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ESPN Major League Baseball
Format Baseball
Starring Various personalities (see below)
Country of origin  United States
Running time 3 hours
Original channel ESPN (1990-)
Original run April 9, 1990 – Present
External links
Official website

ESPN Major League Baseball is a promotion of Major League Baseball on ESPN and ESPN2, with simulcasts on ESPNHD or ESPN2HD. ESPN's MLB coverage debuted on April 9, 1990 with three Opening Day telecasts. ESPN Major League Baseball is guaranteed to remain on air until 2013.

The title is derived from the fact that it may come on a night when ESPN doesn't have a scheduled game (i.e. Tuesday, Friday, or Saturday). The different weekly regular season games that ESPN presents (as of 2007): Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell, Monday Night Baseball presented by Bank of America and Wednesday Night Baseball presented by Goodyear, and formerly ESPN DayGame presented by Fruit of the Loom and Thursday Night Baseball powered by Castrol.

In addition to regular season games, ESPN also airs 10 spring training games entitled ESPN Spring Training and formerly aired Division Series playoff games entitled The Division Series on ESPN. ESPN also airs a daily highlight show called Baseball Tonight at 10 p.m. ET and 12 a.m. ET.

ESPN Radio has also been airing Major League Baseball since 1998, broadcasting Sunday Night Baseball as well as select other regular-season games, the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby, and the entire postseason including the Division Series, League Championship Series, and World Series. ESPN Radio's current contract runs through the 2010 season.





On January 5, 1989, Major League Baseball signed a $400 million deal with ESPN, who would show over 175 games beginning in 1990. For the next four years, ESPN would televise six games a week (Sunday, Wednesday Night Baseball, doubleheaders on Tuesdays and Fridays, plus holidays).

On April 15, 1990, ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball with the experienced play-by-play broadcaster Jon Miller and Joe Morgan debuted. In its first year, Sunday Night Baseball averaged a 3.0 rating. That was double the number that ESPN as a whole was averaging at the time (1.5). By 1998, ESPN enjoyed its largest baseball audience ever (a 9.5 Nielsen rating) as Mark McGwire hit his 61st home run of the season.

When ESPN first broadcasted Sunday Night Baseball, they would show at least one game from every ballpark. Also, every team was guaranteed an appearance. It was essentially, the television equivalent to a cross country stadium tour.


In 1994, ESPN renewed its baseball contract for six years (through the 1999 season). The new deal was worth $42.5 million per year and $255 million overall. The deal was ultimately voided after the 1995 season and ESPN was pretty much forced to restructure their contract.


In 1996, ESPN began a five year contract with Major League Baseball worth $440 million and about $80 million per year. ESPN paid for the rights to a Wednesday night doubleheader and Sunday Night Baseball, as well as holiday telecasts and all postseason games not aired on Fox or NBC. Major League Baseball staggered the times of first-round games to provide a full-day feast for viewers: ESPN could air games at 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 11 p.m. EDT, with the broadcast networks telecasting the prime time game.


ESPN and ESPN2 had contracts (which were signed in 2000 and ran through 2005) to show selected weeknight and Sunday Night Baseball games, along with selected Division Series playoff games. The contracts with ESPN were worth $141.8 million per year and $851 million overall.


After Disney bought Fox Family (who from 2000–2001 aired Thursday night games) in 2002 to become ABC Family the Division Series games aired on ABC Family (with ESPN's announcers, graphics, and music) for one year. ESPN then added these games, along with the Thursday night games (subsequently shifted to weekday afternoon "DayGame" broadcasts), to its package.


OLN[1] was briefly considering picking up the rights to the Sunday and Wednesday games, which expired after the 2005 season. On September 14, 2005 however, ESPN, then the current rights holder, signed an eight year contract with Major League Baseball, highlighted by the continuation of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball series with additional, exclusive team appearances. The key details of the agreement were:

  • Up to 80 regular-season telecasts per year;
  • No blackout restrictions on exclusive Sunday Night Baseball; Monday Night Baseball, with ESPN mostly coexisting with local carriers
  • Up to five appearances per team per year on the exclusive Sunday Night Baseball series, up from 11 over three years;
  • Daily Baseball Tonight programs – one of ESPN's most popular series -- including the continued right to show in-progress highlights and live cut-ins;
  • Home Run Derby, ESPN's highest-rated program of the summer and one of cable's best, and additional All-Star programming;
  • Continuation of season-long Wednesday baseball on ESPN and ESPN2;
  • For the first time, the 11 p.m. ET SportsCenter will present a nightly Baseball Tonight update featuring in-progress highlights;
  • Select games and MLB All-Star events on ESPN2 throughout the season;
  • 10 spring training games and MLB Opening Day coverage;
  • Telecast rights for ESPNHD, ESPN2HD, ESPN Deportes and ESPN International;
  • Ability to include Major League Baseball programming as part of the delivery of the ESPN networks via cable, satellite and other new or developing technologies, such as cell phones and wireless devices;
  • Archival footage and game programming and "Instant Classic" rights for ESPN Classic.
  • ESPN Radio also maintains exclusive terrestrial rights.

The weekday afternoon "DayGame" telecasts (as well as double- and tripleheader coverage of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day games) that ESPN and ESPN2 had previously aired were eliminated in the new pact (except for games that fall under the regular Monday-night slot), as was the late (10 p.m. ET) Wednesday night game (although ESPN can elect to show a late game instead of an early one should it so desire).

ESPN's Monday and Wednesday telecasts remain mostly nonexclusive, meaning the games also can be televised by each club's local broadcasters. In fact, Wednesday games are blacked out on ESPN unless a participating team's local broadcaster does not choose to televise the game. The Sunday games remain on ESPN only, and with ESPN gaining the rights to Monday Night Football telecasts, it looks likely that Sunday Night Baseball will run uninterrupted on ESPN throughout the season, except on Opening Night (when it will air on ESPN2, since it usually conflicts with the NCAA Women's Basketball Final Four).

Alternate telecasts for home-team markets which are blacked out have also been phased out, either in an effort to save costs or in an effort to allocate more satellite space for high-definition broadcasts on ESPNHD. Those who get ESPN via cable get ESPNEWS instead, and those who get the channel via satellite see a blank picture and a blackout notice.

MLB will receive, on average, $296 million a year under the new agreement, a television and a baseball official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of a confidentiality agreement in the deal. ESPN will pay baseball $273.5 million in 2006, $293.5 million in each of the following four years, $308.5 million in 2011 and $306 million in each of the final two seasons.


On July 25, 2006, Harold Reynolds was fired from ESPN. The ESPN spokeswoman confirmed that Reynolds "is no longer with the network" but did not give a reason for the departure.[2] "Three people who work at ESPN and familiar with the case said the cause was a pattern of sexual harassment."[3] Reynolds confirmed that an accusation of sexual harassment was the reason for his departure but called it "a total misunderstanding" and that "I gave a woman a hug and I felt like it was misinterpreted. [4] In February 2008, ESPN and Reynolds reached an out-of-court settlement.

Weeks later, Peter Gammons was sidelined with a brain aneurysm. Gammons returned to ESPN in early September.

ESPN telecasts in 2006, posted an average of 1,115,000 household impressions, up 27% when compared to 2005's 875,000. The corresponding 1.2 rating this year marks a 20% increase over the 1.0 average in 2005. ESPN2's baseball telecasts have averaged 704,000 households, an increase of 34% over 2005's 525,000. Ratings on ESPN2 went up 33% (0.8 vs. 0.6).

After the 2006 Division Series, ESPN lost the rights to broadcast playoff games on TV. All postseason games, from possible one-game playoffs to the World Series, will air on Fox Sports and TBS beginning in 2007. Games will remain on ESPN Radio. ESPN also lost rights to ESPN DayGame presented by Fruit of the Loom and Thursday Night Baseball powered by Castrol.


Because of the reduction of ESPN's weekly schedule from five games to three, ESPN released numerous commentators from the network, including Jeff Brantley, Tino Martinez, Steve Stone and Eric Karros.

With the new deal coming into play this year, several things changed with the Monday and Wednesday night games in particular. For Monday Night Baseball, the telecast will now co-exist with teams' local carriers up to three times per year, up from two times in previous years. Wednesday Night Baseball also changed slightly. Now, in addition to the featured game that night, they will also have some live cut-ins to other games across the nation and discuss some the hot topics in the major leagues.

On April 1, for the season-opening game between the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals, ESPN changed its on-screen graphics to the version that debuted with Monday Night Football in 2006 and was later adopted by its NBA coverage. The previous graphics dated back to the advent of ESPN HD in 2004.

During the week of the All-Star Game, Baseball Tonight and SportsCenter did not travel to the game site as it normally does; the 2007 site was AT&T Park in San Francisco. The reason was that MLB stripped ESPN of its on-site credentials for its studio crew as punishment for leaking the rosters of the All-Star teams before TBS did. TBS' announcement, which was billed as exclusive, was scheduled for 4 p.m. Eastern time but was delayed for nearly two hours, by which point ESPN, in apparent violation of its contract with MLB, went ahead and revealed the rosters anyway.[5] ESPN later agreed to promote playoff coverage on TBS and Fox (alongside its own radio coverage) in return for Baseball Tonight going on the air shortly after each night's games concluded.

ESPN pre-empted part of the Kansas StateAuburn college football game on September 1 to show the end of the no-hitter thrown by Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz.


ESPN2 showed the season-opening games in Tokyo between the Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics. Unfortunately, due to a transponder failure, viewers on DirecTV reliant on the standard-definition feed missed the first of the two games. (ESPNHD was unaffected.)

On March 30, ESPN showed the first-ever game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The Nationals defeated the Atlanta Braves on a walk-off home run by Ryan Zimmerman.

On May 4, ESPN introduced enhanced updates targeting viewers who play fantasy baseball. It shows season batting statistics for the current batter on each potential count and updates batting average and other selected stats after the at-bat concludes.


Through the years, ESPN has enhanced its Major League Baseball coverage with the introduction and implementation of innovative technology. Which include:

  • April 1995- ESPN debuted in-game box scores during Major League Baseball telecasts. Hitting, pitching and fielding stats from the game are shown along the bottom of the screen three times per game.
  • May/June 1997- ESPN debuted MaskCam on an umpire at the College World Series, adding it to major league coverage the following year.
  • April 1998- ESPN debuts BatTrack, which measures the bat speed of hitters.
  • April 15, 2001- ESPN Dead Center debuted on Sunday Night Baseball with Texas vs. Oakland. This new camera angle, directly behind the pitcher, is used provide true depiction of inside/outside pitch location and is used in certain parks in conjunction with K Zone.
  • July 1, 2001- K Zone officially debuted on Sunday Night Baseball.
  • April 7, 2002- ESPN became the first network to place a microphone on a player during a regular-season baseball game. "Player Mic" was worn by Oakland catcher Ramon Hernandez (who also wore "MaskCam") and taped segments were heard.
  • May 26, 2002- "UmpireCam" debuted, worn by Matt Hollowell behind the plate in the New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox telecast.
  • March 30, 2003- ESPNHD, a high-definition simulcast service of ESPN, debuted with the first regular-season MLB game of the season - Texas at Anaheim.
  • April 2004- ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball telecasts added a fantasy baseball bottom line, updating viewers on the stats for their rotisserie league players at 15 and 45 minutes after the hour.
  • April 10, 2005- "SkyCam" premiered during Sunday Night Baseball. "SkyCam" is mounted more than 20 feet above the stands in foul territory and travels down a designated base path (first or third base line, from behind home plate to the foul pole), capturing overhead views of the action. The remote-controlled camera can zoom, pan and tilt.
  • April 2, 2006- A handheld camera brings viewers closer to the action for in-game live shots of home run celebrations, managers approaching the mound and more.
  • May 1, 2006- 'K Zone 2.0' debuted on Monday Night Baseball.

Coverage of historic moments

Since ESPN first received MLB telecast rights, it has become traditional for the network to make an effort to cover live historic moments in the sport. For example, in 2007, ESPN and ESPN2 added several telecasts when Barry Bonds chased Hank Aaron's record for most home runs in a MLB career. ESPN had the national telecasts on August 4 when Bonds tied Aaron with number 755 and on August 7, 2007 when he hit number 756. ESPN was also the broadcaster of the final game at the original Yankee Stadium as a part of Sunday Night Baseball with Jon Miller and Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. It also showed Chris Burke's 18-inning homer to end the 2005 NLDS.

Also, the network has been given permission to interrupt regular programming, when allowed, to show attempts at new records or significant milestones live. Examples include three cut-ins from its coverage of the first X Games in 1995 until Eddie Murray recorded his 3000th hit, live coverage of Sammy Sosa's 600th home run in 2007, and a number of no-hitters, including the Buchholz feat mentioned earlier. Although it cannot show any historic attempts live during the Fox or TBS exclusive windows, it was allowed to show an in-progress highlight of Alex Rodriguez' 500th career home run in August 2007, as this was on a Saturday afternoon before Fox went on the air with its game coverage.


See also


  1. ^ Jim Williams: Quest for Nats on television continues -
  2. ^ "Reynolds out at ESPN". Associated Press. 2006-07-25. Retrieved 2006-07-25.  
  3. ^ "ESPN's Reynolds let go over sexual harassment". 2006-07-26. Retrieved 2006-07-26.  
  4. ^ Marchand, Andrew (2006-07-26). "ACCUSED OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: REYNOLDS WANTS ESPN JOB BACK". New York Post. Retrieved 2006-07-26.  
  5. ^ TV-RADIO - Patrick might join new broadcasting venture - Los Angeles Times
  1. MLB on ESPN 2004 Press Kit
  2. MLB on ESPN Technology Through the Years
  3. MLB on ESPN 2005 Press Kit
  4. Major League Baseball, ESPN reach new eight-year television agreement
  5. Baseball on ESPN Oficial site
  6. MLB on ESPN 2006 Press Kit
  9. Major League Baseball on cable television
  10. ESPN MLB Technology through the years
  11. Press Release: ESPN’s Signature MLB Franchises Return - Sunday, Monday and Wednesday Night Baseball

External links


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