No balls and a strike to Martinez. 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 double 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 won the game; Bob Costas also said this four years later when the New York Mets won Game 5 of the 1999 NLCS.

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.[235]

Ratings

Ratings for both seasons of the Baseball Night in America regular season coverage were substantially higher than CBS's 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.[236]

All-Star Game

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

1995 World Series

Rating Share
19.5[237] 33

See also

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External links

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

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

The_Baseball_Network
 



 



 
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