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MLB PLAYS HARDBALL IN PULLING SUNDAY NIGHT FROM ESPN
Published August 19, 1998
After "months of negotiations," MLB announced that because ESPN "plans to bump its final three Sunday night baseball games in September to ESPN2" in favor of NFL games, MLB "has taken back the games and will return local television rights to the six clubs involved," according to Scott Hettrick of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. An MLB spokesperson "said further action against ESPN, including a suit, has not been ruled out." MLB President & COO Paul Beeston: "These will be important and critical games in September, and we are disappointed that ESPN has chosen not to carry our games. ESPN2 was never an option. Our contract specifies that Sunday games are to be on ESPN." Hettrick reports that ESPN "might seek compensation for the three lost baseball games." ESPN issued a statement saying that MLB's action "violates our contract, which expressly provides for pre-emption and distribution on ESPN2." The three MLB games in question are September 6, Giants-Dodgers; September 13, Cardinals-Astros; and September 20, Yankees- Orioles (Scott Hettrick, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 8/19). ESPN'S COVERAGE: Forty-one minutes into the 6:30pm ET edition of "SportsCenter," ESPN's Larry Beil said: "Major League Baseball today informed ESPN that it is withdrawing three games scheduled for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball telecast in September, and is returning them to the individual teams involved to make their own local television arrangements." With less than 10 minutes remaining in the 11:00pm ET edition of "SportsCenter," ESPN's Steve Levy reported the same announcement, and like Beil, read ESPN's statement in its entirety ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/18). The AP version of the MLB story is also displayed on the upper right side of ESPN SportsZone under the header: "MLB Sacks ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball In September" (THE DAILY).