Baseball

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Posted by kaori 02/28/2009 @ 01:00

Tags : baseball, sports

News headlines
Sports of The Times A Hall of Fame Find by a Sports Reporter - New York Times
By HARVEY ARATON Keep up with the latest news on The Times's baseball blog. The reporter who doused the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa celebration of strength with a long article that raised a short question — is it real? — has a chance to be voted into the...
Canseco to sue baseball - New York Daily News
BY Christian Red He already has outed his baseball peers as steroid users in two books and testified before Congress four years ago about the sport's doping culture, but now Jose Canseco is ready to bash baseball itself....
MLB.com Streams Live Baseball Games to the iPhone - New York Times
By Brad Stone Update 10:39 am, June 17: The first game streamed by MLB.com will be Thursday's 2:20 pm game between the Cubs and White Sox. An earlier version stated the first game would be on Wednesday. MLB.com, which sells the popular At Bat...
Star-filled lineup set for civil rights tribute - The Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) — Major League Baseball is fielding a star-filled lineup to spotlight the first regular-season Civil Rights Game. Former President Bill Clinton, entertainer Bill Cosby, boxing's Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, basketball's Oscar...
Four teams to watch Pedro; interest may be limited - FOXSports.com
by Ken Rosenthal Ken Rosenthal has been the senior baseball writer for FOXSports.com since Aug. 2005. He appears weekly on the FSN Baseball Report and MLB on FOX. The Cubs and Rays are not the only teams in contact with free-agent right-hander Pedro...
Manny could start Minors stint next week - MLB.com
Ramirez, suspended on May 7 for 50 games for violating the Major League Baseball drug policy, is eligible to return to the Dodgers on July 3 and is allowed to play in as many as 10 Minor League games while suspended in preparation for his return....
Parity in baseball makes for less trade talk - USA Today
By Otto Greule Jr., Getty Images By Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY Major League Baseball may be elated with its competitive balance these days, but it is making life miserable on the trade market. All but four teams entered Wednesday within 6½ games of the...
Sayonara, baseball tradition - Atlanta Journal Constitution
By Furman Bisher Baseball used to be a game played with nine men to a side, two managers, four umpires, and the major-league season always opened in Cincinnati. Come to think of it now, that would be sort of like "Gone With the Wind" opening in...
Democrats break Republican winning streak in Congressional ... - Dallas Morning News
Seldom does one go to a baseball game and hear a heckler shout, "Go back to the agriculture committee!" but Wednesday night's 48th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park was no ordinary ballgame, where Democrats broke their...
Baseball Today - SI.com
Trevor Hoffman, baseball's career saves leader with 570, squandered an 8-4 lead in the ninth, but the NL Central leaders earned their eighth straight interleague win over Cleveland, winning 9-8 in the 11th. Milwaukee also swept three in 2006 and won...

Major League Baseball on ABC

The Seattle Mariners celebrate their first ever trip to the American League Championship Series in 1995. The game was televised by ABC with Brent Musburger and Jim Kaat calling the action.

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), 1976-1989 (Monday Night and Thursday Night Baseball), and 1994–1995 (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-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?

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 and Buddy Blattner call the games for ABC.

In 1960, ABC returned to baseball broadcasting with a series of late-afternoon Saturday games. Jack Buck and Carl Erskine were the announcers for this series, which lasted one season.

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 covered all of the teams except the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies (who had their own television deals) and called for two regionalized games on Saturdays, Independence Day, and Labor Day. ABC blacked out the games in the home cities of the clubs playing those games. At the end of the season, ABC declined to exercise its $6.5 million option for 1966, citing poor ratings, especially in New York.

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).

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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. Prior to joining Michaels and Palmer in the booth, McCarver's most notable assignment for ABC Sports was working as a field reporter during the 1984 National League Championship Series (with Don Drysdale, Earl Weaver, and Reggie Jackson in the booth).

By 1986, ABC only televised 13 Monday Night Baseball games. 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.

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), 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 in hopes of getting leg up against NBC's Cosby Show. After braving the traumatic Loma Prieta earthquake 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, 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 1975 for the network, which was disappointed to lose it.

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.

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.

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. As previously mentioned, ABC itself has not shown a Major League Baseball game since.

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.

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Major League Baseball on FOX

Major League Baseball on FOX or MLB on FOX is a weekly presentation of Major League Baseball games on the Fox television network. Major League Baseball on FOX began on June 1, 1996 and will continue at least through the 2013 Major League Baseball season.

FOX televised their first World Series in 1996, and has had exclusive rights to the World Series since 2000. Those exclusive rights currently extend through 2013.

Major League Baseball made a deal with FOX and NBC on November 7, 1995. FOX paid a fraction less of the amount of money that CBS paid for the Major League Baseball television rights for the 1990-1993 seasons. Unlike the previous television deal, "The Baseball Network", FOX reverted to the format of televising regular season games (approximately 16 weekly telecasts that normally began on Memorial Day weekend) on Saturday afternoons. FOX did however, continue a format that The Baseball Network started by offering games based purely on a viewer's region. FOX's approach has usually been to offer four regionalized telecasts, with exclusivity from 1-4 p.m. in each time zone.

When FOX first got into baseball, it used the motto "Same game, new attitude." FOX's primary goal when they first launched baseball was to promote their weak prime time schedule. "We'll use the World Series and League Championship Series to spur our shows", said network sports president Ed Goren.

Like its predecessor NBC, FOX determined its Saturday schedule by who was playing a team from one of the three largest television markets: New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. If there was a game which combined two of these three markets, it would be aired.

In September 2000, Major League Baseball concluded a six year, $2.5 billion contract with FOX to show Saturday baseball, the All-Star Game, selected Division Series games and exclusive coverage of the League Championship Series and World Series. 90% of the contract's value to FOX, who paid Major League Baseball $417 million per year, came from the postseason, which not only attracted large audiences, but also provided an opportunity for the network to showcase its fall schedule.

The contract protected Major League Baseball in the event of a labor dispute (something that didn't occur with "The Baseball Network" in 1994). If some of the games were cancelled by a strike or lockout, Major League Baseball still got all its money, but had to compensate FOX with additional telecasts. On the other hand, a repeat of the 1994 Major League Baseball strike would've cost FOX well over $1 billion; the television contract created an incentive not to cause a strike, as it would hurt broadcast networks since they paid for the deal, unlike the 1994-95 television package.

Under the previous five year deal with NBC (1996–2000), FOX paid $115 million while NBC only paid $80 million per year. FOX paid about $575 million overall while NBC paid about $400 million overall. The difference between the FOX and the NBC contracts implicitly valued FOX's Saturday Game of the Week at less than $90 million for five years. Before NBC officially decided to part ways with Major League Baseball (for the second time in about 12 years) on September 26, 2000, FOX's payment would've been $345 million while NBC would've paid $240 million. Before 1990, NBC had carried Major League Baseball since 1947.

Under the new deal, FOX would now pay out an average of $417 million a year, which was about a 45 percent increase from the previous deal (worth $290 million a year) that FOX, NBC, and ESPN contributed together. CBS and ABC reportedly were not interested in buying the rights at the prices Major League Baseball was offering.

Some observers believed that gaining the relative ratings boost from the League Championship Series and World Series meant more to FOX than the other broadcast networks. That was because FOX had the biggest prime time ratings decline of the four major networks during the 1999–2000 season. Its average prime time audience of 8.97 million was down 17 percent from the year before, according to Nielsen Media Research.

On July 11, 2006, rumors on the future of Major League Baseball on FOX were put to rest when it was announced that the network had signed a new seven-year contract, which will guarantee that the World Series will appear on FOX through the 2013 season. FOX had widely been expected to renew the deal, but it was unclear what they would be willing to air beyond the All-Star Game and World Series.

The package was officially announced on October 17, with the news that TBS will air all Division Series games through 2013 and alternate League Championship Series with FOX during the contract. Additionally, FOX's coverage of the Saturday Game of the Week was expanded to start in April and last during the entire season.

FOX airs a Game of the Week every week of the season. Coverage begins with a pregame show at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time, in which host Jeanne Zelasko will be joined by a rotating group of studio analysts. This is followed by regional telecasts of up to three games, starting at about 3:55 p.m. ET. (See below for the names of all of the announcers that will be part of the coverage.) Previously, the games had staggered start times of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET. Also, all games are aired in high definition. Previously, only the primary game aired in HD.

FOX has certain rights for afternoon Major League Baseball games on Saturdays, and ESPN has the same rights for night games on Sundays. Broadcasters cannot show games of in-market teams regardless of whether the game is home or away as long as the game of the local team has a start time or likely end time intruding on FOX or ESPN's national window, unless that network waives its exclusivity (thus, a 1:00 ET game can be televised, while a 2:00 ET game cannot). This is to encourage people to watch the ESPN or FOX game. A further enticement comes simply through the fact that FOX offers mostly regional coverage.

Usually there are no other games scheduled at these times, except when a team decides not to change the start-time even after FOX drops the game in favor of a better match-up, which they can and often will do on a few weeks notice, particularly after the All-Star Game. ESPN's post-All-Star Game schedule is likewise picked as little as two weeks ahead of time (schedules for the first half of the season are usually set during the winter). Other teams simply schedule games for other time-slots, particularly on Saturday nights or on Sunday afternoons. Also, the Texas Rangers often play summertime home games at night on Sundays because of the extreme heat common to Texas during much of the season, and normally receive special permission from ESPN to televise these games locally (their opponent's TV partner can also show the game). The Toronto Blue Jays sometimes have home games that conflict with FOX's Saturday afternoon telecasts, as Canada is not subject to FOX's exclusivity. Unlike ESPN, FOX does not normally permit the visiting U.S.-based team to televise the game live in its regional market.

FOX is allowed to show each team up to nine times during the regular season.

Since the network bought the rights to post-season baseball coverage, FOX has received criticism from non-baseball fans for not airing first-run original programming during October. (Baseball fans point out that there are plenty of other broadcast and cable networks available on every TV package that do show original scripted programming.) For the majority of the years that FOX has aired baseball, the network started the season for The Simpsons and other shows in November, although a few shows begin in August or September and then go on hiatus until after the World Series. In 2005, FOX started its season in September, took the month of October off to show the Major League Baseball playoffs, and resumed non-baseball programming in November. Both approaches have drawn criticism, indicating that there may not be a perfect way to accommodate both sports and regular programming.

In the first year of its six year, exclusive contract (2001), FOX did a split-telecast (not seen of since the days of the ill-fated "Baseball Network") for the League Championship Series. This meant that two games were played simultaneously on the same night, with one game airing on the FOX network and the other on the local regional Fox Sports Net cable channel (depending on market, as some markets had no regional sports network with a relationship to FSN). The rationale behind the split-telecast was that because of the September 11, 2001 attacks, the whole post-season schedule was pushed back a week. Because of this, two Sunday LCS games came in conflict with an NFL on FOX doubleheader. The fans and sports media reporters were unimpressed with the situation and MLB commissioner Bud Selig vowed it was a one-time deal necessitated by circumstance. However, in later years FOX used split telecasts on a few occasions to keep the playoffs "on schedule" and maximize its prime time advertising revenue, and aired the second game on FX, which has virtually national cable/satellite coverage. This ensured that FOX did not have to air an LCS game on a weekday afternoon, when many viewers are unable to watch. The 2007-2013 contract eliminates this, as TBS will have one of the League Championship Series each year.

Starting in 2004, FOX's Game of the Week telecasts only appeared three times after August 28, because the network chose to begin telecasts in mid-May and avoid going up against college football in September. With lead play-by-play broadcaster Joe Buck now also handling the same duties for FOX's NFL coverage, FOX had to use a variety of announcers for its late-season baseball coverage. This may change under the 2007-2013 contract, as FOX is supposed to show games throughout the season.

Since its baseball coverage began in 1996, FOX has aired three regular-season games in timeslots other than Saturday afternoon. As part of its coverage of Mark McGwire's bid for Roger Maris's single-season home run record in 1998, FOX aired a Sunday afternoon Cincinnati Reds/St. Louis Cardinals game on September 6 and a Tuesday night Chicago Cubs/St. Louis Cardinals game on September 8 of that year. (McGwire hit his record-breaking 62nd home run of the season in the latter game, which got a 14.5 rating for FOX and remains the network's highest-rated regular-season Major League Baseball telecast.) On April 16, 2004, the network aired a Friday night game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox to cover those teams' first head-to-head meeting since the memorable 2003 ALCS.

For a Saturday afternoon telecast of a Los Angeles Dodgers/Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field on August 26, 2000, FOX aired a special "Turn Back the Clock" broadcast to commemorate the 61st anniversary of the first televised baseball game. The broadcast started with a re-creation of the television technology of 1939, with play-by-play announcer Joe Buck working alone with a single microphone, a single black-and-white camera, and no graphics; then, each subsequent half-inning would see the broadcast "jump ahead in time" to a later era, showing the evolving technologies and presentation of network baseball coverage through the years.

During the pre-2001 period, Bob Brenly acted as the third man in the booth with Buck and McCarver during the All-Star Game, League Championship Series and World Series. Buck and McCarver were at the microphone when Brenly led the Arizona Diamondbacks as manager to the 2001 World Series title.

Since Joe Buck was hired to work on The NFL on FOX, following the retirement of lead play-by-play voice Pat Summerall in 2002, Dick Stockton and Kenny Albert have both filled-in for Joe Buck whenever he is unable to work a game.

For several years, Fox utilized active or former players and managers as "guest analysts" on the network's League Championship Series telecasts. These included Bret Boone (2003 ALCS), Al Leiter (2003 NLCS and 2004 ALCS), Bob Brenly (2004 and 2005 NLCS), Lou Piniella (2005 and 2006 ALCS), and Luis Gonzalez (2006 NLCS).

The original studio host in 1996 was Chip Caray. Dave Winfield and Steve Lyons were the show's original analysts. Unlike the network's primary broadcast teams, the studio personnel have not had the same longevity. Winfeld left Fox after only one season, and both Caray and Lyons would move to the broadcast booth before leaving the network. From 1999–2000, Keith Olbermann took over the hosting seat from Caray, before being replaced by Jeanne Zelasko, who was promoted from Fox Sports Net's National Sports Report.

Most Saturday baseball games on FOX have been preceded by a baseball-oriented show. From 1996-1999, FOX aired a baseball program geared to children and teenagers called In the Zone. In 2000, In the Zone was replaced by This Week in Baseball, which had previously been in syndication. TWIB has been on FOX ever since.

On July 8, 1997, FOX televised its first ever All-Star Game (out of Jacobs Field in Cleveland). For this particular game, FOX introduced "Catcher-Cam" in which a camera was affixed to the catchers' masks in order to provide unique perspectives of the action around home plate. Catcher-Cam soon would become a regular fixture in FOX's baseball broadcasts.

Note that FOX executives actually shelved ball tracer. strike zone, and high home cam after the prime time game on April 16, 2004, although Scooter was still used until 2006.

In October 2004, FOX started airing all Major League Baseball postseason broadcasts (including the League Championship Series and World Series) in high definition. FOX also started airing the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in HD that year and the following year. Prior to the 2008 season, one of the three regional games the network televises each Saturday was presented in HD. Now, all MLB games FOX televises -- including the aforementioned Saturday regional games -- are presented in HD.

During some broadcasts, FOX has experienced various technical difficulties. In its broadcast of Game 3 of the 2007 World Series between the Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox, for instance, a blackout occurred during the top half of the seventh inning, resulting in the disruption of a key moment in the game.

In 1996, FOX used the scoring bug on their MLB telecasts. Within two years, the bug would be expanded to all sportscasts. However, golf wouldn't use them at all, and scoring bugs would phased onto tennis broadcasts. On baseball broadcasts, the bug would be turned off at critical points (e.g. Mark McGwire's 62nd home run, the final out of the World Series, etc.). It was only the 1996 and 1998 World Series that the network left the bug on for the final out; when the bug and graphics were updated in 1999, the network turned it off for the final out of the 2000 Series. This was criticized as the network's purpose was to provide the play rather than the usual information given during that certain at-bat.

Despite adopting new graphics for its other properties, viz. the NFL, NFL Europe, and NASCAR, FOX retained this on-screen look for its baseball coverage in 2004 until its coverage of that year's postseason. This banner was also used by FOX Sports Net for all sports broadcasts from 2001 until the middle of June 2005, and today it still can be found on numerous video clips.

A graphic from this package was used during the 15th inning of the 2008 All-Star Game when FOX displayed highlights from the 1967 MLB All-Star Game.

The banner was given a cosmetic upgrade beginning with the 2004 postseason. The abbreviations this time were electronic lettering in the team's main color, the shaded area above it was removed, and the scores were in black parallelograms. Whenever team-specific information was displayed in the banner such as a run scored, an out, the abbreviation would morph into the team logo; with the run scored, the team whose run scored would have its abbreviation morph into its logo, and a "strobe light" would flash over the black parallelogram as the score changes. Also, when a home run was displayed in the banner, a split "strobe light" would flash a few times across the banner; then the words "HOME RUN" and the team's name in the team's color zoom in to the center from both left and right, making two distorted electric buzzes followed by a futuristic computer sounder; this was the first time a home run was displayed in the banner. When it was turned on, flashing lights spanning the top of the screen with two moving lines on top and bottom would join to morph into the banner; when first formed, the team logos are seen before changing into the abbreviations. When turned off, the banner became just a quick beam of light spanning the top of the screen, which would disappear very quickly. During the 2005 World Series, a new white banner was introduced, resembling a chrome finish, and the team abbreviations became white letters in the team's main color; the next couple of years, the new banner was adopted for all games. This banner, unlike the 2001–2004 version wouldn't be turned off at the final out of the World Series, but it was turned off at other critical points (like whenever Alex Rodriguez came to bat, tied with an April record 14 home runs, and when Barry Bonds had 753 home runs).

Despite adopting new graphics for its other properties, viz. the NFL, NASCAR, BCS, and Formula One (which used a different graphics package than the other three properties), FOX retained this on-screen (for the second time it has retained the same look for baseball after adopting new graphics for football and NASCAR) look for its baseball broadcasts in 2007, this time through that year's postseason.

It was also used in the Rockies vs. Mets game on July 12, 2008 until the ninth inning but with the 2008 graphics package instead of the package that was used with this banner.

For the 2008 season, the graphics package was changed to a variation on the aforementioned new Fox Sports graphics. The diamond graphic now appears to the right of the scores, slimmed down to only consist of the main three bases (unlike other implementations which include the home plate). The MLB on FOX logo was moved to the far left. The colored strip across the top of the banner is locked to being blue (instead of being in the colors of the active team), the team abbreviations are no longer in the team's main color, like the 2001–2004 banner, and the shaded area above, which is used for the first time since the '01–'04 banner was last used, does not contain the animated stripe pattern. They only had the stripe pattern in the player stats graphic. The team's logo no longer flashes after scoring a run but the background sound of a computer mouse clicking is played with the changing of the score. The banner no longer flashes after a home run. Instead, along with the usual clicking sound, the text "HOME RUN: (team)" on the team color's background clicks in the empty space on the far right, which also includes the count and the out-of-town scores. The same goes for the NFL on FOX scoreboard when a touchdown or a field goal is scored. This banner is very similar to the 2001–2004 score banner since it and the shaded area above retract from the top of the screen whenever turned on or off but in a rather different way. The team names are always abbreviations (for example if the Phillies were playing the Mets the Phillies would be listed as "PHI" and the Mets as "NYM"), but the scores aren't shown in yellow boxes. If a team scores, the team letters and score numbers flip while the points are being added. If a team scores on a Home Run, this happens 5 or 6 seconds after the "HOME RUN" bar pops out. The ball strike count pops out of the blank area when needed. The bug is turned off for reporting camera angles and for the press box camera.

Note that like its predecessor, the bug wasn't turned off for the final out of the World Series.

The Major League Baseball on FOX theme music was composed by NJJ Music, who has composed many other Fox Sports themes. It has been used for the entire duration of FOX's MLB coverage. A new version of the theme was introduced on May 12, 2007, involving a more orchestral, brassy sound, although the original version was used for the Mets-Yankees game on May 19, 2007, the beginning of the Yankees-Red Sox game on April 12, 2008, and the Dodgers-Mets game on May 31, 2008, and is still in use with FSN for their baseball broadcasts.

Fox Sports has also received criticism from sports fans of bias toward teams in certain conferences, especially during the Super Bowl and the World Series, usually the National Football Conference in football (due to the fact that FOX owns the rights to NFC games) and the American League, especially the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, in baseball. FOX rarely shows teams from outside the top-10 media markets during the regular season.

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Baseball

The New York Giants baseball team, 1913. Fred Merkle, sixth in line, committed a baserunning error in a crucial 1908 game that became famous as "Merkle's Boner".

Baseball is a bat-and-ball sport played between two teams of nine players each. The goal of baseball is to score runs by hitting a thrown ball with a bat and touching a series of four markers called bases arranged at the corners of a ninety-foot square, or diamond. Players on one team (the batting team) take turns hitting against the pitcher on the other team (the fielding team), which tries to stop them from scoring runs by getting hitters out in any of several ways. A player on the batting team can stop at any of the bases and hope to score on a teammate's hit. The teams switch between batting and fielding whenever the fielding team gets three outs. One turn at bat for each team constitutes an inning; nine innings make up a professional game. The team with the most runs at the end of the game wins.

Evolving from older bat-and-ball games, an early form of baseball was being played in England by the mid-eighteenth century. This game and the related game of rounders were brought by British and Irish immigrants to North America, where the modern version of baseball developed. By the late nineteenth century, baseball was widely recognized as the national sport of the United States. Baseball on the professional, amateur, and youth levels is now popular in North America, parts of Central and South America and the Caribbean, and parts of East and Southeast Asia. The game is sometimes referred to as hardball in contrast to the derivative game of softball.

In North America, professional Major League Baseball teams are divided into the National League (NL) and American League (AL). Each league has three divisions: East, West, and Central. Every year, the champion of Major League Baseball is determined by playoffs culminating in the World Series. Four teams make the playoffs from each league: the three regular season division winners, plus one wild card team. The wild card is the team with the best record among the non–division winners in the league. In the National League, the pitcher is required to bat, per the traditional rules. In the American League, there is a tenth player, a designated hitter, who bats for the pitcher. Each major league team has a "farm system" of minor league teams at various levels. These teams allow younger players to develop as they gain on-field experience against opponents with similar levels of skill.

The distinct evolution of baseball from among the various bat-and-ball games is difficult to trace with precision. A French manuscript from 1344 contains an illustration of clerics playing a game, possibly la soule, with certain similarities to baseball; other old French games such as théque, la balle au bâton, and la balle empoisonée also appear to be related. Consensus used to hold that today's baseball is a North American development from the older game rounders, popular in Great Britain and Ireland. However a 2005 book, Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game, by David Block, and more recently uncovered historical evidence suggest that the game in fact originated in England. Block argues that rounders and early baseball were actually regional variants of each other, and that the game's most direct antecedents are the English games of stoolball and "tut-ball". Cricket descended independently from such games.

The earliest known reference to the game is in a 1744 British publication, A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, by John Newbery. It contains a rhymed description of "base-ball" and a wood-cut illustration showing a field set-up somewhat similar to the modern game—though in a triangular rather than diamond configuration, and with posts instead of ground-level bases. English lawyer William Bray recorded a game of "baseball" on Easter Monday 1755 in Guildford, Surrey; Bray's diary was verified as authentic in September 2008. This early form of the game was apparently brought to North America by English immigrants; rounders was also brought to the continent by both British and Irish immigrants. The first known American reference to "baseball" appears in a 1791 Pittsfield, Massachusetts, town bylaw prohibiting the playing of the game near the town's new meeting house. By 1796, a version of the game was well-known enough to earn a mention in a German scholar's book on popular pastimes. As described by Johann Gutsmuths, "englische Base-ball" involved a contest between two teams, in which "the batter has three attempts to hit the ball while at the home plate"; only one out was required to retire a side.

By the early 1830s, there are reports of a variety of uncodified bat-and-ball games recognizable as early forms of baseball being played around North America. These games were often referred to locally as "town ball", though other names such as "round-ball" and "base-ball" were also used. Among the earliest examples to receive a detailed description—albeit five decades after the fact, in a letter from an attendee to Sporting Life magazine—took place in Beachville, Ontario, Canada, in 1838. There were many similarities to modern baseball, and some crucial differences: five bases (or byes); first bye just 6 yards (10 m) from the home bye; batter out if a hit ball was caught after the first bounce. The once widely accepted story that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839 has been conclusively debunked by sports historians. In 1845, Alexander Cartwright, a member of New York City's Knickerbockers club, led the codification of the so-called Knickerbocker Rules. The practice, common to bat-and-ball games of the day, of "soaking" or "plugging"—effecting a put out by hitting a runner with a thrown ball—was barred. The rules thus facilitated the use of a smaller, harder ball than had been common. Several other rules also brought the Knickerbockers' game close to the modern one, though a ball caught on the first bounce was, again, an out and only underhand pitching was allowed. While there are reports of the New York Knickerbockers playing games in 1845, the contest now recognized as the first baseball game in U.S. history to be officially recorded took place on June 19, 1846, in Hoboken, New Jersey, with the "New York Nine" defeating the Knickerbockers, 23–1, in four innings. With the Knickerbocker code as the basis, the rules of modern baseball continued to evolve over the next half century.

In the mid-1850s, a baseball craze hit the New York metropolitan area. By 1856, local journals were referring to baseball as the "national pastime" or "national game". A year later, sixteen area clubs formed the sport's first governing body, the National Association of Base Ball Players. In 1863, the NABBP disallowed putouts made by catching a ball on the first bounce. Four years later, the group barred participation by African Americans. The game's commercial potential was developing: in 1869 the first fully professional baseball club, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was formed and went undefeated against a schedule of semipro and amateur teams. The first professional league, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, lasted from 1871 to 1875; scholars dispute its status as a "major league".

The more formally structured National League was founded in 1876; as the oldest surviving major league, the National League is sometimes referred to as the "senior circuit". Several other major leagues formed and failed. In 1884, African American Moses Walker (and, briefly, his brother Welday) played in one of these, the American Association. An injury ended Walker's major league career, and by the early 1890s, a "gentlemen's agreement" in the form of the baseball color line effectively barred black players from the white-owned professional leagues, major and minor. Professional Negro leagues formed, but quickly folded; several independent African American teams succeeded as barnstormers. Also in 1884, overhand pitching was legalized. In 1887, softball, under the name of "indoor baseball" or "indoor-outdoor", was invented as a winter version of the parent game. Virtually all of the modern baseball rules were in place by 1893; the last major change—counting foul balls as strikes—was instituted in 1901. The National League's first successful counterpart, the American League, which evolved from the minor Western League, was established that year. The two leagues, each with eight teams, began as rivals that fought for the best players, often disregarding each other's contracts and engaging in bitter legal disputes.

A modicum of peace was eventually established, leading to the National Agreement of 1903. The pact formalized relations both between the two major leagues and between them and the National Association of Professional Base Ball Leagues, representing most of the country's minor professional leagues. The World Series, pitting the two major league champions against each other, was inaugurated that fall, albeit without express major league sanction: The Boston Americans of the American League defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League. The next year, the series was not held, as the National League champion New York Giants, under manager John McGraw, refused to recognize the major league status of the American League and its champion. In 1905, the Giants were National League champions again and team management relented, leading to the establishment of the World Series as the major leagues' annual championship event.

As professional baseball became increasingly profitable, players frequently raised grievances against owners over issues of control and equitable income distribution. During the major leagues' early decades, players on various teams occasionally attempted strikes, which routinely failed when their jobs were sufficiently threatened. In general, the strict rules of baseball contracts and the reserve clause, which bound players to their teams even when their contracts had ended, tended to keep the players in check. Motivated by dislike for a particularly stingy owner and gamblers' payoffs, real and promised, members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the 1919 World Series. The "Black Sox Scandal" led to the formation of a new National Commission of baseball that drew the two major leagues closer together. The first major league baseball commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was elected in 1920. That year also saw the founding of the Negro National League; the first significant Negro league, it would operate until 1931. For part of the 1920s, it was joined by the Eastern Colored League.

Compared with the present, professional baseball in the early twentieth century was lower scoring and pitchers, the likes of Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson, were more dominant. The "inside game", which demanded that players "scratch for runs", was played much more aggressively than it is today; the brilliant, and often violent, Ty Cobb epitomized this style. The so-called dead-ball era ended in the early 1920s with several changes in rule and circumstance that were advantageous to hitters. Strict new regulations governing the ball's size, shape and composition, coupled with superior materials available after World War I, resulted in a ball that traveled farther when hit. The construction of additional seating to accommodate the rising popularity of the game often had the effect of bringing the outfield fences closer in, making home runs more common. The rise of the legendary player Babe Ruth, the first great power hitter of the new era, helped permanently alter the nature of the game. The club with which Ruth set most of his slugging records, the New York Yankees, built a reputation as the majors' premiere team. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, St. Louis Cardinals general manager Branch Rickey invested in several minor league clubs and developed the first modern "farm system". A new Negro National League was organized in 1933; four years later, it was joined by the Negro American League. The first elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame took place in 1936. In 1939, Little League Baseball was founded in Pennsylvania. By the late 1940s, it was the organizing body for children's baseball leagues across the United States.

With America's entry into World War II, many professional players had left to serve in the armed forces. A large number of minor league teams disbanded as a result, and the major league game seemed under threat as well. Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley led the formation of a new professional league with women players to help keep the game in the public eye; the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League existed from 1943 to 1954. The inaugural College World Series was held in 1947, and the Babe Ruth League youth program was founded; it soon became another important organizing body for children's baseball. The first crack in the unwritten agreement barring blacks from white-controlled professional ball had occurred the previous year: Jackie Robinson was signed by the National League's Brooklyn Dodgers—where Branch Rickey had become general manager—and began playing for their minor league team in Montreal. Finally, in 1947, the major leagues' color barrier was broken when Robinson debuted with the Dodgers. Larry Doby debuted with the American League's Cleveland Indians the same year. Latin American players, largely overlooked before, also started entering the majors in greater numbers; in 1951, two Chicago White Sox, Venezuelan-born Chico Carrasquel and Cuban-born (and black) Minnie Miñoso, became the first Hispanic All-Stars.

Facing competition as varied as television and football, baseball attendance at all levels declined; while the majors rebounded by the mid-1950s, the minor leagues were gutted and hundreds of semipro and amateur teams dissolved. Integration proceeded slowly: By 1953, only six of the sixteen major league teams had a black player on the roster. That year, the Major League Baseball Players Association was founded; the first professional baseball union to survive more than briefly, it remained largely ineffective for years. No major league team had been located west of St. Louis, Missouri, until 1958, when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants relocated to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. The majors' final all-white bastion, the Boston Red Sox, added a black player in 1959. With the integration of the majors drying up the available pool of players, the last Negro league folded the following year. In 1961, the American League reached the West Coast with the Los Angeles Angels expansion team, as the major league season was extended from 154 games to 162. This coincidentally helped Roger Maris break Babe Ruth's long-standing single-season home run record, one of the most celebrated marks in baseball. Along with the Angels, three other new franchises were launched during 1961–62; with this, the first major league expansion in sixty years, each league now had ten teams.

The player's union became bolder under the leadership of former United Steelworkers chief economist and negotiator Marvin Miller, who was elected executive director in 1966. On the playing field, major league pitchers were becoming increasingly dominant again. After the 1968 season, in an effort to restore balance, the strike zone was reduced and the height of the pitcher's mound was lowered. The following year, both the National and American leagues added two more expansion teams; the leagues were reorganized into two divisions each, and a post-season playoff system leading to the World Series was instituted. In 1969, as well, Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals made the first serious legal challenge to the reserve clause. The major leagues' first general players' strike took place in 1972. In another effort to add more offense to the game, the American League adopted the designated hitter rule the following year. In 1975, the union's power—and players' salaries—began to increase greatly when the reserve clause was effectively struck down, leading to the free agency system. In 1977, two more expansion teams joined the American League. Significant work stoppages occurred again in 1981 and 1994, the latter forcing the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in ninety years. Attendance had been growing steadily since the mid-1970s; in 1994, before the stoppage, the majors were setting their all-time record for per-game attendance.

The addition of two more expansion teams after the 1993 season had facilitated another restructuring of the major leagues, this time into three divisions each. Offensive production—in particular, the number of home runs—had surged that year, and again in the abbreviated 1994 season. After play resumed in 1995, this trend continued, and non–division winning wild card teams became a permanent fixture of the post-season. Regular-season interleague play was introduced in 1997, and the second-highest attendance mark for a full season was set. The next year, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa both surpassed Maris's decades-old single season home run record and two more expansion franchises were added. In 2000, the National and American leagues were dissolved as legal entities. While their identities were maintained for scheduling purposes (and the designated hitter distinction), the regulations and other functions—such as player discipline and umpire supervision—they had administered separately were consolidated under the rubric of Major League Baseball (MLB).

In 2001, Barry Bonds established the current record of 73 home runs in a single season. There had long been suspicions that the dramatic increase in power hitting was fueled in large part by the abuse of illegal steroids (as well as by the dilution of pitching talent due to expansion), but the issue only began attracting significant media attention in 2002 and there was no penalty for the use of performance-enhancing drugs before 2004. In 2007, Bonds became MLB's all-time home run leader, surpassing Hank Aaron, as total major league and minor league attendance both reached all-time highs. Even though McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds—as well as many other players, including storied pitcher Roger Clemens—have been implicated in the steroid abuse scandal, their feats and those of other sluggers had become the major leagues' defining attraction. In contrast to the professional game's resurgence in popularity after the 1994 interruption, Little League enrollment was in decline: after peaking in 1996, it dropped 1 percent a year over the following decade.

Baseball, widely known as America's pastime, is well established in several other countries as well. The history of baseball in Canada has remained closely linked with that of the sport in the United States. As early as 1877, a professional league, the International Association, featured teams from both countries. While baseball is widely played in Canada, and many minor league teams have been based in the country, the American major leagues did not include a Canadian club until 1969, when the Montreal Expos joined the National League as an expansion team. In 1977, the expansion Toronto Blue Jays joined the American League. The Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and 1993, the first and still the only club from outside the United States to do so. After the 2004 season, Major League Baseball relocated the Expos to Washington, D.C., where the team is now known as the Nationals.

The first formal baseball league outside of the United States and Canada was founded in 1878 in Cuba, which maintains a rich baseball tradition and whose national team has been one of the world's strongest since international play began in the late 1930s. The Dominican Republic held its first islandwide championship tournament in 1912. Professional baseball tournaments and leagues began to form in other countries between the world wars, including the Netherlands (formed in 1922), Australia (1934), Japan (1936), Mexico (1937), and Puerto Rico (1938). The Japanese major leagues—the Central League and Pacific League—have long been considered the highest quality professional circuits outside of the United States (since the Cuban Revolution, all of that country's players have officially been considered amateurs).

After World War II, professional leagues were founded in many Latin American nations, most prominently Venezuela (1946) and the Dominican Republic (1955). Since the early 1970s, the annual Caribbean Series has matched the championship clubs from the four leading Latin American "winter leagues": the Dominican Winter League, Mexican Pacific League, Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League, and Venezuelan Professional Baseball League. In Asia, South Korea (1982), Taiwan (1990), and China (2003) all have professional leagues.

Many European countries have pro leagues as well, the most successful beside the Dutch being the Italian league founded in 1948. Compared to those in Asia and Latin America, the various European leagues and the one in Australia historically have had no more than niche appeal. In 2004, Australia won a surprise silver medal at the Olympic Games. The Israel Baseball League, launched in 2007, folded after one season. The Confédération Européene de Baseball (European Baseball Confederation), founded in 1953, organizes a number of competitions between clubs from different countries as well as national squads. Other competitions between national teams, such as the Baseball World Cup and the Olympic baseball tournament, have been administered by the International Baseball Federation since its formation in 1938. As of 2009, the organization has 117 member countries.

After being admitted to the Olympics as a medal sport beginning with the 1992 Games, baseball was dropped from the 2012 Summer Olympic Games at the 2005 International Olympic Committee meeting. It remained part of the 2008 Games and will be put to a vote again for each succeeding Summer Olympics. The elimination of baseball, along with softball, from the 2012 Olympic program enabled the IOC to consider adding two different sports, but none received the majority vote required for inclusion. While the sport's lack of a following in much of the world was a factor, more important has been Major League Baseball's reluctance to have a break during the Games so that its players can participate, something that the National Hockey League now does during the Winter Olympic Games. Such a break is more difficult for MLB to accommodate, because it would force the playoffs deep into cold weather. Major League Baseball initiated the World Baseball Classic, scheduled to precede the major league season, partly as a replacement high-profile international tournament. The inaugural Classic, held in March 2006, was the first tournament involving national teams to feature a significant number of MLB participants.

A game is played between two teams, each composed of nine players, that take turns playing offense (batting or hitting) and defense (fielding or pitching). A pair of turns, one at bat and one in the field, by each team constitutes an inning; there are nine innings in a game. One team—customarily the visiting team—bats in the first half (or "top") of every inning; the other team—customarily the home team—bats in the second half (or "bottom") of every inning. The goal of a game is to score more points (runs) than the other team. The players on the team at bat attempt to score runs by completing a tour of (circling) the four bases set at the corners of the square-shaped baseball diamond. A player bats at home plate and must proceed counterclockwise to first base, second base, third base, and back "home" in order to score a run. The team in the field attempts both to prevent runs from scoring and to record outs, which remove opposing players from offensive action until their turn in their team's batting order comes up again. When three outs are recorded, the teams switch roles for the next half-inning. If the score of the game is tied after nine innings, extra innings are played to resolve the contest. Children's games are often scheduled for fewer than nine innings.

The game is played on a field whose primary boundaries, the foul lines, extend forward from home plate at 45-degree angles. The 90-degree area within the foul lines is referred to as fair territory; the 270-degree area outside them is foul territory. The part of the field enclosed by the bases and several yards beyond them is the infield; the area farther beyond the infield is the outfield. In the middle of the infield is a raised pitcher's mound, with a rectangular rubber plate (the rubber) at its center. The outer boundary of the outfield is typically demarcated by a raised fence, which may be of any material and height (many amateur games are played on fields without a fence). Fair territory between home plate and the outfield boundary is baseball's "field of play", though significant events can take place in foul territory, as well.

Protective helmets are also standard equipment for all batters.

At the beginning of each half-inning, the nine players on the fielding team arrange themselves around the field. One of them, the pitcher, stands on the pitcher's mound; he will begin his pitching delivery with one foot on the rubber, pushing off it in order to gain velocity when throwing toward home plate. Another player, the catcher, squats on the far side of home plate, facing the pitcher. The rest of the team faces home plate, typically arranged as four infielders—who set up along or within a few yards outside the imaginary lines between first, second, and third base—and three outfielders. In the standard arrangement, there is a first baseman positioned several steps to the left of first base, a second baseman to the right of second base, a shortstop to the left of second base, and a third baseman to the right of third base. The basic outfield positions are left fielder, center fielder, and right fielder. A neutral umpire sets up behind the catcher.

Gameplay starts with a batter standing at home plate, holding a bat. The batter waits for the pitcher to throw a pitch (the ball) toward home plate, and attempts to hit the ball with the bat. The catcher catches pitches that the batter does not hit—as a result of either electing not to swing or failing to connect—and returns them to the pitcher. If the batter hits the ball into the field of play, he must drop the bat and begin running toward first base, at which point he is referred to as a runner. If the runner successfully reaches first base, he is said to be safe there and is now on base. He may choose to remain at first base or attempt to advance to second base or even beyond—however far he believes he can reach safely. If a player reaches base despite proper play by the fielders, he has recorded a hit. A player who reaches first base safely on a hit is credited with a single. If he makes it to second base safely as a direct result of his hit, it is a double; third base, a triple. If the ball is hit in the air within the foul lines over the entire outfield (and outfield fence, if there is one), it is a home run: the batter and any runners on base may all freely circle the bases, each scoring a run. This is the most desirable result for the batter. If a player reaches base due to a fielding mistake, he is not credited with a hit—instead, the responsible fielder is charged with an error.

Any runners already on base may attempt to advance on batted balls that contact the ground (land) in fair territory, before or after the ball lands; a runner on first base must attempt to advance if a ball lands in play. If a ball hit into play rolls foul before passing through the infield, it becomes dead and any runners must return to the base they were at when the play began. If the ball is hit in the air and caught before it lands, the batter has flied out and any runners on base may attempt to advance only if they tag up or touch the base they were at when the play began, as or after the ball is caught. Runners may also attempt to advance to the next base while the pitcher is in the process of delivering the ball to home plate—a successful effort is a stolen base.

A pitch that is not hit into the field of play is called either a strike or a ball. A batter strikes out if he gets three strikes. He is awarded a base on balls or walk, a free advance to first base, if he is thrown four balls. (A batter may also freely advance to first base if any part of his body or uniform is struck by a pitch before he either swings at it or it contacts the ground.) Crucial to determining balls and strikes is the umpire's judgment as to whether a pitch has passed through the strike zone, a conceptual area above home plate extending from the midpoint between the batter's shoulders and belt down to the hollow of the knee.

A ball is called when the pitcher throws a pitch that is outside the strike zone, provided the batter has not swung at it.

It is possible to record two outs in the course of the same play—a double play; even three—a triple play—is possible, though this is very rare. Players put out or retired must leave the field, returning to their team's dugout or bench. A runner may be stranded on base when a third out is recorded against another player on his team. Stranded runners do not benefit the team in its next turn at bat—every half-inning begins with the bases empty of runners.

An individual player's turn batting or plate appearance is complete when he reaches base (or hits a home run), makes an out, or hits a ball that results in his team's third out, even if it is recorded against a teammate. On rare occasions, a batter may be at the plate when, without his having hit the ball, a third out is recorded against a teammate—for instance, a runner getting caught stealing (tagged out attempting to steal a base). A batter with this sort of incomplete plate appearance starts off his team's next turn batting; any balls or strikes he recorded the previous inning are erased. A runner may circle the bases only once per plate appearance and thus can score at most a single run per batting turn. Once a player has completed a plate appearance, he may not bat again until the eight other members of his team have all taken their turn at bat. The batting order is set before the game begins, and may not be altered except for substitutions. Once a player has been removed for a substitute, he may not reenter the game. Children's games often have more liberal substitution rules.

If the designated hitter (DH) rule is in effect, each team has a tenth player whose sole responsibility is to bat (and run). The DH takes the place of another player—almost invariably the pitcher—in the batting order, but does not field. Thus, even with the DH, each team still has a batting order of nine players and a fielding arrangement of nine players.

The manager, or head coach of a team, oversees the team's major strategic decisions, such as establishing the starting rotation, setting the batting order or lineup before each game, and making substitutions during games—in particular, bringing in relief pitchers. Managers are typically assisted by two or more coaches; they may have specialized responsibilities, such as working with players on hitting, fielding, pitching, or strength and conditioning. At most levels of organized play, two coaches are stationed on the field when the team is at bat: The first base coach and third base coach, occupying designated coaches' boxes just outside the foul lines, assist in the direction of baserunners when the ball is in play, and relay tactical signals from the manager to batters and runners during pauses in play.

Any baseball game involves one or more umpires, who make rulings on the outcome of each play. At a minimum, one umpire will stand behind the catcher, to have a good view of the strike zone, and call balls and strikes. Additional umpires may be stationed near the other bases, thus making it easier to judge plays such as attempted force outs and tag outs. In Major League Baseball, four umpires are used for each game, one near each base. In the playoffs, six umpires are used: one at each base and two in the outfield along the foul lines.

Many of the pre-game and in-game strategic decisions in baseball revolve around a fundamental fact: in general, right-handed batters tend to be more successful against left-handed pitchers and, to an even greater degree, left-handed batters tend to be more successful against right-handed pitchers. A manager with several left-handed batters in his regular lineup who knows his team will be facing a left-handed standard pitcher may start one or more of the right-handed backups on the roster. During the late innings of a game, as relief pitchers and pinch hitters are brought in, the opposing managers will often go back and forth trying to create favorable matchups with their substitutions: the manager of the fielding team trying to arrange same-handed pitcher-batter matchups, the manager of the batting team trying to arrange opposite-handed matchups. With a team that has the lead in the late innings, a manager may remove a starting position player—especially one whose turn at bat is not likely to come up again—for a more skillful fielder.

The tactical decision that precedes almost every play in a baseball game involves pitch selection. Among the wide variety of pitches that may be thrown, the four basic types are the fastball, the changeup (or off-speed pitch), and two breaking balls—the curveball and the slider. Pitchers have different repertoires of pitches they are skillful at throwing. Conventionally, before each pitch, the catcher signals the pitcher what type of pitch to throw, as well as its general vertical and/or horizontal location. If the pitcher disagrees with the selection, he may shake off the sign and the catcher will call for a different pitch. With a runner on base and taking a lead, the pitcher may attempt a pickoff, a quick throw to a fielder covering the base to keep the runner's lead in check or, optimally, effect a tag out. If an attempted stolen base is anticipated, the catcher may call for a pitchout, a ball thrown deliberately off the plate, allowing the catcher to catch it while standing and throw quickly to a base. Facing a batter with a strong tendency to hit to one side of the field, the fielding team may employ a shift, with most or all of the fielders moving to the left or right of their usual positions. With a runner on third base, the infielders may play in, moving closer to home plate to improve the odds of throwing out the runner on a ground ball, though a sharply hit grounder is more likely to carry through a drawn-in infield.

Several basic offensive tactics come into play with a runner on first base, including the fundamental choice of whether to attempt a steal of second base. The hit and run is sometimes employed with a skillful contact hitter: the runner takes off with the pitch drawing the shortstop or second baseman over to second base, creating a gap in the infield for the batter to poke the ball through. The sacrifice bunt calls for the batter to focus on making contact with the ball so that it rolls a short distance into the infield, allowing the runner to advance into scoring position even at the expense of the batter being thrown out at first—if the batter succeeds, he is credited with a sacrifice. (A batter, particularly one who is a fast runner, may also attempt to bunt for a hit.) A sacrifice bunt employed with a runner on third base, aimed at bringing him home, is known as a squeeze play. With a runner on third and fewer than two outs, a batter may instead concentrate on hitting a fly ball that, even if it is caught, will be deep enough to allow the runner to tag up and score—a successful batter in this case gets credit for a sacrifice fly. The manager will sometimes signal a batter who is ahead in the count (i.e., has more balls than strikes) to take, or not swing at, the next pitch.

Baseball has certain attributes that set it apart from the other popular team sports in the countries where it is has a following, games such as American and Canadian football, basketball, ice hockey, and soccer. All of these sports use a clock; in all of them, gameplay is less individual and more collective; and in none of them is the variation between playing fields nearly as substantial or important. Many of baseball's distinctive elements are shared in various ways with its cousin sport, cricket, making the comparison between cricket and baseball an intriguing one.

In clock-limited sports, games often end with a team that holds the lead killing the clock rather than competing aggressively against the opposing team. In contrast, baseball has no clock; a team cannot win without getting the last batter out and rallies are not constrained by time. At almost any turn in any baseball game, the most advantageous strategy is some form of aggressive strategy. In contrast, again, the clock comes into play even in the case of multi-day Test and first-class cricket: the possibility of a draw often encourages a team that is batting last and well behind to bat defensively, giving up any faint chance at a win in order to avoid a loss. Baseball offers no such reward for conservative batting.

While nine innings has been the standard since the beginning of professional baseball, the duration of the average major league game has increased steadily through the years. At the turn of the twentieth century, games typically took an hour and a half to play. In the 1920s, they averaged just less than two hours, which eventually ballooned to 2:38 in 1960. By 1997, the average American League game lasted 2:57 (National League games were about 10 minutes shorter—pitchers at the plate making for quicker outs than designated hitters). In 2004, Major League Baseball declared that its goal was an average game of merely 2:45. The lengthening of games is attributed to longer breaks between half-innings for television commercials, increased offense, more pitching changes, and a slower pace of play with pitchers taking more time between each delivery, and batters stepping out of the box more frequently. Other leagues have experienced similar issues: In 2008, Nippon Professional Baseball took steps aimed at shortening games by 12 minutes from the preceding decade's average of 3:18.

It is impossible to isolate and objectively assess the contribution each team member makes to the outcome of the play.... very basketball player is interacting with all of his teammates all the time. In baseball, by contrast, every player is more or less on his own.... Baseball is therefore a realm of complete transparency and total responsibility. A baseball player lives in a glass house, and in a stark moral universe.... Everything that every player does is accounted for and everything accounted for is either good or bad, right or wrong.

Cricket is more similar to baseball than many other team sports in this regard, though the importance of the batting partnership and the practicalities of tandem running mitigate the individual focus in cricket. There is also no equivalent in cricket for the fielding error and thus less statistical emphasis on personal responsibility.

Unlike those of most sports, baseball playing fields can vary significantly in size and shape. While the dimensions of the infield are specifically regulated, the only constraint on outfield size and shape for professional teams following the rules of Major League and Minor League Baseball is that fields built or remodeled since June 1, 1958, must have a minimum distance of 325 feet (99 m) from home plate to the fences in left and right field and 400 feet (122 m) to center. Major league teams often skirt even this rule. For example, at Minute Maid Park, which became the home of the Houston Astros in 2000, the Crawford Boxes in left field are only 315 feet (96 m) from home plate. There are no rules at all that address the height of fences or other structures at the edge of the outfield. The most famously idiosyncratic outfield boundary is the left-field wall at Boston's Fenway Park, in use since 1912: the "Green Monster" is 310 feet (94 m) from home plate down the line and 37 feet (11 m) tall.

Similarly, there are no regulations at all concerning the dimensions of foul territory. Thus a foul fly ball may be entirely out of play in a park with little space between the foul lines and the stands, but a flyout in a park with more expansive foul ground. A fence in foul territory that is close to the outfield line will tend to direct balls that strike it back toward the fielders, while one that is farther away may actually prompt more collisions, as outfielders run full speed to field balls deep in the corner; these variations can make the difference between a double and a triple or inside-the-park home run. The surface of the field is also not regulated. While the diagram in the Rules and gameplay section above shows a traditional field surfacing arrangement (and the one used by virtually all MLB teams with naturally surfaced fields), teams are free to decide what areas will be grassed or bare. Some fields—including several in MLB—use an artificial surface, such as AstroTurf. Surface variations can have a significant effect on how ground balls behave and are fielded as well as on baserunning. Similarly, the presence of a roof (seven major league teams play in stadiums with permanent or retractable roofs) can greatly affect how fly balls are played. While football and soccer players deal with similar variations of field surface and stadium covering, the size and shape of their fields are much more standardized; the area out-of-bounds on a football or soccer field does not affect gameplay the way foul territory in baseball does, so variations in that regard are largely insignificant.

These physical variations create a distinctive set of playing conditions at each ballpark. Other local factors, such as altitude and climate, can also significantly affect gameplay. A given stadium may acquire a reputation as a "pitcher's park" or a "hitter's park", if one or the other side notably benefits from its unique mix of elements. The most exceptional park in this regard is Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies. Its high altitude—5,282 feet (1,610 m) above sea level—is responsible for giving it the strongest hitter's park effect in the major leagues. Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, is known for its fickle disposition: a hitter's park when the strong winds off Lake Michigan are blowing out, it becomes more of a pitcher's park when they are blowing in. The absence of a standardized field affects not only how particular games play out, but the nature of team rosters and players' statistical records. For example, hitting a fly ball 330 feet (100 m) into right field might result in a easy catch on the warning track at one park, and a home run at another. A team that plays in a park with a relatively short right field, such as the New York Yankees, will tend to stock its roster with left-handed pull hitters, who can best exploit it. On the individual level, a player who spends most of his career with a team that plays in a hitter's park will gain an advantage in batting statistics over time—even more so if his talents are especially suited to the park.

The Official Baseball Rules administered by Major League Baseball require the official scorer to categorize each baseball play unambiguously. The rules provide detailed criteria to promote consistency. The scorer's score report is the official basis for both the box score of the game and the relevant statistical records. General managers, managers, and baseball scouts use statistics to evaluate players and make strategic decisions.

Among the many other statistics that are kept are those collectively known as situational statistics. For example, statistics can indicate which specific pitchers a certain batter performs best against. If a given situation statistically favors a certain batter, the manager of the fielding team may be more likely to change pitchers or have the pitcher intentionally walk the batter in order to face one who is less likely to succeed.

Sabermetrics refers to the field of baseball statistical study and the development of new statistics and analytical tools. The term is also used to refer directly to new statistics themselves. The term was coined around 1980 by one of the field's leading proponents, Bill James, and derives from the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

Writing in 1919, philosopher Morris Raphael Cohen described baseball as America's national religion. In the words of sports columnist Jayson Stark, baseball has long been "a unique paragon of American culture"—a status he sees as "devastated" by the steroid abuse scandal. Baseball has an important place in other national cultures as well: Scholar Peter Bjarkman describes "how deeply the sport is ingrained in the history and culture of a nation such as Cuba, how thoroughly it was radically reshaped and nativized in Japan." Since the early 1980s, the Dominican Republic, in particular the city of San Pedro de Macorís, has been the major leagues' primary source of foreign talent. In the Western Hemisphere, baseball is also one of the leading sports in Canada, Colombia, Mexico, the Netherlands Antilles, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. In Asia, it is among the most popular sports in South Korea and Taiwan.

In recent years, baseball's position compared to football in the United States has moved in contradictory directions. In 2008, Major League Baseball set a revenue record of $6.5 billion, matching the NFL's revenue for the first time in decades. On the other hand, the percentage of American sports fans polled who named baseball as their favorite sport was 16%, compared to pro football at 31%; in 1985, the respective figures were pro football 24%, baseball 23%. Because there are so many more major league baseball games played, there is no comparison in overall attendance. In 2008, total attendance at major league games was the second-highest in history: 78.6 million, 0.7% off the record set the previous year. Attendance at games held under the Minor League Baseball umbrella also set a record in 2007, with 42.8 million; this figure does not include attendance at games of the several independent minor leagues.

As of 2007, Little League Baseball oversees more than 7,000 children's baseball leagues with more than 2.2 million participants in the United States and around the world. Babe Ruth League teams have over 1 million participants. A varsity baseball team is an established part of physical education departments at most high schools and colleges in the United States. By early in the 20th century, intercollegiate baseball was Japan's leading sport; today, high school baseball in particular is immensely popular there.

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Source : Wikipedia