Major League Baseball today decided it will not take a back seat to the National Football League.
In an official statement released this afternoon, MLB announced it was pulling three Sunday night games in September from ESPN and returning them to the respective teams involved.
The decision ends a long-running dispute between MLB and ESPN. The conflict over the September games arose when ESPN received the exclusive cable rights to NFL Sunday night telecasts. The network intended to switch the previously scheduled baseball games from ESPN, which reaches 74 million households, to ESPN2, which reaches 60 million homes, a move Major League Baseball claimed was contrary to the network's contractual obligations.
"These will be important and critical games in September and we are disappointed that ESPN has chosen not to carry our games," said Paul Beeston, President of Major League Baseball. "ESPN2 was never an option. Our contract specifies that Sunday games are to be on ESPN."
ESPN expressed disappointment over the situation:
"We are extrememly disappointed that Major League Baseball would take this position," stated ESPN in a release issued tonight. "This action violates our contract, which expressly provides for preemption and distribution on ESPN2, and more importantly, it denies national distribution to a broader audience of 60 million homes."
"Among its proposals, ESPN offered to augment its ESPN2 coverage with local over-the-air telecasts in the competing teams' markets and to televise additional games on ESPN during September."
The three games scheduled for broadcast are San Francisco at Los Angeles on September 6th, St. Louis at Houston on September 13th and the New York Yankees at Baltimore on September 20th. Those games will now be turned over to the teams, who will have the option of televising them in their local markets.
©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed