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Volume 23 No. 29
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Fox and MLB: Quarter-century of culture change

As they start their 25th postseason together, Fox and MLB executives reflect on how it all began, with a ‘crazy’ genius, a rising star in the booth and a sport in need of help.
Tim McCarver, Joe Buck and Bob Brenly called Fox’s first World Series.
Photo: courtesy of fox sports

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Television Network debuted on Oct. 9, 1986. For most of its first seven years, it was best known — if it was known at all — for controversial but frequently brilliant comedies like “The Simpsons” but it had no sports presence until it stunned the sports business world in December 1993 by outbidding CBS with a $1.6 billion commitment for the rights to the NFC package of NFL games. It added the NHL for the start of the 1994-95 season. And when Major League Baseball’s two-year, in-house experiment known as The Baseball Network was ending its ill-fated run in 1995, the ambitious young network with a sports division led by a swashbuckling Australian sought to add America’s national pastime to its growing portfolio.

Both the sport and the network were then at an inflection point. Baseball was digging out from the disastrous strike of 1994 and ’95, while Fox was trying to elbow its way to prominence among the long-dominant Big Three networks. But what once seemed strange — the World Series on Fox? — has now become standard, as the network has had exclusive coverage of the Fall Classic for each of the past 20 consecutive years, with no end in sight. By the time its newest agreement, a seven-year, $5.1 billion deal that starts in 2022 and runs through 2028, Fox will have aired the World Series for 29 consecutive years, breaking NBC’s record of 26 straight from 1951-76. 

This week also marks the start of the 25th straight year that Fox has broadcast the MLB postseason. To mark the occasion, Sports Business Journal talked with the people who brought a brash new network and the most tradition-heavy sport in America together for an unlikely marriage that has changed both properties as well as sports television. (Note: Some answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)

BUD SELIG, commissioner of Major League Baseball, 1992-2015: As much of a traditionalist and a conservative as I am in terms of baseball, this was our time. We had to change. We had to think about things that we had never thought about.

DAVID HILL, former chairman and CEO, Fox Sports Media Group: There was a secret meeting at a Philadelphia golf course with Bill Giles, Barry Frank from IMG, [longtime Fox executive] Chase Carey and I were there, Paul Beeston was probably negotiating for MLB. It was when the strike was underway. The key thing was us explaining what we were going to do with the coverage. Up until then, the television partners had just put it on and all discussions were about finance. Chase and I went believing that, having achieved the impossible with the NFL, we could do the same with MLB. We could buy it at a price and improve it so that we would show a profit. With what we were promising to do with the image of baseball in America, we were promising that we could turn it around. They looked at what we did with the NFL by creating “Fox NFL Sunday” and were impressed. They said, “We’re going to do the same thing with baseball, we’re going to make it interesting and fun and valid and make it a conversation in the school yard and around the dinner table.” That was the key thing, not the finances.

SELIG: Chase Carey came here in January of 1995 and we went for lunch at The University Club. This was Fox Sports, embryonic company and who knew what they were going to be. We were this relatively staid sport. Chase and I really hit it off and we made a deal. I used to kid with him that anyone who would come to Milwaukee in January, I knew he was serious about making a deal because it was 15 below zero here. That’s how it all started. We got a private room and talked about what they wanted to do and how they would do it. Before Chase left Milwaukee we had a deal. I had a lot of [ownership] support. I remember telling everyone afterwards we had just made a deal with Fox. I never got any pushback at all from anybody.

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The initial deal between Fox and MLB was for five years and $580 million. NBC paid $400 million for some rights as well. Fox got the All-Star Game and ALCS in 1997 and ’99, and the NLCS and World Series in 1996, ’98 and 2000, while NBC got the All-Star Game and ALCS in 1996, ’98 and 2000, and the NLCS and World Series in 1997 and ’99. NBC had been home to the Fall Classic more than any other network, starting with the first time it was on television in 1947. It presented games in a classic, familiar style. Fox had a different approach in mind.

TRACY DOLGIN, former EVP of marketing and promotion, Fox Sports: The idea of fun and craziness at least had been in that [NFL] culture. Baseball was America’s pastime, OK? We had to lobby these owners and people at Major League Baseball who were not modern. First, we had to convince them that they had a problem — they didn’t have a young audience and the urban audience wasn’t watching. And we had to convince them that the solution wasn’t worse than the problem, that we were going to make stars out of players. I’m telling you, in my first nine lobbying calls, this was said to me: “You can’t make players into stars or we will have to pay them more.”

HILL: I read all the literature I could about baseball and watched tapes and tapes. I also had a guy go down to the video store and buy every video made about baseball. What I wanted to show these guys was to look at the top visual directors in Hollywood and see how they saw the game. What it was was mano a mano. Everything in every Hollywood movie was pitcher versus batter. So we wanted a split screen, and show on the left the pitcher getting ready, on the right the batter preparing, looking at the angst on both faces and then as the pitcher went into the throw go back to the wide shot showing the ball going down. That philosophy came from, here’s the top directors in Hollywood. Here are their movies. This is how Hollywood wants America to see baseball. This is how I want Fox viewers to see baseball.

LOU D’ERMILIO, former SVP of media relations, Fox Sports: Football was really all we had to demonstrate our capabilities. We were fortunately critically acclaimed almost right out of the gate. We made great decisions on game talent, studio talent, the production enhancements introduced, our graphic look was futuristic, the sound effects, audio enhancements with extra microphones around the field. All of that we told baseball we would bring to their sport.

DOLGIN: Vince [Wladika] and I went to [Yankees owner George] Steinbrenner to convince him. If the Yankees weren’t on board, it wasn’t going to happen. Even though he was the maverick, we need to make these players stars and baseball needed Fox at least as much as Fox needed baseball. … I guarantee you, George had never seen [Fox] in his life, didn’t know what channel it was on. We went to his suite and showed him the [football] promos to convince him what we were going to do for baseball. We were going to get the players involved and we were going to make them stars. While this is happening, this was around Game 6 of the Stanley Cup conference finals between the Devils and Rangers and it’s the day that Mark Messier guaranteed the win. We’re talking about how Mark Messier is a star in New York and this is like a Babe Ruth moment. By the end of that, we had shown him the promos and he’s like, “I’m on board. You guys should bid. I’m supportive of this.” 

TIM BROSNAN, former EVP, business, MLB: There wasn’t a lot of dating with them. We got married right away and then we figured out how to make the marriage work. It worked because of their deep love for the game and the understanding that their intentions were always good even if their executions may have gotten ahead of the baseball industry.

ED GOREN, former executive producer and vice chairman, Fox Sports: In the four years at CBS, the attitude of baseball was we’re America’s game. They lacked innovation; they fought innovation. By the time we came on board, part of what they were looking for was innovation.

HILL: Marketing for baseball was abysmal. It was “Watch the Phillies and the Yankees at 3 o’clock Saturday afternoon.”

SELIG: He was not wrong. I know that bothered a lot of people. But I knew — I knew — for this game to begin to achieve the potential that it did that we needed to make a lot of changes, and look what has happened to the sport since then. I can’t emphasize enough to you what a crucial part of that they were.

Bud Selig wasted little time striking the first deal with Fox, in 1995.
Photo: getty images

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Fox wasn’t scheduled to air its first game until the season was well underway, giving its leaders plenty of time to execute a plan. Their first idea was to bring some humor and life to a traditionally sober sport.

D’ERMILIO: The overall goal was to transform America’s pastime to America’s present time. Everything was produced in an edgier way than sports had done things in the past.

VINCE WLADIKA, former SVP  of media relations, Fox Sports: We were going from spring training facility to facility shooting two or three promos a day. Our first game was June 1. Every promo was done comically. One was [Yankees first baseman] Tino Martinez talking to a psychologist about how he’d replace [Don] Mattingly. The psychologist is writing, “No chance.” People loved it. You showed baseball players being funny, which nobody ever tried to do before. Randy Johnson was a newspaper delivery guy and the entire neighborhood hated him because every time he threw a newspaper he’d break a window because he threw it so hard. And Ken Griffey Jr. wanted to kick the shit out of Tracy. I thought he was going to, [but] I stood there laughing my butt off. Ask him.

DOLGIN: It was really a bad script. We wrote it like this to appeal to [Griffey]. This guy has the biggest ego in baseball, we are going to write a script that goes right at that and make fun of him so he won’t get it. He was going to be playing baseball and the pitcher was going to throw an invisible baseball and he was going to hit a home run because he was so good he didn’t even need the baseball. We sent it to Nike, his agent, the union rep, the Mariners — everyone signed off, they got the joke. We show up and set up on the field. No Griffey. He didn’t even walk out into the dugout. We send our producer in the Mariners’ locker room and they’re like, “He’s not doing it.” What? He claims he never read it, is not OK with it, doesn’t like it and he is not doing it.

I go in to meet Griffey. He says, “I’m not doing it.” I go, “What do you mean you’re not doing it?” He says, “I don’t like it. I don’t get it. It’s stupid.” I have a folder in my hand with letters from all of his reps saying he’s doing it and that they’ve shown it to him. And he’s like, “I don’t give a shit.” So I go, “George, you are doing it. We have all these people here. Everyone’s agreed. You’ve agreed. I don’t believe anything you are saying. And you’re going to do it. That’s just the way it is. Stop it.” He says, “What did you call me?” Griffey and I are literally nose to nose, or more like nose to neck. I’m 5-8. I said, “George,” that’s his real name. He’s like spitting in my face and says, “What!?!? Only my momma gets to call me George.” And I say, “And you don’t act this way in front of your momma.” We were just staring at each other. I thought he was going to freakin’ hit me, and he could break me like a twig; the guy’s an Adonis. He takes a step back and looks at me and goes, “I like you. You stand up for yourself. OK, give me the damn script, let’s go do it.” And we shot the script. It wasn’t good but came out just the way it was. If he didn’t do it, my fear was that no one would do it.

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Perhaps no figure in the Fox universe was more influential — and more of an outsider— than David Hill, the president of Fox Sports. He had been instrumental in shaping the look of the network’s NFL broadcasts and he pledged to do the same with MLB, no matter how much pushback he got.

DOLGIN: Here we were, these f---ing crazy people, led by David Hill, who was crazy. Brilliant. Not a business person. Not a sports guy. This crazy Barnum & Bailey kind of guy.

PETE MACHESKA, lead Fox Sports producer: He was like a Damon Runyon character. Larger than life.

WLADIKA: David would be crazy — genius crazy — but you would need to filter David. [In a 1996 New York Times Magazine story] he said, “I don’t want us talking about dead people.” Holy crap, I sat there with [Hill] in the interview with him when he said it. I just put my head down. I looked at him and said, “Do you understand what you just said?” And he said to me, “Yes, we need to shake these people up.” I said, “But you don’t get it! This entire sport is built on history, more than any other sport. David, everybody we revere in baseball is DEAD! And you just said you don’t want any of our announcers talking about dead people anymore!” He claimed to me he said it on purpose to shake everything up. Holy crap, did we take grief for that.

HILL: What I said was if you talk about dead guys and not show them then you’re out. It was the most stupid, asinine thing that the reporter didn’t pick up the phone and say to me, “This sounds f---ing stupid, why would you say that?” From that moment on, every reporter in the country said, “This man is an idiot.” I was trying to help baseball by showing that the stars of the past were the same as the stars of today, so therefore records had validity. … I would actually turn baseball on on Saturday afternoon and go to sleep it was so boring. I spent weeks sitting in the Fox Movietone news library collecting clips — seven-second clips — of famous players. If they were going to refer to the old player they’d have to show it so the kids watching would realize a great player like Joe DiMaggio looked like today’s players. We weren’t comparing a mystical figure from the misty past. He was flesh and blood. He was 23. He looked exactly like the kid who was playing. Don’t talk about dead guys, show dead guys. … For me to fulfill Chase Carey’s promise to Major League Baseball that we would improve the product, I had to make psychological points with them so that they would remember it. And dead guys was one of the key things, to remember that it’s about today. The sport is about what’s happening now.

BROSNAN: David was an iconoclast — larger than life. Baseball was traditionally conservative. Fans did and do think that baseball is America’s game that is held in trust by the major league ownership and structure. Rightfully, baseball was guarded about who to partner with and was trying to be thoughtful and strategic. [Bud] Selig always was — if there was one thing that marked his commissonership — it was that he really spent a long time thinking about stuff and gaining consensus. And so the new kid on the block, there were tests being taken, if you will. … To know David is to love him, to not know him is to scratch your head sometimes. He would say what was on his mind at our owners’ meetings. Bud would pull me out of the room and say, “What did you think?”

DOLGIN: We had to make the production live up to the brand we created, and without ruining the game. You’re walking on a very fine line. You can’t piss off the traditionalists, especially for baseball. We could not just market to the base, but we couldn’t piss off the base. “Same game, new attitude,” that popped in my head. Maybe it wasn’t a good marketing line but it was our North Star, because that is what we did.

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Among the immediate changes Fox brought were the Fox Box, which showed the score, the runners on base and the count at all times; frequent and extreme close ups of players; and the use of a hard-rock, guitar-heavy theme music. After making it through the regular season, Fox took on its first year of postseason coverage, which would culminate in exclusive coverage of the World Series. Behind the microphone would be 27-year-old Joe Buck, who was the son of the legendary broadcaster Jack Buck, who had waited until he was 66 to handle lead network play-by-play duties during the Fall Classic. That two-year stint on CBS ended in 1991, partly due to the lack of chemistry he shared with analyst Tim McCarver. When Joe Buck was tapped to take on play-by-play duties, he was paired with McCarver, already a regular of World Series broadcasts.

GOREN: The first time around, you just want to get it right. Joe Buck, I have all the confidence in Joe in the world, but here’s this kid doing our first World Series so there is certainly a bit of anxiety.

HILL: We had to present the sport as new, young, fresh, reinvigorated, relevant. A lot of baseball announcers just do statistics and the press guide book. “Here is so-and-so and his stats are so-and-so” — all well and good but boring as batshit. Joe could build on the pictures that [director] Billy Webb was giving him, create a profile of the player that you as the viewer then felt you knew. Joe had this inherent ability. His words complemented rather than supplemented video images. That’s why I chose him. No hesitation.

David Hill (left) and Ed Goren gave baseball’s telecasts a much-needed new approach.
Photo: getty images

JOE BUCK, lead play-by-play broadcaster: I was 26, about to be 27, when Fox got the rights. I really owe [producer] John Filippelli a lot of credit. He wanted me to do some Baseball Network games, even though I was a kid. And I lost out on that. But he was brought in in ’96. And without him championing me, I don’t know that I would’ve been doing the games like I ended up doing.

I was hopeful [to get the job]. I was probably third team in football. And I knew that David Hill and Ed Goren liked me. But I think, if anything, pushing me over the finish line, it was Filippelli. Maybe it was just ego, but I thought I had a shot at getting that job, if they were willing to go with somebody that young.

GOREN: When you ask about Joe Buck and whether there was a concern over a 27-year-old doing a World Series, he had done baseball. What he hadn’t done until 1994 was any football. Never a doubt [with baseball]. What was actually a concern in the buildup, Tim McCarver worked at CBS and his play-by-play partner was Jack Buck. Put it this way, they had issues together, whatever they were. It dealt with the broadcast itself. Before I decided that Joe and Tim would be great, I wanted to make sure that whatever the past was between Jack and Tim, that that was yesterday’s news. I went to each of them individually and asked them, “Is this going to be a problem?” And when the answer came back “no” from both of them, I said, “Fine, now why don’t both of you get back together over a couple drinks and let’s move forward.”

BUCK: Three things happened. [Fellow Cardinals broadcaster] Mike Shannon called Tim once it was announced that Tim and I would be together, and he said, “You’re going to love working with Joe. He’s a different announcer than Jack.” Tim told me that, not Mike. I don’t even know why he did that or what he was referencing. That’s just from his perspective of sitting in the analyst’s seat with both my dad and me. That gave me an opening with Tim. And I had known Tim since I was a little boy.

Part two was our seminar that year. I was 26, and I called Tim after the day of meetings and said, “We need to go have a drink and just talk.” When we got together alone, I said, “Whatever happened between you and my dad, you know I think my dad hangs the moon, but you and I need to forge this relationship on our own. I don’t think you can look at me as Jack Buck’s son. And I’m not going to look at you as my dad’s former TV broadcast partner. We’re just going to start fresh.” That kind of released the pressure valve.

And I can honestly tell you, in 18 years, we never one time had a disagreement. I owe Tim, probably of all the people that have been influential in my career, including my dad, Tim giving me the credibility that he gave me by listening to points that I would bring up on the air and treating me as an equal, even though he was far superior as a broadcaster and somebody who had played in and seen so many different baseball situations, gave me that instant credibility. He didn’t have to do that, but he did.

The third thing was that there was nobody more excited that Tim was announced as my broadcast partner than my dad. He knew that no matter what happened on the field, I was going to be covered by somebody who was well-versed in the game, and who had been a broadcaster that long. He’d been at every network and had done all these big games. He played in all these big games. If there was ever any stress between them, that was long gone. He knew that his son was going to be in good hands with Tim in the one seat over.

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Hiring Buck wasn’t the only big change Fox had in mind. For most of its early seasons, much of the attention paid to the network’s approach focused on its unique way of covering the game.

D’ERMILIO: Baseball changed when it came to Fox. They had a reputation of saying no to everything. When baseball came to Fox, that attitude definitely changed. It was more of a “OK, let’s see if we can do that” attitude. They were much more open [to innovation].

BROSNAN: Oh, shit, yeah [there was pushback from MLB]. Their broadcast teams were aggressive. They spoke their mind; they talked about umpire calls. Selig might even call me on a Saturday night; Bud could get excited and he could get salty. But look, I jumped in head first with those guys. I believed baseball did need to catch up with what was going on in the  presentation of sports to younger audiences.

MACHESKA: David got someone at “The Simpsons” to voice over a talking baseball called Scooter. We had to use that for years. What’s a screwball? And this voice would tell you. It’s a 15-second piece for the kids. He fell in love with it and if we didn’t get it in he’d be all over our case. One game I didn’t get Scooter in. I saw David at the bar. He said, “Kid, that Scooter didn’t get in today. You’d better get it in tomorrow or you might not be here the next day.” I don’t know if he meant it, but I wasn’t going to take a chance.

BROSNAN: There was a blue-ribbon panel [in the late ’90s]. That same session evolved into, “Why we can’t have access to starting pitchers?” The point they were making was that you don’t know what goes through the mind of a Major League Baseball pitcher. [Former player and executive] Al Rosen was describing a monk-like experience and you couldn’t go near them. David Hill launched into — I will never forget it — in his Australian accent, “Dale Earnhardt Jr. is about to get into a rocket ship, about to go 200 miles per hour with only a helmet on and we can stick a microphone in front of his face right before he hits the accelerator and we have a camera on his dashboard looking at him while he turns left at 200 miles per hour, risking death. And the worst that will happen to Randy Johnson is he might get a hangnail!” The whole room just stopped.

HILL: The most bullshit thing I had ever heard. What I wanted to do was interview a pitcher before he played. I get told, “Oh, it’s this psychic thing and you’ve got to sit in this dark room and hug a crystal and the mystic beings come and sprinkle dust on you.” I said, “All I’m trying to do is make this sport viewer-friendly. We are increasingly living in an age of personalities.” That’s it, I don’t want to discuss the philosophy of life. They haven’t [budged], to this very day.

SELIG: The blue-ribbon committee was called by me because I wanted really aggressive discussion. I put a lot of different constituencies on that, but none more important than David Hill and Ed Goren. … You had to rein David in from time to time, but I liked that. He pushed you to change.

WLADIKA: In 1997 we came up with Catcher Cam. The first guy who ever wore it was [Cleveland’s] Sandy Alomar Jr. I’ll tell you who it took to get it done — [key union leader] Gene Orza. Ed Goren and myself went to Gene, and Gene went into the locker room and, if I recall, Sandy Alomar Jr. wore the hockey mask and not the regular mask and had to have the camera mounted. Gene had to show him that it didn’t affect him and got him to agree to wear it.

BROSNAN: The first couple of helmet cams on catchers, they looked goofy, the picture was goofy. I don’t think it worked exactly the way it should have at first. We went with dirt cams during the World Series. David Hill saying [Yankees catcher] Jorge Posada ought to be arrested for kicking dirt on it and he’ll have him prosecuted. I got very unhappy phone calls over that. But those dirt cams were phenomenal. Fans loved them.

MACHESKA: Posada didn’t like it. He kicked dirt over it and I think he stepped on it. I think it broke. In the trailer they were going crazy and were not happy on our end.

HILL: Players do that, it comes with the business. Shit happens.

DOLGIN: The union was spectacularly helpful.

BERNADETTE MCDONALD, VP of broadcasting, MLB: Everything you looked at, you knew they wanted the same outcome as us: More people engaged in the game. Bill Webb pushed and said, “Why can’t this camera go on the field and around third base on a home run?” They really pushed us on why nots. Why not do this if it won’t impact anyone and be good for viewership? Audio for sure, from dirt mics, mics in the bases and managers interviewed during the game.

HILL: Audio to me had always been the most important thing of any sport because audio gives you an intense emotional connection. The No. 1 priority I had was to make baseball as exciting on television as it was in the stadium. Every conversation I had with Bud was complimentary and [asked], “What else can we do?” He was terrific. He loved the audio.

Visually, it was a continual set of close-ups. And Bill Webb, one of the best directors I’ve ever worked with, was absolutely important to that aim.

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Fox’s first World Series featured a dream matchup — the defending champion Atlanta Braves, already dubbed the Team of the ’90s and making their fourth appearance in the Fall Classic since 1991, facing the New York Yankees, the most successful franchise in American sports history returning to the World Series for the first time since 1981 — but it got off to a nightmarish start for Fox. The Braves took the first two games in the Bronx by the combined score of 16-1 and headed home looking to finish off the underdog Yankees. 

GOREN: The only thing you’re hoping for is you don’t want a four-game sweep. We needed the Yankees to win and the series to go six or seven games. There were times I’d ask Lou [D’Ermilio], “You’ve got to change your seat in the trailer here, it’s not working.” I would move him around until the Yankees made a comeback.

WLADIKA: We are depressed. Holy shit, the Yankees just lost first two games at home. Atlanta could sweep them. We were sweep-paranoid. Anytime there’s a sweep, you get hammered and lose money.

DOLGIN: I am sitting at Game 4 [in Atlanta] with Ted Turner and Jane Fonda; they didn’t have a suite. The Yankees start catching up and I’m going crazy screaming and yelling. I still love the Yankees [from growing up] and I’m also a business person. We need them to win or we are going to miss our budget, the entertainment people will take over again and we’ll get crushed. As I’m yelling in a sea of Braves fans, Ted’s like, “What are you doing?” I’m like, “It’s a game, I’m cheering.” He says, “How dare you? This is my stadium, this is my team and no one is cheering for the Yankees in my stadium, against my team, sitting next to me.” I say, “Ted, it’s a game, it’s fun, it’s entertaining.” He goes, “If you stand up and yell and cheer one more time for the Yankees, I will throw you out of the stadium.” I think he’s kidding. Jane is trying to calm him down. The Yankees went ahead and — it’s Pavlovian — I got up and I’m screaming and next thing I know, security is walking me out of the stadium. I got on the phone in the truck and called the commissioner and said, “We paid billions of dollars for this, you can’t throw me out of the stadium.” Commissioner got me back in. I didn’t go back to sit with Ted.

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The Yankees completed the comeback by winning the last four games of the Series to claim their first title since 1978. 

DOLGIN:  People were concerned we were going to miss our budget on our first World Series, but once you get to Game 6 you’re feeling great. Baseball is healthier and better off when the Yankees are great. The people that you want in your big events are teams with superstars. You’re going to choose them for your regular season games and hope they get into the postseason and that’s going to build your advertising. And obviously you’re going to get higher ratings with those teams, which is going to let you raise your rates. Certainly, most people root for the teams that are going to be more financially advantageous for you and the league, frankly.  It didn’t take much to get this group of people celebrating. We were drinking and partying and carousing out late at night.

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The Yankees won three of the next four titles as well — all except the 1999 rematch with Atlanta aired on Fox — as huge audiences tuned in and became familiar with the network and its many innovations. When it came time for the next round of negotiations, Fox and MLB knew they had a relationship that would work. Fox signed an exclusive deal for six years and $2.5 billion. It has since strengthened its connection with Major League Baseball, and if all goes according to plan, by 2026 the once-renegade network will have set a new standard: no network will have had exclusive coverage of more consecutive championship rounds for MLB, MLS, the NBA, the NFL or the NHL.

BROSNAN: No one doubted Fox’s affection for the game of baseball. That opened a lot of doors. That convinced a lot of executives. Over time, fans recognize big changes, but there are sets of incremental changes and [eventually] wow, this isn’t my father’s baseball game anymore.

DOLGIN: MLB maybe wasn’t as important to the success of Fox as football because football put Fox on the map, but in its own way, 25 years later, baseball was almost a better test case because it was so foreign. It showed you how much the brand had to evolve to encompass baseball, just like baseball had to evolve a little bit to encompass Fox.

HILL: We didn’t have rich. We didn’t have tradition. We didn’t have friendships that exist between broadcaster and sport that goes back generations. All we had was an idea. And we had the wherewithal to carry it out rapidly, so that this was what MLB saw: What we promised to do   to their sport, we did to their sport.

Staff writer John Ourand contributed to this report.