Thursday Night Baseball
Also known asUSA Network Thursday Night Baseball
ABC's Thursday Night Baseball
ESPN Thursday Night Baseball
Developed byUSA Sports
ABC Sports
Fox Sports
StarringJohn Smoltz
Ken Rosenthal
Kevin Burkhardt
Adam Amin
Joe Davis
A. J. Pierzynski
Eric Karros
Theme music composerNJJ Music
Scott Schreer
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time180 minutes (or until game ends)
Original networkUSA Network
Fox Sports Net
Fox Family
Audio formatStereo

Thursday Night Baseball is the de facto branding used for live game telecasts of Major League Baseball on Thursday nights.


USA Network Thursday Night Baseball (1979–1983)

Main article: USA Network Thursday Night Baseball

From 1979 to 1983, the USA Network broadcast Major League Baseball games on Thursday nights.

The series began April 26, 1979 with a doubleheader: Cleveland at Kansas City[1] (Jim Woods/Bud Harrelson) followed by Baltimore at California[2] (Monte Moore/Maury Wills). The second game of the night was typically, based out of the West Coast. The games were usually blacked out of the competing teams' cities. Once in a while, when USA did a repeat of the telecast late at night, local cities were allowed to show the rerun.

From 1980 to 1981, Woods and Nelson Briles (replacing Harrelson) did the early games (except for a game at Montreal on October 2, 1980, which reunited Woods with onetime Boston Red Sox radio partner Ned Martin), while Moore and Wes Parker (replacing Wills) called the late game.

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

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.

ABC's Thursday Night Baseball (1989)

Main article: Major League Baseball on ABC

In 1989, the ABC network aired Thursday night Major League Baseball games after having broadcast Monday Night Baseball (and occasional Sunday afternoon games) since 1976.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9] This was ABC's final year of consecutive baseball coverage (alongside NBC, which had telecast Saturday afternoon games since 1966 and Major League Baseball in general since 1947) due to CBS signing a four-year contract (spanning from 1990 to 1993) to become the exclusive national broadcast network provider for Major League Baseball games.

Al Michaels, Jim Palmer, and Tim McCarver formed ABC's lead broadcast team, while Gary Thorne and Joe Morgan were the second team.

Fox Sports Net and Fox Family's coverage (1997–2001)

Main article: Major League Baseball on Fox Family

In 1997, as part of the contract with Major League Baseball it had signed the year before, Fox Sports gained an additional outlet for its coverage. Its recently launched network of cable regional sports networks, Fox Sports Net, was given rights to two Thursday night games per week, one for the Eastern and Central time zones and one for the Mountain and Pacific time zones.

In 2000, as part of an exclusive contract Fox signed with MLB, that coverage passed to Fox Family Channel and was reduced to one game per week. After the 2000 season, Fox also gained rights to the entire postseason and moved a large portion of its Division Series coverage to Fox Family. This lasted for one season due to The Walt Disney Company acquiring Fox Family. As part of the transaction, Fox Family was renamed ABC Family and ESPN gained the rights to Fox Family and FX's MLB coverage, although the 2002 Division Series aired on ABC Family due to contractual issues, but with ESPN production, a sign of things to come at ABC Sports. Control of the overall contract remained with Fox, meaning they could renegotiate following the 2006 season and not allow ESPN to retain its postseason coverage. For the 2007 season, Fox did exactly that, and TBS became the other home of the postseason as part of its new baseball contract.

Play-by-play announcers for the FSN/Fox Family coverage included Kenny Albert, Thom Brennaman, Chip Caray, Josh Lewin, and Steve Physioc. Color analysts included Bob Brenly, Kevin Kennedy, Steve Lyons, and Jeff Torborg. Occasionally, FSN would simulcast a local-team feed of a game from one of its affiliated RSNs in lieu of a dedicated national production.

ESPN Thursday Night Baseball (2003–2006)

Main article: ESPN Major League Baseball

ESPN Thursday Night Baseball aired on either ESPN or ESPN2 from 2003 to 2006 and featured one game per week, taking over the package that had been on Fox Family Channel. Castrol served as the presenting sponsor for the telecasts.

The play-by-play commentator was Chris Berman along with either Joe Morgan or Eric Karros as color commentator. In 2006, Duke Castiglione joined the broadcast as the field reporter.

ESPN Thursday Night Baseball ended after the 2006 season because the broadcast rights to the package were lost to TBS. TBS began a package of Sunday afternoon games as a replacement for ESPN's Thursday night games.[10] That package was moved to Tuesday nights in 2022.

Even though Thursday Night Baseball as a distinct package ended after the 2006 season, ESPN has still aired select games on Thursday nights, most notably every year since 2017, when Opening Day of the MLB season was moved to Thursdays, as an evening game on Opening Day remains part of ESPN's baseball contract.[11][12]


  1. ^ Apr 26, 1979, Indians at Royals Play by Play and Box Score
  2. ^ Apr 26, 1979, Orioles at Angels Play by Play and Box Score
  3. ^ ABC Baseball Open on YouTube
  4. ^ "Gary Thorne". ESPN Press Room.
  5. ^ Nidetz, Steve (June 9, 1989). "FOR ABC, WRIGLEY'S A NEW BALLGAME". Chicago Tribune.
  6. ^ "NBC, ABC IN LAME DUCK YEAR FOR COVERAGE OF MAJORS". The Buffalo News. April 1, 1989.
  7. ^ June 26, 1989 - Promo for Thursday Night Baseball & Monday Night Movie Bumper on YouTube
  8. ^ Brooks, Marsh, Tim, Earle F. (24 June 2009). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. Random House Publishing Group. p. 105. ISBN 9780307483201.
  9. ^ Warner, Rick (November 12, 1988). "It's 'Let's Make a Deal' time for networks, cable". Gadsden Times. Associated Press. p. B5.
  10. ^ Reynolds, Mike (July 23, 2001). "Baseball Connects with Younger Viewers". Multichannel News. Retrieved 2008-05-21.
  11. ^ "MLB TV Schedule". 5 March 2017.
  12. ^ "Nationals vs. Mets opening series called off after four Washington players test positive for COVID-19".