Center Field Shot: A History of Baseball on Television

Center Field Shot: A History of Baseball on Television

Center Field Shot: A History of Baseball on Television

Center Field Shot: A History of Baseball on Television


In Baseball Weekly 's list of things that most affected baseball in the twentieth century, television ranked second-behind only the signing of Jackie Robinson. The new medium of television exposed baseball to a genuinely national audience; altered the financial picture for teams, owners, and players; and changed the way Americans followed the game. Center Field Shot explores these changes-all even more prominent in the first few years of the twenty-first century-and makes sense of their meaning for America's pastime. Center Field Shot traces a sometimes contentious but mutually beneficial relationship from the first televised game in 1939 to the new era of Internet broadcasts, satellite radio, and high-definition TV, considered from the perspective of businessmen collecting merchandising fees and advertising rights, franchise owners with ever more money to spend on talent, and broadcasters trying to present a game long considered "unfriendly" to television. Ultimately the association of baseball with television emerges as a reflection of-perhaps even a central feature of-American culture at large.


In an end-of-the-millennium feature on “The Top 100 Things That Impacted Baseball in the 20th Century,” Baseball Weekly listed television as second only to Jackie Robinson's signing. Television was cited for exposing Major League Baseball (MLB) to a much larger audience, generating a financial windfall for owners, increasing the value of franchises exponentially, and, with the development of cable, changing “the way Americans followed the game.”

We agree with Baseball Weekly's analysis. And today, a few years into the twenty-first century, television's impact on each of these elements— team revenue enhancement, franchise values, and ways we follow the game—has become even more prominent. More importantly, Major League Baseball owners finally may have learned how to partner with, rather than fight, television, making the game's dysfunctional “marriage” to television more harmonious.

Perhaps the greatest impact of television on Major League Baseball was to make MLB a common synonym for “baseball.” Although the big league game had a privileged position before the video medium, the U.S. television industry has focused most of the nation's attention on the MLB version of the game. Nightly ESPN Sportscenter highlights record nearly every significant MLB “dinger,” “punch-out,” and defensive “web gem,” while only the most extraordinary moments from the minor leagues, college or high school baseball, or international competition receive any exposure. In the United States, virtually every MLB game is telecast over some combination of broadcast, cable, satellite, or Internet. But minor league games are rarely telecast, college games are cablecast during the College World Series, and international games come to prominence only during the MLB player-dominated World Baseball Classic. Though television has magnified both the best and worst that Major League Baseball has to offer, it has offered only a distant glimpse of much of the rest of the sport.

Despite the intense coverage the medium gives MLB, baseball's relationship with television has been more difficult than that of any major . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.