Game of the Week

From BR Bullpen

The Major League Baseball Game of the Week is the traditional name for a nationally-broadcast televised major league game.

The Game of the Week was first broadcast on the ABC network in 1953, with Dizzy Dean and Buddy Blattner providing commentary. The show was a huge hit even though ABC was prohibited from broadcasting anywhere within 75 miles of an established major league team, thus keeping it out of the major media markets of the east coast. In 1954, ABC tried to circumvent that prohibition by broadcasting a spring training game to a national audience, but was forced to pull the plug in mid-game when the teams involved found out that the reach of the broadcast was wider than what they thought they had authorized. Nevertheless, CBS and NBC soon joined in on the fun, all three networks airing a weekly game at different times in the 1950s and early 1960s. In 1965, Jackie Robinson worked as an announcer on these games for ABC. Jack Buck, Pee Wee Reese, Bob Wolff and Mel Allen were among the other announcers to work these games for the three networks during that period.

In October of 1966, NBC signed a contract with Major League Baseball for a Game of the Week, in addition to obtaining exclusive coverage of the All-Star Game and World Series, with Curt Gowdy as the main play-by-play voice. In the 1970s, Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek became the announcers for the Saturday afternoon game. That decade, ABC also began broadcasting Monday Night Baseball, as part of the deal between ABC and NBC to cover the World Series in alternate years. Vin Scully eventually partnered Garagiola, with Kubek and Costas working the back-up game (while there were no blackouts anymore, MLB had agreed not to air games in a team's local market, dictating the necessity of having two possible games to cover all markets, the second game also serving in case of a rainout of the main game).

NBC's last Game of the Week was at the end of the 1989 season, as CBS took over starting in 1990. However, the network was not as dedicated as NBC in ensuring that fans could watch a game every Saturday afternoon, cutting back from a schedule of around 25 games to only 16. It was principally the World Series, League Championship Series and All-Star Game which mattered to CBS and the Game of the Week was badly neglected. When the games did air, Jack Buck and Tim McCarver were the announcers. The program ended after the 1993 season. It was revived in 1996 when FOX bought the broadcast rights. They continued CBS's practice of airing only 16 games per year, and blatantly concentrated on teams from the three largest markets (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago). In 2007, FOX reverted to covering a full schedule of Saturday games, with a few exceptions, with the standard time being 4:00 pm ET on Saturdays. During the period, ESPN also began airing a weekly game, Sunday Night Baseball, as well as other games on weekday evenings.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Robert D. Warrington: "The Nationally Televised Major League Baseball Game That Wasn't", Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 51, Number 1 (Spring 2022), pp. 65-71.

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