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Major League Baseball on superstations

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Title: Major League Baseball on superstations  
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Subject: The Baseball Network, Major League Baseball on cable television, Historical Major League Baseball over-the-air television broadcasters
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Major League Baseball on superstations

American League

Boston Red Sox

WSBK-TV generally broadcasts syndicated programs and movies. However, the station is best known in the Boston area for being the long-time television home of the Boston Red Sox. WSBK became the Red Sox's over-air flagship station in 1975 and remained so for 20 years losing the rights in 1996 to WABU (now WBPX). After a seven-season hiatus, WSBK (in partnership with sister station WBZ) resumed its role as the Red Sox flagship station in 2003 although only for Friday night games. Most games were carried by NESN, who aired the Friday night games outside of the Boston DMA, effectively blacking out WSBK in these areas (the Red Sox have 80 percent holdings in NESN). Among the nationally prominent announcers that have called Red Sox games on the station are Dick Stockton and Sean McDonough. WBZ ceased to broadcast the games after the 2004 season and NESN announced that WSBK would itself cease airing games in early 2006. This made the team cable-exclusive.

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox were originally carried by WGN for 20 seasons (1948–1967), before the team moved to then-upstart independent station WFLD (who, like WGN-TV, carried the South Siders on more than occasion) in 1968. The White Sox later moved to another upstart local independent, WSNS, for eight seasons (1973–1980) before briefly returning to WGN for the 1981 season, and then returning to WFLD for eight more seasons (1982–1989).

Detroit Tigers

WKBD produced and broadcast Detroit Tigers games from 1994 to 2005. WKDB carried the final Tigers game played at Tiger Stadium on September 27, 1999.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

From 1964 to 1995, the KTLA-TV was the broadcast TV home of the Los Angeles/California Angels baseball team, which was also owned by Gene Autry.

New York Yankees

From the outset, WPIX featured programming that was standard among independents: movies, syndicated reruns of network programs, public affairs programming, religious programs, and sports—specifically, the New York Yankees baseball team, whom WPIX carried from 1951 until 1998. At various points, WPIX also aired the New York (baseball) Giants, the New York Giants and New York Jets football teams, the NHL's New York Rangers, and local college basketball. But it was through its coverage of Yankees baseball that WPIX gained perhaps its greatest fame and identity.

WPIX lost its over-the-air broadcast rights to the Yankees to WNYW following the 1998 baseball season, more a result of regional cable sports networks (in this case, the Madison Square Garden Network) gaining team broadcast rights, leaving broadcast stations with fewer games to air. In 1999, the station replaced them with the New York Mets, which up until that point had spent their entire televised history with WOR/WWOR. Ironically, beginning in 2005, over-the-air Yankees broadcasts were aired by WWOR, which was as synonymous with the Mets as WPIX was with the Yankees.

Texas Rangers

KTVT's popularity also spread outside of the Metroplex, as the station became one of the first superstations. Following in the footsteps of Atlanta's WTBS, Chicago's WGN-TV, and WOR-TV in New York City, KTVT broadcast its signal via satellite to 400 cable systems across the country, mostly in the southwestern United States, from the late 1970s through the early 1990s. This status hampered Edward L. Gaylord's efforts in the 1980s to buy Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers. The other owners already had to contend with superstation coverage of the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs and New York Mets, and weren't about to have a fourth team join them.

National League

Atlanta Braves

Coverage of the formerly-Ted Turner-owned Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team was perhaps TBS' signature program. Prior to the landmark event of getting WTCG/WTBS' signal on a satellite for distribution to cable systems throughout the U.S., Turner syndicated live games throughout the 1970s to stations (mostly network affiliates, as the region had few independent stations) throughout Georgia and adjoining states, extending as far north as Turner's WRET (now WCNC-TV) in Charlotte, N.C. Usually, the Sunday afternoon game and one game during evening prime time were provided to local stations, with mid-week games airing mainly during the summer rerun season on the networks.

Most, if not all, other MLB teams used a regional syndication approach like this in their respective parts of the country. When WTCG reached a significant penetration of Southern homes, however, circa 19781979, Turner discontinued syndicating, making the Braves the first team to provide no live coverage of its games to traditional terrestrial TV stations other than that in its home market.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the Braves games on TBS got very high ratings, usually around a 2.0 and sometimes even higher. This was the time when the station termed them, in a promotional campaign, "America's team." Probably a majority of those viewers were fans of the team in the Southeastern United States, namely the states of Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Viewers in those states were among the first to receive WTCG/WTBS on their cable systems, as Turner Broadcasting steadily built a network of cable and satellite providers throughout the U.S. The team also attracted fans living in rural areas without local baseball teams available. When TBS became a cable exclusive station in 2007, they received the rights to a national non-exclusive MLB telecast along with exclusive Division Series coverage and alternating League Championship Series with Fox. Since that time, the channel 17 station (now known as WPCH-TV, aka Peachtree TV) continues to telecast the team, with coverage outside the Atlanta DMA from Comcast Charter Sports Southeast.

Chicago Cubs

WGN-TV has had a long association with the Chicago Cubs baseball team, which has been aired on the station since its April 1948 inception (the Tribune Company purchased the National League franchise in 1981 and was sold to Tom Ricketts in 2008). During its history, WGN-TV has also been the over-the-air home of Chicago's American League franchise, the White Sox, the NBA's Chicago Bulls, and the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks, and has often broadcast football and basketball games of local college teams, such as Northwestern University, DePaul University, Loyola University, and other teams of the Big Ten Conference.

Legendary Chicago sportscaster and longtime WGN Television sports director Jack Brickhouse pulled double-duty, doing play-by-play for both Chicago baseball teams, although he did mostly Cubs games, while also covering the home games of White Sox during the team's initial run on WGN-TV. Prior joining the Cubs in 1982, Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Caray was the lead play-by-play man for the White Sox on both TV and radio for 12 seasons (1971–1981).

In November 1999, WGN-TV and WCIU-TV entered into a programming arrangement involving sports coverage. Selected Bulls and White Sox games produced by and contracted to air on WGN-TV, and a handful of Cubs contests, air on WCIU-TV for the Chicago market only. This is due to network affiliation contracts limiting the number of programming preemptions per year,[1] and also due to rights restrictions put in place by the National Basketball Association which limit Superstation WGN's national feed to air only fifteen Bulls games per season.[2] The remaining games produced by WGN-TV are only carried on channel 9 in Chicago and WCIU-TV.

Colorado Rockies

Over-the-air broadcasts were carried on KWGN-TV from 19932002, and since 2003, on KTVD (Channel 20; UPN affiliate until 9/1/06, after which it joined MyNetworkTV).

Los Angeles Dodgers

From 19932001, KTLA-TV (Channel 5) was the over-the-air television home of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

New York Mets

WOR-TV, Channel 9 was heavy on sports programming as an independent. WOR-TV was the home of National League baseball in New York, carrying games of the Brooklyn Dodgers (beginning in 1950) and the New York Giants (beginning in 1951) until both teams moved to California following the 1957 season. From 1958 to 1961, the station aired Philadelphia Phillies telecasts. In 1962, the station began a relationship with the expansion New York Mets that would last until 1998.

References

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