Major League Baseball on ABC

Major League Baseball on ABC
Major League Baseball on ABC
Genre Sport
Developed by ABC Sports
Directed by Chet Forte
Craig Janoff
Starring Major League Baseball on ABC broadcasters
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
Executive producer(s) Roone Arledge
Geoffrey Mason
Producer(s) Bob Goodrich
Curt Gowdy, Jr.
Chuck Howard
Peter Lasser
Dennis Lewin
Editor(s) Dean Hovell
Conrad Kraus
Pamela Peterson
Running time 180 minutes (or until game ends)
Original channel ABC
Audio format Stereo
Original run April 12, 1976 – October 28, 1989
Related shows Major League Baseball Game of the Week
Monday Night Baseball
Thursday Night Baseball
Baseball Night in America
External links
Production website

Major League Baseball on ABC is the de facto title of a program that televises Major League Baseball games on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). The program has appeared in various forms circa 1953-1965 (ABC Game of the Week), 19761989 (Monday Night Baseball, Thursday Night Baseball, and Sunday Afternoon Baseball), and 19941995 (Baseball Night in America). ABC has not televised Major League Baseball since Game 5 of the 1995 World Series (October 26).




In 1953, ABC-TV executive Edgar J. Scherick (who would later go on to create Wide World of Sports) broached a Saturday Game of the Week.[1]-TV sport's first network series. At the time, ABC was labeled a "nothing network" that had fewer outlets than CBS or NBC. ABC also needed paid programming or "anything for bills" as Scherick put it. At first, ABC hesitated at the idea of a nationally televised regular season baseball program. ABC wondered how exactly the Game of the Week would reach television in the first place and who would notice if it did?

To make matters worse, Major League Baseball barred the Game of the Week from airing within 50 miles of any ballpark.[2] Major League Baseball according to Scherick, insisted on protecting local coverage and didn't care about national appeal. ABC though, did care about the national appeal and claimed that "most of America was still up for grabs."

In April 1953, Edgar Scherick set out to sell teams rights but instead, only got the Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland Indians,[3] and Chicago White Sox[4][5] to sign on.[6] These were not "national" broadcast contracts since they were assembled through negotiations with individual teams to telecast games from their home parks. It was until the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, that antitrust laws barred "pooled rights" TV contracts negotiated with a central league broadcasting authority.

In 1953, ABC earned a 11.4 rating for their Game of the Week telecasts. Blacked-out cities had 32% of households. In the rest of the United States, 3 in 4 TV sets in use watched Dizzy Dean[7] and Buddy Blattner[8] (or backup announcers Bill McColgan and Bob Finnegan) call the games for ABC. CBS took over the Saturday Game in 1955 (the rights were actually set up through the Falstaff Brewing Corporation[9]) retaining Dean/Blattner and McColgan/Finnegan as the announcing crews and adding Sunday coverage in 1957. As Edgar Scherick said, "In '53, no one wanted us. Now teams begged for "Game"'s cash."

In 1959, ABC broadcast the best-of-three playoff series[10][11][12] (to decide the National League pennant) between Milwaukee Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers. The cigarette company L&M was in charge of all of the telecasts. George Kell[13] and Blattner (who was still working for CBS in the regular season) were the announcers.



In 1960, ABC returned to baseball broadcasting with a series of late-afternoon Saturday games. Jack Buck and Carl Erskine[14][15] were the lead announcing crew for this series, which lasted one season.[16]

ABC typically did three games a week. Two of the games were always from the Eastern or Central Time Zone. The late games (no doubleheaders) were usually San Francisco Giants[17] or Los Angeles Dodgers' home games. However, the Milwaukee Braves[18] used to start many of their Saturday home games late in the afternoon. So if the Giants and Dodgers were both the road at the same time, ABC still would be able to show a late game.

One other note about ABC baseball coverage during this period. Despite temporarily losing the Game of the Week package in 1961, ABC still televised several games in prime time (with Jack Buck returning to call the action). This occurred as Roger Maris[19][20] was poised to tie and subsequently break Babe Ruth's regular season home run record of 60.

As with all Major League Baseball games in those days, the action was totally blacked out[21] of major league markets. As a matter of fact, as documented in the HBO film 61*, the Maris family was welcomed into ABC's Kansas City, Missouri affiliate KMBC-TV so they could watch the in-house feed of the game, which was blacked out of Kansas City.


In 1965, ABC provided the first-ever nationwide baseball coverage with weekly Saturday broadcasts on a regional basis. ABC paid $5.7 million for the rights to the 28 Saturday/holiday Games of the Week. ABC's deal[22][23] covered all of the teams except the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies[24] (who had their own television deals) and called for two regionalized games on Saturdays, Independence Day, and Labor Day.[25]

Each Saturday, ABC would broadcast two 2 p.m. games and one 5 p.m. game for the Pacific Time Zone. ABC blacked out the games in the home cities of the clubs playing those games.[26] At the end of the season, ABC declined to exercise its $6.5 million option for 1966, citing poor ratings,[27][28] especially in New York.

According to ABC announcer Merle Harmon's profile in Curt Smith's book Voices of Summer, in 1965, CBS' Yankee Game of the Week beat ABC in the ratings in at least Dallas and Des Moines. To make matters worse, local television split the big-city audience. Therefore, ABC could show the Cubs vs. the Cardinals in the New York market, and yet the Mets would still kill them in terms of viewership.

Harmon, Chris Schenkel, Keith Jackson,[29] and (on occasion) Ken Coleman[30] served as ABC's principal play-by-play voices for this series. Also on the network's announcing team were pregame host Howard Cosell and color commentators Leo Durocher, Tommy Henrich, Warren Spahn (who worked with Chris Schenkel on a July 17 Baltimore-Detroit contest), and Hall of Fame Brooklyn Dodger great Jackie Robinson (who, on March 17, 1965, became the first black network broadcaster for Major League Baseball[31]). According to ABC Sports producer Chuck Howard, "(Robinson) had a high, stabbing voice, great presence, and sharp mind. All he lacked was time."

Date Teams Announcers
April 17, 1965 San Francisco @ New York Mets
Baltimore @ Boston
Chicago Cubs @ Milwaukee
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
April 24, 1965[32] St. Louis @ Cincinnati
Boston @ Baltimore
New York Mets @ San Francisco
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
May 1, 1965 Minnesota @ Chicago White Sox
Boston @ Detroit
Philadelphia @ Milwaukee
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
May 8, 1965 New York Yankees @ Washington
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
Los Angeles Dodgers @ San Francisco
Merle Harmon and Leo Durocher
Chris Schenkel and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
May 15, 1965 Reds @ New York Mets
Los Angeles Angels @ Chicago White Sox
Chicago Cubs @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Merle Harmon and Tommy Henrich
Chris Schenkel and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Leo Durocher
May 22, 1965 Baltimore @ Detroit
San Francisco @ Houston
Pittsburgh @ Milwaukee
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
May 29, 1965 New York Yankees @ Chicago White Sox
Cleveland @ Detroit
Los Angeles Angels @ Baltimore
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
June 5, 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers @ Milwaukee
Houston @ St. Louis
Baltimore @ Los Angeles Angels
Chris Schenkel and Jackie Robinson
Merle Harmon and Leo Durocher
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
June 12, 1965[33] Los Angeles Dodgers @ New York Mets
San Francisco @ Pittsburgh
Cleveland @ Kansas City
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
Chris Schenkel and Jackie Robinson
Merle Harmon and Leo Durocher
June 19, 1965 Chicago Cubs @ Cincinnati
Los Angeles Angels @ Cleveland
Philadelphia @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
June 26, 1965 Baltimore @ Chicago White Sox
Detroit @ Minnesota
Pittsburgh @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
July 3, 1965 New York Yankees @ Boston
San Francisco @ Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox @ Los Angeles Angels
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
July 10, 1965 New York Yankees @ Minnesota
Los Angeles Dodgers @ Pittsburgh
Detroit @ Kansas City
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
July 17, 1965 Baltimore @ Detroit
Los Angeles Angels @ Chicago White Sox
Houston @ San Francisco
Chris Schenkel and Warren Spahn[34]
Merle Harmon and Tommy Henrich
Keith Jackson and Jackie Robinson
July 24, 1965 Chicago White Sox @ Detroit
Los Angeles Angels @ Boston
Milwaukee @ San Francisco
Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
Merle Harmon and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
July 31, 1965 San Francisco @ Milwaukee
Baltimore @ Minnesota
Chris Schenkel and Jackie Robinson
Keith Jackson and Tommy Henrich
August 7, 1965 San Francisco @ St. Louis
August 14, 1965 Cincinnati @ St. Louis
Minnesota @ Cleveland
August 21, 1965 Milwaukee @ Pittsburgh Chris Schenkel and Leo Durocher
August 28, 1965 Houston @ Pittsburgh
Cleveland @ Minnesota
September 4, 1965 San Francisco @ Chicago Cubs
Pittsburgh @ Milwaukee
September 6, 1965 San Francisco @ Los Angeles Dodgers Chris Schenkel, Leo Durocher and Jackie Robinson
September 11, 1965 Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh



Under the initial agreement with ABC, NBC, and Major League Baseball (1976-1979), both networks paid $92.8 million. ABC paid $12.5 million per year to show 16 Monday night games in 1976, 18 in the next three years, plus half the postseason (the League Championship Series in even numbered years and World Series in odd numbered years). NBC paid $10.7 million per year to show 25 Saturday Games of the Week and the other half of the postseason (the League Championship Series in odd numbered years and World Series in even numbered years). 1976 marked the first time that all LCS games were televised nationally. Major League Baseball media director John Lazarus said of the new arrangement between NBC and ABC "Ratings couldn't get more from one network so we approached another." NBC's Joe Garagiola wasn't very fond of the new broadcasting arrangement at first saying "I wished they hadn't got half the package. Still, "Game", half of the postseason - we got lots left."

In 1976, ABC would pick up the television rights for Monday Night Baseball games from NBC. For most of its time on ABC, the Monday night games were held on "dead travel days" when few games were scheduled. The team owners liked that arrangement as the national telecasts didn't compete against their stadium box offices. ABC on the other hand, found the arrangement far more complicated. ABC often had only one or two games to pick from for each telecast from a schedule designed by Major League Baseball. While trying to give all of the teams national exposure, ABC ended up with way too many games between sub .500 clubs from small markets.

Just like with Monday Night Football, ABC brought in the concept of the three-man-booth (originally with Bob Prince, Bob Uecker, and Warner Wolf as the primary crew) to their baseball telecasts. Said ABC Sports head Roone Arledge "It'll take something different for it to work - i.e. curb viewership yawns and lulls with Uecker as the real difference", so Arledge reportedly hoped. Prince disclosed to his broadcasting partner Jim Woods about his early worries about calling a network series for the first time. Prince for one, didn't have as much creative control over the broadcasts on ABC as he did calling Pittsburgh Pirates games on KDKA radio. On the June 7, 1976 edition of Monday Night Baseball, Prince returned to Pittsburgh, where he had been exiled from for over a year. Although Prince received a warm reception, he was confused when the next day when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette read:

Ratings are low, negative reviews rampant.

June 28, 1976, the Detroit Tigers faced the New York Yankees on Monday Night Baseball, with 47,855 attending at Tiger Stadium and a national television audience, Tigers pitcher Mark "The Bird" Fidrych talked to the ball and groomed the mound, as the Tigers won, 5-1 in a game that lasted only 1 hour and 51 minutes. After the game, the crowd would not leave the park until Fidrych came out of the dugout to tip his cap.[35]

For ABC's coverage of the 1976 All-Star Game, the team of Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf alternated roles for the broadcast. For the first three innings, Prince did play-by-play with Wolf on color commentary and Uecker doing field interviews. For the middle innings, Uecker worked play-by-play with Prince on color and Wolf doing the interviews. For the final three innings, Wolf worked play-by-play with Uecker on color and Prince doing interviews.

Bob Prince was gone by the fall of 1976, with Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell, and guest analyst Reggie Jackson calling that year's American League Championship Series. (Warner Wolf, Al Michaels and guest analyst Tom Seaver worked the NLCS.) On the subject of his dismissal from ABC, Bob Prince said "I hated Houston, and ABC never let me be Bob Prince."

Howard Cosell said of Bob Uecker that he was the only person in the series to have his reputation helped. Cosell, who hated athletes-turned-announcers, considered Uecker to being the exception. Cosell gloated that "The man's bigger than the game, bigger than the team, bigger than the league, bigger than the sport. They talk about a new commissioner, if I had my pick, it would be you, Bob Uecker." Uecker replied by sighing and telling Cosell that he wished he "had the time."

Keith Jackson was unavailable to call Game 1 of the 1976 ALCS because he had just gotten finished calling an Oklahoma-Texas college football game for ABC. Thus, Bob Uecker filled-in for Jackson for Game 1. Uecker also took part in the postgame interviews for Game 5 of the 1976 ALCS, while Warner Wolf did an interview of George Brett in the Kansas City locker room.

The World Series marked the first time that the participating teams' local announcers were not featured[36] as booth announcers on the network telecast of a World Series. 1977 was also the first year in which one announcer (in this case, ABC's Keith Jackson) provided all of the play-by-play for a World Series telecast. In previous years, the play-by-play announcers and color commentators had alternated roles during each game. Meanwhile, Yankees announcer Bill White and Dodgers announcer Ross Porter alternated between pregame/postgame duties on ABC and calling the games for CBS Radio. White worked the ABC telecasts for the games in New York (including the clubhouse trophy presentation ceremony after Game 6) while Porter did likewise for the games in Los Angeles.

Date Teams Announcers
April 12, 1976[37] New York Yankees @ Baltimore
Oakland @ Texas
April 19, 1976[38] New York Mets @ St. Louis
Houston @ Los Angeles
May 10, 1976 Los Angeles @ St. Louis
Chicago White Sox @ Texas
May 31, 1976[39] New York Yankees @ Boston
Cincinnati @ Houston
June 7, 1976 Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
Texas @ Baltimore
Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf

June 14, 1976 Cincinnati @ Chicago Cubs
Kansas City @ Detroit
June 21, 1976 Cincinnati @ Los Angeles
Boston @ Baltimore
June 28, 1976 New York Yankees @ Detroit
Chicago Cubs @ Pittsburgh
Bob Prince, Bob Uecker and Warner Wolf

July 5, 1976[40] Philadelphia @ Los Angeles
New York Mets @ Houston
August 2, 1976 St. Louis @ Pittsburgh
New York Yankees @ Detroit
August 9, 1976 New York Yankees @ Kansas City
Los Angeles @ Pittsburgh
August 16, 1976 Texas @ New York Yankees
Baltimore @ Minnesota[41]
August 23, 1976 St. Louis @ Cincinnati[42]
Oakland @ Baltimore
Philadelphia @ Atlanta
August 30, 1976 Cincinnati @ St. Louis
Kansas City @ Baltimore
New York Yankees @ Oakland[43]
September 6, 1976 Los Angeles @ San Diego
New York Yankees @ Boston
April 11, 1977 New York Yankees @ Kansas City
Chicago Cubs @ Philadelphia
April 18, 1977 Los Angeles @ Cincinnati
New York Mets @ St. Louis
Cleveland @ Baltimore
May 9, 1977 Cincinnati @ St. Louis
Chicago White Sox @ Texas
May 23, 1977 San Francisco @ St. Louis
New York Mets @ Pittsburgh
May 30, 1977[44] New York Yankees @ Boston
Los Angeles @ Houston
June 6, 1977 New York Yankees @ Texas[45]
Chicago White Sox @ Minnesota
Boston @ Kansas City
June 13, 1977 Chicago White Sox @ Boston
Cincinnati @ Philadelphia
June 20, 1977 Philadelphia @ Cincinnati
New York Yankees @ Detroit
Chicago Cubs @ San Francisco
June 27, 1977 Pittsburgh @ St. Louis
Los Angeles @ Atlanta
July 4, 1977 Cincinnati @ Atlanta
New York Mets @ Philadelphia
Kansas City @ Texas
July 11, 1977 New York Yankees @ Baltimore
Kansas City @ Chicago White Sox[46]
July 25, 1977[47] Cincinnati @ St. Louis
Chicago White Sox @ Boston
New York Yankees @ Kansas City
August 1, 1977 Chicago Cubs @ Cincinnati
Minnesota @ Kansas City
August 8, 1977 Chicago Cubs[48] @ Pittsburgh[49]
Cincinnati @ Los Angeles
August 15, 1977 Kansas City @ Boston
Chicago White Sox[50] @ New York Yankees
August 22, 1977 Boston @ Minnesota
Los Angeles[51] @ St. Louis
New York Yankees @ Chicago White Sox
August 29, 1977 Oakland @ Boston
Chicago White Sox @ Cleveland
September 5, 1977 New York Yankees @ Cleveland
Boston @ Toronto (not broadcast)
Los Angeles @ San Diego
Minnesota @ Texas


In 1978, Baseball Hall of Famer Don Drysdale joined ABC Sports with assignments such as Monday Night Baseball, Superstars, and Wide World of Sports. In 1979, Drysdale covered the World Series Trophy presentation. According to Drysdale "My thing is to talk about inside things. Keith [Jackson] does play-by-play. Howard's [Cosell] role is anything since anything can happen in broadcasting." When ABC released and then rehired him in 1981, Drysdale explained it by saying "If there is nothing to say, be quiet." Ultimately, Drysdale seemed to be slowly phased out of the ABC picture as fellow Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer was considered ABC's new poster child "[of] superior looks and...popularity from underwear commercials."

For a national television audience, the 1978 American League East tie-breaker game (New York Yankees/Boston Red Sox) aired on ABC with Keith Jackson and Don Drysdale on the call. Meanwhile, the game aired locally in New York on WPIX and on WSBK in Boston. Phil Rizzuto, Frank Messer and Bill White called the game on WPIX while Dick Stockton and Ken Harrelson called the game on WSBK. Also in 1978, Keith Jackson called an Oklahoma-Texas college football game for ABC and then, flew to New York, arriving just in time to call Game 4 of the ALCS that same night (October 7).

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 would begin airing Sunday Afternoon Baseball games in September.[52] The network also aired one Friday night game (Yankees at Angels) on June 13 of that year. On August 6, 1979 the entire Yankee team attended team captain/catcher Thurman Munson's funeral in Canton, Ohio. Teammates Lou Piniella and Bobby Murcer, who were Munson's best friends, gave eulogies. That night (before a national viewing audience on ABC's Monday Night Baseball) the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 5–4 in New York, with Murcer driving in all five runs with a three-run home run in the seventh inning and a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth.[53]

Date Teams Announcers
April 10, 1978 New York Yankees @ Texas
Los Angeles @ Houston
April 17, 1978 Cincinnati @ Los Angeles
Baltimore @ New York Yankees
April 24, 1978 Kansas City @ Texas
New York Yankees @ Baltimore
May 1, 1978 Philadelphia @ Cincinnati
Boston @ Baltimore
May 8, 1978 New York Mets @ Cincinnati
May 22, 1978 Los Angeles @ San Diego
Texas @ Minnesota
May 29, 1978 Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia
San Francisco @ Houston
June 5, 1978 San Francisco @ Philadelphia
Los Angeles @ New York Mets
Chicago White Sox @ Cleveland
June 12, 1978 Chicago Cubs @ Cincinnati
Oakland @ New York Yankees
Los Angeles @ Philadelphia
June 19, 1978 New York Yankees @ Boston
Chicago Cubs @ Pittsburgh
June 26, 1978 Boston @ New York Yankees
Kansas City @ California
July 3, 1978 New York Yankees @ Boston
California @ Kansas City
July 17, 1978 Minnesota @ Boston
San Francisco @ St. Louis
July 24, 1978 New York Yankees @ Kansas City
Cincinnati @ New York Mets
July 31, 1978 New York Mets @ Philadelphia
San Francisco @ Houston
August 7, 1978 Atlanta @ Cincinnati
California @ Oakland
August 14, 1978 New York Yankees @ Baltimore
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
August 21, 1978 Los Angeles @ Montreal
Chicago Cubs @ Houston
August 28, 1978 Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
California @ New York Yankees
June 4, 1979 Texas @ Boston
Los Angeles @ Pittsburgh
June 11, 1979 Boston @ Kansas City
Houston @ Pittsburgh
June 18, 1979 Chicago Cubs @ Los Angeles
Cincinnati @ Montreal
June 25, 1979 Cincinnati @ Houston
Montreal @ St. Louis
July 2, 1979 Boston @ New York Yankees
Baltimore @ Texas
July 9, 1979 Los Angeles @ Montreal
Boston @ California
July 13, 1979 New York Yankees @ California
July 23, 1979[54] California @ Boston
Kansas City @ Texas
Keith Jackson
July 30, 1979 Baltimore @ Milwaukee
New York Yankees @ Chicago White Sox
Chicago Cubs @ Philadelphia
August 6, 1979 Baltimore @ New York Yankees
Los Angeles @ San Francisco
Keith Jackson, Howard Cosell and Don Drysdale

August 13, 1979 Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia
Montreal @ Houston
August 20, 1979 Texas @ Baltimore
Cincinnati @ Montreal
August 27, 1979 Houston @ Montreal
Cincinnati @ Philadelphia
September 9, 1979 Los Angeles @ Cincinnati
San Francisco @ Houston
September 23, 1979 Cincinnati @ Houston
September 30, 1979 Chicago Cubs @ Pittsburgh
Montreal @ Philadelphia



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. Also in 1980, ABC (with Al Michaels and Bob Uecker on the call) broadcast the National League West tie-breaker game between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers.[55] On October 11, 1980, Keith Jackson called an Oklahoma-Texas college football game for ABC in the afternoon, then flew to Houston to call Game 4 of the NLCS. In the meantime, Don Drysdale filled-in for Jackson on play-by-play for the early innings.

In 1981, ABC planned to increase coverage to 10 Monday night games and eight Sunday afternoon games, but the players' strike that year ended up reducing the network's schedule to three Monday night and seven Sunday afternoon telecasts. Also in 1981, as means to recoup revenue lost during a the players' strike, Major League Baseball set up a special additional playoff round (as a prelude to the League Championship Series). ABC televised the American League Division Series while NBC televised the National League Division Series. The Division Series round wouldn't be officially instituted until 14 years later. Games 3 of the Brewers/Yankees series and Royals/Athletics series were aired regionally. On October 10, Keith Jackson called an Oklahoma-Texas college football game for ABC and missed Game 4 of the Milwaukee-New York series. In Jackson's absence, Don Drysdale filled-in for him on play-by-play alongside Howard Cosell.

In 1982, ABC aired 11 Monday night games and one Sunday afternoon game. Game 1 of the 1982 NLCS had to be played twice. In the first attempt (on October 6), the Atlanta Braves led against the St. Louis Cardinals 1–0 behind Phil Niekro. The game was three outs away becoming official when the umpire stopped it. When the rain did not subside, the game was canceled.[56] Game 1 began from the start the following night in a pitching match-up of Pascual Pérez for the Braves and longtime Cardinal starter Bob Forsch. ABC's Jim Lampley[57] interviewed the winners in the Cardinals' clubhouse after clinching the National League pennant in Game 3.

Date Teams Announcers
June 2, 1980 New York Yankees @ Kansas City
Cincinnati @ Los Angeles
June 9, 1980 Los Angeles @ New York Mets
New York Yankees @ California
June 16, 1980 Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
Oakland @ Boston
June 23, 1980 Los Angeles @ Houston
Boston @ New York Yankees
June 30, 1980 New York Yankees @ Boston
Philadelphia @ Montreal
August 17, 1980 Montreal @ Pittsburgh
New York Yankees @ Baltimore
August 24, 1980 Los Angeles @ New York Mets
Baltimore @ Oakland
August 31, 1980 Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
September 7, 1980 Oakland @ Baltimore
California @ New York Yankees
September 14, 1980 Montreal @ Pittsburgh
Los Angeles @ Cincinnati
September 21, 1980 Houston @ San Francisco
Cincinnati @ Los Angeles
September 28, 1980[58] Montreal @ Philadelphia
St. Louis @ Houston
Keith Jackson and Don Drysdale

October 5, 1980 Philadelphia @ Montreal
Houston @ Los Angeles
June 1, 1981 New York Yankees @ Cleveland
St. Louis @ Montreal
June 8, 1981 New York Yankees @ Kansas City
Los Angeles @ St. Louis
August 10, 1981 Cincinnati @ Los Angeles
St. Louis @ Philadelphia
August 16, 1981 Baltimore @ Chicago White Sox
St. Louis @ Montreal
August 23, 1981 Los Angeles @ St. Louis
New York Yankees @ Kansas City
September 6, 1981 Cincinnati @ Philadelphia
Oakland @ Baltimore
September 13, 1981 Boston @ New York Yankees
Los Angeles @ Cincinnati
September 20, 1981 Oakland @ Chicago White Sox
Cincinnati @ Los Angeles
September 27, 1981 Milwaukee @ Detroit
October 4, 1981 Detroit @ Milwaukee
June 7, 1982 Oakland @ Chicago White Sox
June 14, 1982 New York Mets @ Pittsburgh
June 21, 1982 Detroit @ Boston
June 28, 1982 St. Louis @ Philadelphia
July 5, 1982 Milwaukee @ Chicago White Sox
July 19, 1982 California @ Baltimore
July 26, 1982 Toronto @ Boston
Chicago White Sox @ Baltimore
August 2, 1982 Montreal @ Philadelphia
Pittsburgh @ St. Louis
August 9, 1982 New York Yankees @ Detroit
Cincinnati @ Los Angeles
August 16, 1982 California @ Oakland
Baltimore @ Boston
August 23, 1982 Philadelphia @ Atlanta
October 3, 1982 Milwaukee @ Baltimore Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell

1983-1989 television package

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 would continue to alternate coverage of the playoffs (ABC in even numbered years and NBC in odd numbered years), World Series (ABC would televise the World Series in odd numbered years and NBC in even numbered years), and All-Star Game (ABC would televise the All-Star Game in even numbered years and NBC in odd numbered years) through the 1989 season, with each of the 26 clubs receiving $7 million per year in return (even if no fans showed up). 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.

1983 marked the last time that local telecasts of League Championship Series games were allowed. In 1982, Major League Baseball recognized a problem with this due to the emergence of cable superstations such as WTBS in Atlanta and WGN-TV in Chicago. When TBS tried to petition for the right to do a "local" Braves broadcast of the 1982 NLCS,[59] Major League Baseball got a Philadelphia federal court[60][61] to ban[62] them on the grounds that as a cable superstation, TBS could not have a nationwide telecast competing with ABC's.

  • 1983 - $20 million in advance from the two networks.
  • 1984 - NBC $70 million, ABC $56 million, total $126 million.
  • 1985 - NBC $61 million, ABC $75 million, total $136 million.

Note: The networks got $9 million when Major League Baseball expanded the League Championship Series from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven in 1985.

  • 1986 - NBC $75 million, ABC $66 million, total $141 million.
  • 1987 - NBC $81 million, ABC $90 million, total $171 million.
  • 1988 - NBC $90 million, ABC $96 million, total $186 million.
  • 1989 - NBC $106 million, ABC $125 million, total $231 million.

On June 6, 1983, Al Michaels officially succeeded Keith Jackson as the lead play-by-play announcer for Monday Night Baseball. Michaels, who spent seven seasons working backup games, was apparently very miffed over ABC Sports taking their sweet time with making him their top baseball announcer. Unlike Jackson, whose forte was college football, Michaels had gigs with the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants before joining ABC in 1976. TV Guide huffed about Jackson by saying "A football guy, on baseball!" Jackson was unavailable for several World Series games in 1979 and 1981 because of conflicts with his otherwise normal college football broadcasting schedule. Thus, Michaels would do play-by-play for games on weekends.

Earl Weaver was the #1 ABC analyst in 1983, but was also employed by the Baltimore Orioles as a consultant. At the time, ABC had a policy preventing an announcer who was employed by a team from working games involving that team. So whenever the Orioles were on the primary ABC game, Weaver worked the backup game. This policy forced Weaver to resign from the Orioles' consulting position in October in order to be able to work the World Series for ABC.

The rather unusual 1984 NLCS schedule (which had an off day after Game 3 rather than Game 2) allowed ABC to have a prime time game each weeknight even though Chicago's Wrigley Field did not have lights at the time (which remained the case until four years later). ABC used Tim McCarver as a field reporter during the 1984 NLCS. During the regular season, McCarver teamed with Don Drysdale (who would team with Earl Weaver and Reggie Jackson for the 1984 NLCS) on backup games[63] while Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver/Howard Cosell formed ABC's number one broadcasting team. For ABC's coverage of the 1984 All-Star Game, Jim Palmer only served as a between innings analyst.

Meanwhile, had the 1984 ALCS between the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals gone the full five games (the last year that the League Championship Series was a best-of-five series), Game 5 on Sunday October 7, would have been a 1 p.m. ET time start instead of being in prime time. This would have happened because one of the presidential debates between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale was scheduled for that night. In return, ABC was going to broadcast the debates instead of a baseball game in prime time.

In 1985, ABC announced that every game of the World Series would be played under the lights for the biggest baseball audience possible. Just prior to the start of the 1985 World Series, ABC removed Howard Cosell from scheduled announcing duties as punishment for his controversial book I Never Played the Game. In Cosell's place came Tim McCarver (joining play-by-play man Michaels and fellow color commentator Jim Palmer), who was beginning his trek of being a part of numerous World Series telecasts.

Reportedly, by 1985, Cosell was considered to be difficult to work with on baseball telecasts. Apparently, Cosell and Michaels got into a fairly heated argument following the conclusion of their coverage of the 1984 American League Championship Series due to Cosell's supposed drunkenness among other problems. Rumor has it that Michaels went as far as to urged ABC executives to remove Cosell from the booth. Ultimately, Michaels went public with his problems with Cosell. Michaels claimed that "Howard had become a cruel, evil, vicious person."

By 1986, ABC only televised 13 Monday Night Baseball games.[64] This was a fairly sharp contrast to the 18 games to that were scheduled in 1978. The Sporting News believed that ABC paid Major League Baseball to not make them televise the regular season. TSN added that the network only wanted the sport for October anyway. Going into 1987, ABC had reportedly purchased 20 Monday night games but only used eight of those slots. More to the point, CBS Sports president Neal Pilson said "Three years ago, we believed ABC's package was overpriced by $175 million. We still believe it's overpriced by $175 million."[65]

On October 15, 1986, Game 6 of the NLCS ran so long (lasting for 16 innings, 5 hours and 29 minutes), it bumped up against the start time of Game 7 of the ALCS (also on ABC). During Game 6 of the NLCS, color commentator Tim McCarver left the booth during the bottom of the 16th, in order to cover the expected celebration in the New York Mets' clubhouse. As a result, play-by-play man Keith Jackson was on the air by himself for a short time. Eventually, McCarver rejoined the broadcast just before the end of the game, watching the action on a monitor in the Mets' clubhouse, then doing the postgame interviews with the Mets. Meanwhile, Corey McPherrin, a sports anchor with WABC (ABC's flagship station out of New York) interviewed Mike Scott when he was presented with the 1986 NLCS MVP award after Game 6. During the late 1980s, McPherrin delivered in-game updates during ABC's Monday Night Baseball and Thursday Night Baseball broadcasts. In his last ever ABC assignment, Don Drysdale interviewed the winners in the Boston clubhouse following Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS.

For the 1987 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals, ABC utilized 12 cameras and nine tape machines. This includes cameras positioned down the left field line, on the roof of the Metrodome, and high above third base.

ABC's coverage of Game 2 of the 1988 NLCS didn't start until 10 p.m. ET due to a presidential debate. This is the latest ever scheduled start for an LCS game. Gary Bender did play-by-play for the 1988 American League Championship Series between the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox. Bender spent two years (1987-1988) as the #2 baseball play-by-play man for ABC behind Al Michaels. Bender worked the backup Monday Night Baseball broadcasts (with Tim McCarver in 1987 and Joe Morgan in 1988) as well as serving as a field reporter for ABC's 1987 World Series coverage. After Bender spent an entire summer developing a team with Joe Morgan, ABC brought in Reggie Jackson to work with the duo for the 1988 ALCS. According to Bender's autobiography Call of the Game (pages 118-120), ABC's decision to bring in Jackson to work with Bender and Morgan caused problems:

Reggie is one of the strongest personalities I've ever met. He epitomizes the big-name athlete who has become a great player, in part because of his ego, but who does not have the sensitivity to let go of that ego when working with others. Consequently, Reggie demanded things he hadn't earned the right to demand. He wanted more attention. He insisted we adjust our way of doing things for him.

It should be noted that during the spare time of his active career, Reggie Jackson worked as a field reporter and color commentator for ABC Sports. During the 1980s (1983, 1985, and 1987 respectively), Jackson was given the task of presiding over the World Series Trophy presentations.

1983-1988 schedules
Date Teams Announcers
June 6, 1983 California @ Milwaukee
June 13, 1983 Philadelphia @ St. Louis
June 20, 1983 New York Yankees @ Baltimore
June 27, 1983 Baltimore @ New York Yankees
July 4, 1983 Kansas City @ California
July 11, 1983 St. Louis @ Los Angeles
July 18, 1983 Kansas City @ Toronto
July 25, 1983 New York Yankees @ Texas
Baltimore @ California
August 1, 1983 New York Yankees @ Chicago White Sox
August 8, 1983 Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia
August 15, 1983 Boston @ Milwaukee
August 22, 1983 Chicago White Sox @ Kansas City
June 4, 1984 Toronto @ Detroit
June 11, 1984 Detroit @ Toronto
June 18, 1984 New York Yankees @ Detroit
June 25, 1984 New York Mets @ Philadelphia
July 2, 1984 Detroit @ Chicago White Sox
July 23, 1984 Chicago Cubs @ Philadelphia
June 3, 1985 New York Mets @ Los Angeles
June 10, 1985 New York Yankees @ Toronto
June 17, 1985 Chicago Cubs@ New York Mets
June 24, 1985 Baltimore @ New York Yankees
July 1, 1985 Cincinnati @ Los Angeles
July 8, 1985 New York Mets @ Cincinnati
Milwaukee @ California

Don Drysdale and Tim McCarver
July 22, 1985 New York Yankees @ Kansas City
July 29, 1985 New York Mets @ Montreal
April 27, 1986 New York Mets @ St. Louis
June 1, 1986 San Francisco Giants @ New York Mets
June 30, 1986 New York Mets @ St. Louis
July 7, 1986 New York Yankees @ Texas
Oakland @ Boston
July 14, 1986 New York Mets @ Cincinnati
July 28, 1986 Boston @ Chicago White Sox
August 4, 1986 Chicago White Sox @ Boston
August 11, 1986 New York Mets @ Philadelphia
August 18, 1986 New York Mets @ Los Angeles
August 25, 1986 California @ New York Yankees
June 1, 1987 California @ New York Yankees
San Francisco @ Cincinnati
June 8, 1987 Toronto @ New York Yankees
June 15, 1987 New York Mets @ Montreal
June 22, 1987 Montreal @ St. Louis
June 29, 1987 St. Louis @ New York Mets
July 6, 1987 Minnesota @ New York Yankees
July 20, 1987 New York Yankees @ Minnesota
July 27, 1987 San Francisco @ Los Angeles
October 4, 1987 Toronto @ Detroit Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
May 30, 1988[66][67] New York Yankees at Oakland Gary Bender and Joe Morgan
June 6, 1988[68] Boston @ New York Yankees
Houston @ Los Angeles
June 13, 1988 St. Louis @ New York Mets
New York Yankees @ Boston

Gary Bender and Joe Morgan
June 20, 1988 New York Yankees @ Detroit[69]
June 27, 1988 New York Mets @ Pittsburgh Al Michaels,[70] Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
July 4, 1988[71] Cincinnati @ New York Mets
July 18, 1988 Texas @ New York Yankees
July 25, 1988 New York Mets @ Philadelphia
Los Angeles @ San Francisco
August 1, 1988[72] Pittsburgh @ New York Mets
Houston @ San Francisco

1987 World Series scheduling conflicts

There have been a few occasions when two Monday Night Football games were played simultaneously. In 1987, a scheduling conflict arose when Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins went to Game 7 of the World Series (which also aired on ABC[73]), making the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome unavailable for the Minnesota Vikings' scheduled game (against the Denver Broncos) that Sunday.


In 1989 (the final year of ABC's contract with Major League Baseball), ABC moved the baseball telecasts to Thursday nights[74] in hopes of getting leg up against NBC's Cosby Show. After braving the traumatic Loma Prieta earthquake[75] and an all-time low 16.4 rating for the 1989 World Series, Al Michaels took ABC's loss of baseball to CBS as "tough to accept." Michaels added that "baseball was such an early stepchild at ABC and had come such a long way." Gary Thorne,[76] who served as ABC's backup play-by-play announcer in 1989 and was an on-field reporter for the World Series that year (and covering the trophy presentation in the process), simply laughed while saying "Great reviews, just as ABC baseball ends." Meanwhile, Dennis Swanson, president of ABC Sports, noted in a statement that baseball had been a blue-chip franchise since 1976 for the network, which was disappointed to lose it.[64] After ABC lost the Major League Baseball package to CBS, they aggressively counterprogrammed CBS' postseason baseball coverage with made-for-TV movies and miniseries geared towards female viewers.[77]

As previously mentioned, Game 3 of the 1989 World Series (initially scheduled for October 17) was delayed by ten days due to the Loma Prieta earthquake. The earthquake struck at approximately 5:04 p.m. Pacific Time. After about a 15 minute delay (ABC aired a rerun of Roseanne and subsequently, The Wonder Years in the meantime), ABC was able to regain power via a backup generator. ABC's play-by-play man, Al Michaels (who was familiar with the San Francisco Bay Area dating back to his days working for the San Francisco Giants from 1974-1976) then proceeded to relay reports to Ted Koppel at ABC News' headquarters in Washington, D.C. Al Michaels would ultimately be nominated for an Emmy for his on-site reporting at the World Series.

Date Teams Announcers
June 8, 1989[78] New York Mets @ Chicago Cubs Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
June 15, 1989 Chicago Cubs @ New York Mets
June 22, 1989 Baltimore @ California
Toronto @ Oakland
June 29, 1989[79] Chicago Cubs @ San Francisco
July 6, 1989 Cincinnati @ New York Mets
Kansas City @ Oakland
July 13, 1989 Kansas City @ New York Yankees
July 20, 1989 San Francisco @ Chicago Cubs Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver
July 27, 1989 Baltimore[80] @ Minnesota Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver


After a four year long hiatus (when CBS exclusively carried the Major League Baseball television rights), ABC returned to baseball in 1994.

Under a six year plan, Major League Baseball was intended to receive 85% of the first $140 million in advertising revenue (or 87.5% of advertising revenues and corporate sponsorship from the games until sales top 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.

After NBC was finished with their post-1994 All-Star Game six week baseball coverage, ABC (with a reunited Al Michaels, Tim McCarver, and Jim Palmer as the primary crew) would then pick up where NBC left off by televising six more regular season games. Joining the team of Michaels, McCarver, and Palmer was Lesley Visser, who served as the lead field reporter for the CBS' baseball coverage from 1990-1993. Visser was reuniting with McCarver, for whom she had worked with on CBS. The regular season games fell under the Baseball Night in America umbrella which premiered on July 16, 1994. On the subject of play-by-play man Al Michaels returning to baseball for the first time since the infamous 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."

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 and newly created Division Series. In odd numbered years the postseason and All-Star Game television rights were supposed to alternate.

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 by calling "heads." Ken Schanzer, 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'd divvy up the playoffs.

The long term plans for The Baseball Network crumbled when the players went on strike on August 12, 1994 (thus forcing the cancellation of the World Series). In July 1995, ABC and NBC, who wound up having to share the duties of televising the 1995 World Series as a way to recoup (with ABC broadcasting Games 1, 4, and 5 and NBC broadcasting Games 2, 3, and 6), announced that they were opting out of their agreement with Major League Baseball. Both networks figured that as the delayed 1995 baseball season opened without a labor agreement, there was no guarantee against another strike. Both networks soon publicly vowed to cut all ties with Major League Baseball for the remainder of the 20th century.

ABC Sports president Dennis Swanson, 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 longterm 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.

The network's final Major League Baseball game to date was Game 5 of the 1995 World Series (October 26). Calling the final out of the game, Al Michaels yelled, "Back to Georgia!" as the Cleveland Indians took Game 5.


In relation to ESPN Major League Baseball

Sister network ESPN (under the Walt Disney Company umbrella), which took over ABC Sports operations in 2006 under the name "ESPN on ABC", continues to show MLB contests (beginning in 1990), but it is contractually prohibited from transferring any games to ABC, even if it wanted to, as Fox holds exclusive terrestrial television rights in the U.S. until 2013. Several ABC baseball alumni such as Joe Morgan and Gary Thorne have regularly worked on ESPN's baseball broadcasts.


Inline citations
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