Major League Baseball on CBS is the name of the former TV show that televised Major League Baseball games on the American television network CBS (legally known as the Columbia Broadcasting System from 1928 to 1974). Produced by CBS Sports, there have been several variations of the program dating back to the 1950s. The most notable version existed from 1990 to 1993.
In 1957, CBS added a Sunday Game of the Week. ABC's Edgar Scherick said "In '53, no one wanted us. Now teams begged for "Game"'s cash." That year, the NFL began a $14.1 million revenue-sharing pact. By 1965, Major League Baseball ended the big-city blackout, got $6.5 miliion for exclusivity, and split the pot.
With CBS now carrying the Game of the Week, outlets in Phoenix, Little Rock, and Cedar Rapids were finally receiving the Game of the Week. Bud Blattner said "America had never had TV network ball. Now you're getting two games a week [four, counting NBC, by 1959]."
In 1966, the New York Yankees, who in the year prior played 21 Games of the Week for CBS, joined NBC's television package. The new package under NBC called for 28 games compared to 1960's three-network 123.
On December 14, 1988, CBS (under the guidance of Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, Major League Baseball's broadcast director Bryan Burns, CBS Inc. CEO Laurence Tisch as well as CBS Sports executives Neil Pilson and Eddie Einhorn) paid approximately $1.8 billion for exclusive over-the-air television rights for over four years (beginning in 1990). CBS paid about $265 million each year for the World Series, League Championship Series, All-Star Game, and the Saturday Game of the Week. It was one of the largest agreements (to date) between the sport of baseball and the business of broadcasting.
The deal with CBS was also intended to pay each team (26 in 1990 and then, 28 by 1993) $10 million a year. They also would be paying an estimated $7.1 million per game or $790,000 per inning, and $132,000 per out.
A separate deal with cable TV would bring each team an additional $4 million. Each team could also cut its own deal with local TV. For example, the New York Yankees signed with a cable network (MSG) that would pay the team $41 million annually for 12 years. Radio broadcast rights can bring in additional money. Reportedly, after the huge TV contracts with CBS and ESPN were signed, ballclubs spent their excess millions on free agents.
Before the previous television contract (1984–1989) with Major League Baseball was signed, CBS was at one point, interested in a pact which would have called for three interleague games every Thursday night (only). The proposed deal with CBS involved the American League East teams playing the National League East and the American League West playing the National League West respectively.
A recurring theme during CBS' coverage of the postseason was the usage of Michael Kamen's "Overture" from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. From start to finish, an audio montage of baseball's most memorable moments played on top, followed by a video and music only (no narration) recap of both League Championship Series and the World Series from 1991 to 1993. The "Training" cue from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was played against an all slow-motion montage of the entire series. As Tim McCarver recapped the first six games of the 1991 World Series before Game 7, CBS used Hans Zimmer's "Fighting 17th" from the movie Backdraft for the soundtrack. During the 1993 All-Star Game and postseason, highlights of past All-Star Games and postseason moments were scored using the John Williams composed theme from the movie Jurassic Park.
Meanwhile, Jim Kaat earned rave reviews for his role as CBS' backup analyst (which flashed a considerable "good-guy air"). Ron Bergman wrote of Kaat's performance during the 1990 ALCS "This was a night for pitchers to excel. Dave Stewart. Roger Clemens. Jim Kaat [on commentary]." Despite the rave reviews, Jim Kaat admitted that he was frustrated. He felt that at that point and time, the idea of figuring out what to talk about during a three-hour broadcast had become intimidating. As a result, Kaat would bring notes into the booth, but in the process, found himself providing too much detail. He ultimately confided in his broadcasting partner, Dick Stockton, that he wanted to work without notes. So Stockton hooked Kaat up with then-lead NFL on CBS color man, John Madden for a telephone seminar. Madden said if he brought notes into the booth he felt compelled to use them and would "force" something into a telecast. On his seminar with John Madden, Jim Kaat said "Then John told me if he did his homework it would be stored in his memory bank. And if it is important it will come out. If it doesn't, it probably wasn't that important."
A mildly notorious moment came during CBS' coverage of the 1990 All-Star Game from Wrigley Field in Chicago. In a game that was marred by rain delays for a combined 85 minutes (including a 68 minute monsoon during the 7th inning), CBS annoyed many diehard fans by airing the William Shatner hosted reality series Rescue 911 during the delay.
Earlier in the postseason, CBS' coverage of the ALCS meant that they could not carry the live testimony of Clarence Thomas, whose confirmation to the United States Supreme Court was put into question because of charges of sexual harassment from former staffer Anita Hill. Meanwhile, ABC, NBC, CNN and PBS all carried the testimony.
As CBS' baseball coverage progressed, they dropped the 8:00 p.m. pregame coverage (in favor of sitcoms such as Evening Shade), before finally starting their coverage at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The first pitch would generally arrive at approximately 8:45 p.m. Perhaps as a result, Joe Carter's World Series clinching home run off Mitch Williams in 1993, occurred at 12:00 a.m. on the East Coast.
Jack Buck himself sized up CBS' handling of the announcers by saying "CBS never got that baseball play-by-play draws word-pictures. All they knew was that football stars analysts. So they said, 'Let [analyst Tim] McCarver run the show.' In television, all they want you to do is shut up. I'm not very good at shutting up." Buck though, would add that although he knew Tim McCarver well, they never developed a good relationship with each other on the air despite high hopes to the contrary. Phil Mushnick added insult to injury to Buck by accusing him of "Trying to predict plays, as if to prove he was still on top."
My biggest problem was understanding my role. They wanted him to dominate the broadcast and have me be the mechanic and stay out of the way. I didn't want to broadcast that way. I guess I should have accepted it, but relying on my experience on GrandStand (NBC's NFL pregame show that Buck hosted in 1975) when I had not challenged anyone, I couldn't let others make all the decisions that put me in a position where I couldn't perform at all. — Jack Buck in his autobiography That's a Winner.
Jack Buck got into deep trouble with CBS executives (namely, executive producer Ted Shaker, who approached Buck in the hotel lobby to tell him that he was in trouble) over questionable comments made towards singer Bobby Vinton. While on air prior to Game 4 of the 1990 National League Championship Series in Pittsburgh, Buck criticized Vinton's off-key rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner". Buck got into trouble because his pot-shot towards Vinton sounded like a prejudicial remark centered on Vinton's Polish heritage. Joe Buck believed that the Bobby Vinton situation was ironic because his father was "trying to help the guy." Legend has it, that Buck soon received death threats from Pirate fans and discovered a footprint on his pillow once he returned to his hotel room.
Also in 1992, Tim McCarver ran afoul of Atlanta Braves outfielder Deion Sanders while in the Braves' clubhouse following Game 7 of the NLCS. Sanders dumped a bucket of ice water on McCarver as retaliation for McCarver's on-air comments that criticized Sanders' life as a two-sport athlete (the other sport being as a member of the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL).
Speaking of Tim McCarver, during the 1992 postseason, Norman Chad criticized McCarver in Sports Illustrated by saying that he's someone who 'when you ask him the time, will tell you how a watch works.' Chad's critique of McCarver was a reference to McCarver's supposed habit of overanalyzing. Chad went further by saying "What's the difference between Tim McCarver and appendicitis? Appendicitis is covered by most health plans."
McCarver was also known to make many gaffes from time to time. One of his more amusing miscues came during the 1992 National League Championship Series when he repeatedly referred to Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tim Wakefield as "Bill Wakefield." He finally explained that Bill Wakefield was one of his old minor-league teammates, and he laughed at himself because "I forgot my own name!"'
During the 1992 postseason, CBS missed covering one of the three debates among U.S. presidential candidates George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and H. Ross Perot. The network had planned to join other broadcast and cable networks in the telecast; however, Game 4 of the ALCS between the Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics did not end until 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time, about the time the debate ended. The Blue Jays won the game 7-6 in 11 innings. The other networks reported very good ratings for the debate, part of one of the more compelling election campaigns in recent times.
Rick Gentile, the senior vice president for production of CBS Sports, said that Richie Phillips, the lawyer for the Major League Umpires Association, tried to call the broadcast booth during Saturday's game, but the call was not put through. Richie Phillips apparently was upset when Dave Phillips called the Philadelphia Phillies' Ricky Jordan out on strikes in the fourth inning, and a replay showed the pitch to be about 6 inches outside.
You guys keep using that camera the way you want. Don't let Phillips intimidate you.
Marv Albert, who hosted NBC's baseball pregame show for many years said about CBS' baseball coverage "You wouldn't see a game for a month. Then you didn't know when CBS came back on." Sports Illustrated joked that CBS stood for Covers Baseball Sporadically. USA Today added that Jack Buck and Tim McCarver "may have to have a reunion before [their] telecast." Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News took it a step further by calling CBS' baseball deal "The Vietnam of sports television."
NBC play-by-play man Bob Costas believed that a large bulk of the regular season coverage beginning in the 1990s to cable (namely, ESPN) because CBS, the network that was taking over from NBC the television rights beginning in 1990 didn't really want the Saturday Game of the Week. Many fans who didn't appreciate CBS' approach to scheduling regular season baseball games believed that they were only truly after the marquee events (i.e. All-Star Game, League Championship Series, and the World Series) in order to sell advertising space (especially the fall entertainment television schedule).
In 1991, it cost CBS $4.8 million per game in venue productions alone to show the National League Championship Series. This doesn't include studio backup operations or the satellite time needed to transmit the game to New York for broadcast on their network frequencies. The American League Championship Series (between the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays) was another problem because of the tariffs and labor laws they had to endure going into Canada. CBS averaged $1.9–$2.4 million per regular season game. In return, it was typical for the production cost to double come playoff time.
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. It was rumored that CBS would show Thursday night games while FOX would show Saturday afternoon games. CBS and FOX were also rumored to share rights to the postseason. In the end however, CBS' involvement did not come to pass.
Everyone at CBS who cared about baseball felt like they went through hell with it. — CBS Sports producer Ed Goren
The overall revenues of the game have more than doubled since the early 1990s. The problem isn't that the game has insufficient popularity or revenues, the problem is that the game has an imperfect economic system, which often renders any amount of revenue, in the long run, inadequate. You know, they get another source of revenue and they flush it right down the drain. Look what happened when NBC lost baseball in the late 1980s. CBS comes in with this enormous deal for baseball, so the revenues are exponentially increased, but they frittered it all away immediately when the salary structure just immediately exploded right after that. At that time the top paid player made about $2 million a year. Within a couple of years you had dozens and dozens of players making $5 million a year. — Bob Costas
If you're Polish and you're from Pittsburgh, you can do anything you want with the words. — Jack Buck in response to Bobby Vinton's less-than-perfect rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to Game 4 of the 1990 National League Championship Series.
Fly ball into deep, deep center field, McGee going back...it's going to go!!! You would think they had just won the World Series! — Jack Buck calling Eric Davis' home run off Dave Stewart in Game 1 of the 1990 World Series.
That ball is...FAIR!!! Cincinnati's ahead two games to none!!! — Jack Buck calling Joe Oliver's game winning base hit in Game 2 of the 1990 World Series.
(Billy) Hatcher flies to right field and (José) Canseco can't get it! It's off his glove...Hatcher's gonna end up at third! — Jack Buck, calling Billy Hatcher's seventh consecutive hit in the 1990 World Series.
Cincinnati, the champions of baseball for 1990...with an improbable sweep over Oakland!!! — Jack Buck calling the final out in Game 4 of the 1990 World Series.
Robby Thompson gets to it...In Atlanta let the celebration begin!!! — Jack Buck informing the viewers that the Atlanta Braves have clinched the 1991 Western Division title in the National League. This was ensured immediately after the Los Angeles Dodgers lost a game against the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park.
And the Minnesota Twins have gone from the cellar to the penthouse in the American League! — Dick Stockton calling the final out in Game 5 of the 1991 American League Championship Series.
And John Smoltz has pitched Atlanta into the World Series! — Jack Buck at the conclusion of Game 7 of the 1991 National League Championship Series.
That's going to be a winner for Atlanta!!! The runner tags at third, here's the throw from Mack, here's Lemke...he is out..safe, safe, safe!!! They called him safe! Atlanta wins and they're going to say that Harper did not tag him! — Jack Buck calling Jerry Willard's game winning sacrifice fly in Game 4 of the 1991 World Series.
Into deep left-center, for Mitchell...and we'll see you...TOMORROW NIGHT! — Jack Buck, announcing Minnesota Twins center fielder Kirby Puckett's game winning 11th inning walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series against Charlie Leibrandt. On the original telecast, Jack Buck confused left field (where Puckett hit the ball) with right field. Soon afterwards, CBS forced Buck to redub his call for subsequent highlight packages.
The play is to home! Out there...out there!!! — Jack Buck calling Atlanta Brave Sid Bream hitting into a top of the 8th inning ending double play in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
Atlanta hasn't scored in ten innings against Jack Morris! — Jack Buck calling the end of the top of the 10th inning in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
The Twins are going to win the World Series!!! The Twins have won it! It's a base hit! It's a 1-0 10th inning victory! — Jack Buck calling Gene Larkin's game winning bloop single in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
Deep to left...and there goes Ron Gant's first ever grand slam! — Sean McDonough calling Ron Gant's home run off Bob Walk in Game 2 of the 1992 National League Championship Series.
And a drive hit to right field, Sierra going back, looking up...and this game is tied, Roberto Alomar! — Dick Stockton calling Roberto Alomar's top of the 9th inning home run off Dennis Eckersley in Game 4 of the 1992 American League Championship Series.
Line-drive and a base-hit!!! Justice has scored the tying run, Bream to the plate...and he's safe, safe at the plate!!! The Braves go to the World Series! The unlikeliest of heroes wins the National League Championship Series for the Atlanta Braves. Francisco Cabrera, who had only ten at-bats in the major leagues during the regular season, singled through the left side, scoring Sid Bream from second base with the winning run. Bream, who’s had five knee operations in his lifetime, just beat the tag from his ex-mate Mike LaValliere, and Atlanta pulls out Game 7 with three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. This place is bedlam. There will be no second nightmare for Bobby Cox. The final score in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series: the Braves 3 and the Pirates 2. — Sean McDonough calling Francisco Cabrera's dramatic game winning base hit in Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series.
Well hit to left field...home run Ed Sprague! Off the bench with a pinch hit two run homer off Jeff Reardon and the Blue Jays lead 5-4! – Sean McDonough during Game 4 of the 1992 World Series.
The runners go on the 3-and-2 to Winfield...down the line, a base hit into the left-field corner! One run is in, Alomar comes around...The ball gets away from Gant...It's a two-run double for Dave Winfield, and a 4-2 Toronto lead! – Sean McDonough calling Dave Winfield's 1992 World Series winning double.
Timlin...Nixon bunts, Timlin on it, throws to first...for the first time in history, the World Championship banner will fly north of the border! The Toronto Blue Jays are baseball's best in 1992! — Sean McDonough calling the final out of Game 6 of the 1992 World Series.
Fair ball, into the left field corner! Kruk around to score and Kim Batiste goes from goat to hero in a matter of minutes! — Sean McDonough calling Phillies infielder Kim Batiste's 10th-inninng game-winning single in Game 1 of the 1993 National League Championship Series. Batiste had committed a 9th-inning error to allow the Atlanta Braves to tie the score and force extra innings.
And the Philadelphia Phillies have won the National League pennant! — Sean McDonough calling the final out of Game 6 of the 1993 National League Championship Series.
Henderson to the plate with the go-ahead run!!! — Sean McDonough responding to the Toronto Blue Jays regaining the lead in what turned out to be a wild 15-14 contest in Game 4 of the 1993 World Series.
In Canada, when you say PM they think of Prime Minister, but now they might start thinking Paul Molitor! — Tim McCarver during Game 6 of the 1993 World Series.
Well-hit down the left-field line! Way back and gone! Joe Carter with a three-run homer! The winners and still world champions, the Toronto Blue Jays! - Sean McDonough calling Joe Carter's dramatic World Series home run off Mitch Williams.