USA Network Thursday Night Baseball

USA Network Thursday Night Baseball aired Major League Baseball (MLB) games on the USA Network from 1979 to 1983.

USA Network Thursday Night Baseball
1983 logo
Developed byUSA Sports
Directed byBob Hiestand
John Repczynski
StarringSee announcers section
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producersKay Koplovitz[1]
Jim Zrake[2]
ProducersJerry Romano[3]
Mark D. Stulberger
Jim Zrake
Running time180 minutes (or until game ends)
Original networkUSA
Original releaseApril 26, 1979 (1979-04-26)[4] 
September 29, 1983 (1983-09-29)
RelatedThursday Night Baseball
Major League Baseball on NBC


In 1979,[5] 22 teams (all but the Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, New York Mets, and St. Louis Cardinals) participated in a one-year cable deal with United Artists Television and Columbia Pictures Television, then-owners of the USA Network.[6] The deal involved the airing of a Thursday night Game of the Week[7] in markets at least 50 miles (80 km) from a major league park.[8] The deal earned Major League Baseball less than $500,000, but led to a new two-year contract for 40–45 games per season.[9][10] The program ran through the 1983 season.[11][12]

With USA's Thursday night coverage, it ended ABC's Monday night broadcast's position as the exclusive national, prime time television franchise for Major League Baseball.[13]

Coverage history

The series began April 26, 1979[14] with a doubleheader: Cleveland at Kansas City[15] (Jim Woods and Bud Harrelson announcing[16]) followed by Baltimore at California[17] (Monte Moore and Maury Wills announcing[18]). The second game of the night was typically broadcast from the West Coast. The games were usually blacked-out in the competing teams' cities.[19][20][21] Once in a while, when USA aired a repeat of the telecast late at night, local cities were allowed to show the rerun.[22]

From 1980 to 1981, Jim Woods[23] and Nelson Briles (replacing Bud Harrelson) broadcast the early games, while Monte Moore and Wes Parker (replacing Maury Wills) called the late game.[24]

In 1982, doubleheaders did not start until June 17.[25] Prior to the doubleheaders starting, Monte Moore and Wes Parker did the individual game until then. When the doubleheaders finally began,[26] Moore and Parker moved over to the late game for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, Eddie Doucette (replacing Jim Woods) and Nelson Bridles were assigned to call the early game.[27]

USA continued with the plan of not starting doubleheaders until June in the final year of the package in 1983. Steve Zabriskie and Al Albert filled in for Eddie Doucette in September 1982 (Steve Grad also occasionally substituted) while Albert replaced Doucette for a game or more in 1983.

USA's coverage became a casualty of the new $1.2 billion TV contract[28] between Major League Baseball, ABC and NBC beginning in 1984 and lasting through 1989. One of the provisions to the new deal was that local telecasts opposite network games had to be eliminated.[29]

Memorable moments

One particular game of note was a Los Angeles Dodgers–St. Louis Cardinals game in 1981 (the last game before the strike[30][31]).[32] The game in question featured Fernando Valenzuela picking up his eighth consecutive win to start the season. Valenzuela gave up a home run in the ninth to tie the game 1–1, but Pedro Guerrero hit one himself in the bottom of the ninth for the win.

One year later, during a September 16 game between the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants,[33] Darrell Evans went 3-for-5 with four RBI in Giants' 9–3 victory.


See also

  • Thursday Night Baseball
  • NBC Sports on USA Network


  1. 1980 10 02 LA Dodgers at SF Giants - USA Network on YouTube
  2. 1983 08 18 USA Network Montreal Expos at SF Giants on YouTube
  3. 1982-09-16 USA Network - Padres at Giants on YouTube
  4. "SEARCHABLE NETWORK TV BROADCASTS". Archived from the original on 2019-04-18.
  5. Shea, Stuart (7 May 2015). Calling the Game: Baseball Broadcasting from 1920 to the Present. SABR, Inc. p. 373. ISBN 9781933599410.
  6. "Big-League Baseball To Hit Hinterlands On Cable Television". Wall Street Journal. April 13, 1979.
  7. "Majors give cable rights". Lawrence Journal-World. April 13, 1979.
  8. Jane Gross (July 12, 1981). "Sports on cable". The New York Times. USA agreed to the baseball limitations rejected by ESPN and shows a Thursday-night game in cities that do not have a major-league team. In New York City, Manhattan Cable broadcasts USA's programs, but cannot televise the weekly baseball game because the Yankees and Mets declined to grant the waivers necessary under major-league statutes.
  9. Jicha, Jim (April 3, 1982). "Is The Chance To .Ao To The Park ". Miami News. Archived from the original on July 12, 2012.
  10. "Giants Announce Signings of Stennett, May, Wohlford". Los Angeles Times. December 13, 1979.
  11. "Philadelphia Daily News : BASEBALL SWINGS AN UNREAL DEAL". Philadelphia Daily News. March 1, 1983.
  12. "USA NETWORK MAKING SOME MAJOR-LEAGUE CUTS". Miami Herald. February 10, 1984.
  13. Walker and Bellamy, James Robert and Robert Jr. (June 2008). Center Field Shot: A History of Baseball on Television. p. 143. ISBN 978-0803248250.
  14. Holliman, Ray (April 14, 1979). "Cable package likely coming to Channel 7". St. Petersburg Times.
  15. Apr 26, 1979, Indians at Royals Play by Play and Box Score Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  16. "Searchable Network TV Broadcasts - USA Network".
  17. Apr 26, 1979, Orioles at Angels Play by Play and Box Score Archived September 6, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  18. "Jock leaves bigs again". Daily News. June 6, 1979.
  20. Henniger, Paul (August 31, 1983). "Write To New York To Get Message To A Star In California". St. Petersburg Times.
  21. Stewart, Larry (September 10, 1982). "A Win for Rams on the Air, Too". Los Angeles Times.
  22. Wehrle, Bruce (November 29, 1982). "Cable Networks Join The Fun". The Dispatch.
  23. Craig, Jack (May 4, 1980). "SPORTVIEW / BY JACK CRAIG; ; WHAT PRICE EXCLUSIVITY". Boston Globe.
  24. 8/18/1983 Montreal Expos at San Francisco Giants on USA on YouTube
  25. "Now On .The Air If ". Tri City Herald. August 10, 1982. Archived from the original on July 30, 2012.
  26. "The Sports Scene". The Dispatch. July 15, 1982.
  27. "The Sports Scene ". The Dispatch. September 2, 1982.
  28. Copyright Royalty Fees for Cable Systems: Hearings Before the Subcommittee ... October 19, 1983. p. 703.
  29. Leifer, Eric M. (June 2009). Making the Majors: The Transformation of Team Sports in America. p. 1964. ISBN 9780674040069.
  30. Peck, Dick (August 6, 1981). "Sunday's All-Star Game Puts Baseball Back". Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
  31. "BASEBALL STRIKE FORCES TV TO IMPROVISE". The New York Times. June 27, 1981.
  32. Jun 11, 1981, Dodgers at Cardinals Play by Play and Box Score Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  33. Sep 16, 1982, Padres at Giants Box Score and Play by Play Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  34. ""Where Are They Now:" Eddie Doucette". Archived from the original on September 26, 2007.
  35. "Steve Zabriskie". Ultimate Mets Database. Retrieved 2016-05-31.
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