Sunday Night Baseball is the Major League Baseball exclusive game of the week that is televised Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN during the regular season. (The official name is ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball Presented by Taco Bell; previous presenting sponsors included Nextel and Bank of America.)
The games are preceded most weeks by the studio show Baseball Tonight. Both Baseball Tonight and Sunday Night Baseball are also televised in high definition on ESPNHD. A few telecasts each season appear on ESPN2 and ESPN2HD rather than ESPN due to conflicts with other programming.
The series debuted in 1990, and from its inception through 2010 featured the broadcast team of play-by-play commentator Jon Miller and color commentator Joe Morgan. Steve Phillips joined them for the 2009 season, and Orel Hershiser did so for the 2010 season following Phillips' dismissal by the network. From 2004 until 2006, Sam Ryan served as the field reporter, but she left to join New York City's WCBS-TV and CBS Sports in June 2006. On July 2, 2006 Bonnie Bernstein joined the crew as the new field reporter, but did not return in 2007 primarily due to her request to cut back her schedule because of her continued recovery from a bout with deep vein thrombosis in October 2006. Beginning in 2006, Peter Gammons joined the broadcasts as a field reporter in the scouts position. Gammons, however, suffered a brain aneurysm and didn't return until September 2006.
In 2010, Miller and Morgan began their 21st consecutive season working together for ESPN. Among U.S. network television sportscasters, only Pat Summerall and John Madden (who called NFL games for CBS and Fox from 1981 to 2001) have had a similar length partnership in the booth. Following the 2010 season, ESPN announced that the television contracts of Miller and Morgan would not be renewed. Miller was offered, but chose to decline, a continued role with ESPN Radio.
Play-by-play announcer Dan Shulman joined color commentators Hershiser and Bobby Valentine as the new Sunday Night Baseball crew beginning in 2011.In an essential trade deal, following the hiring of Valentine as the Boston Red Sox manager, his predecessor Terry Francona was hired to join Shulman and Hershiser for the 2012 season. Francona stayed with ESPN for only one season before he was hired by the Cleveland Indians to be their manager for the 2013 season. Francona was replaced by John Kruk, who had been part of the Baseball Tonight team since 2004. Like Miller and Morgan before them, Shulman and Hershiser form the lead team on ESPN Radio's World Series coverage.
On May 28, 2000, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens faced off in an epic pitchers duel at Yankee Stadium. Both pitchers threw complete games and combined for 22 strikeouts, 13 for Clemens, 9 for Martinez. The game was scoreless until Trot Nixon hit a two run home run in the top of the ninth inning. Martinez then got the final three outs in the bottom of the inning to secure the victory.
ESPN was on hand for the Cleveland Indians' historic comeback against the Seattle Mariners on August 5, 2001. The Indians trailed 14–2 after six innings, but scored twelve runs in the final three innings before winning in the bottom of the eleventh, 15–14. The twelve-run comeback tied the Major League record for largest deficit overcome in a game.
On September 2, 2001, Mike Mussina of the New York Yankees came within one strike of a perfect game against the Boston Red Sox. The effort was broken up on a single by Carl Everett, with Mussina settling for a one-hitter. The game itself was an exciting pitchers' duel, with the Red Sox' David Cone also shutting out the Yankees for eight innings, before allowing an RBI double by Enrique Wilson in the ninth. It was the only scoring of the Yankees' 1–0 win. Additionally, Cone was the most recent pitcher to record a perfect game having done so two years earlier as a Yankee against the Montreal Expos.
On June 16, 2002, Sunday Night Baseball covered a Subway Series at Shea Stadium in which Mo Vaughn hit a game winning three-run home run in the New York Mets' 3-2 win over the New York Yankees.
Rafael Furcal completed an unassisted triple play for the Atlanta Braves against the St. Louis Cardinals on August 10, 2003. It was the 12th such play in baseball history. In the fifth inning, the shortstop caught pitcher Woody Williams' liner with the runners moving in a hit and run attempt, stepped on second base to retire catcher Mike Matheny and tagged Orlando Palmeiro before he could return to first.
On April 22, 2007, the Red Sox became the fifth team in Major League history to hit four consecutive home runs, doing so in the third inning of a 7–6 victory over the Yankees.
On April 29, 2007, a canceled broadcast occurred between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals when Cardinals relief pitcher Josh Hancock was killed in a car accident earlier in the day at 12:35 A.M. while driving under the influence. In place of the game, special programming hosted by Miller and Morgan was shown. The game was later made up on September 10, 2007, where the Cubs defeated the Cardinals 12–3, though the game was not broadcast as the Game of the Week.
On August 5, 2007, Tom Glavine of the New York Mets became the 23rd pitcher in history to record his 300th win. He did it in a 8–3 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
Sunday Night Baseball broadcasted the Washington Nationals' very first game at Nationals Park on March 30, 2008. The Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves, 3–2, on Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth. President George W. Bush, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game, joined Jon Miller and Joe Morgan in the ESPN booth during the telecast.
Sunday Night Baseball aired Carlos Zambrano's no hitter on September 13, 2008 against the Houston Astros, held at Miller Park due to damage suffered to Minute Maid Park by Hurricane Ike.
The final game played at Yankee Stadium on September 21, 2008, pitting the New York Yankees against the Baltimore Orioles, was broadcast on Sunday Night Baseball.
The Mariano Rivera 500th career save (and also his 1st lifetime RBI) was broadcasted on Sunday Night Baseball from Citi Field (home of the New York Mets).
During the May 1, 2011 broadcast between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, ESPN announced the death of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, at the end of the 8th inning. At the top of the 9th inning with 1 out and Daniel Murphy at bat, fans at Citizens Bank Park erupted with U-S-A! chants despite the fact that no announcement of the news in the stadium. Appropriately, the Mets game against the Chicago Cubs on September 11 was a Sunday night game to mark the tenth anniversary of the attacks.
On July 17, 2011, a game between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays went scoreless into the 16th inning before the Red Sox scored in the top of the inning, leading to a 1-0 victory. This game was also notable for a foul ball hit by the Rays' Sean Rodriguez that hit and broke a lamp in the catwalks of Tropicana Field. As the grounds crew cleaned up the broken glass that fell onto the field, the stadium PA system played the music from The Natural.
As noted above, the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Mets at Citi Field on September 11, 2011 was broadcast on Sunday Night Baseball as part of the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001; New York was targeted by the terrorists in the attacks of that day and the Mets hosted the first major professional sports event held in New York City since the attacks on September 21, 2001.
ESPN was scheduled to televise the game between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles from Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 20, 1998, the game where Cal Ripken, Jr. elected to end his consecutive games played streak at 2,632. However, 1998 was the first year of ESPN's contract to air Sunday Night Football through the entire season, as opposed to the second half of the year as in previous years, and the NFL games took precedence. ESPN sought permission from Major League Baseball to move the game, as well as two other late-season contests, to ESPN2, but Major League Baseball denied the request.][
Major League Baseball gave ESPN permission to move the late season games in 2000,][ and ESPN continued that practice until its loss of the Sunday night football package to NBC at the end of the 2005 season.
The telecasts also utilize the K Zone, a computer-generated on-screen graphic that accurately outlines the strike zone and pitch location. A Skycam is also used; it is usually mounted 20 feet above the stands in foul territory and travels back and forth along the first base line from behind home plate to the foul pole.
A complete list of broadcasters, with their period of tenure on the show (beginning years of each season shown).
In addition to the game being on ESPN, ESPN Domingo de Grandes Ligas (Major League Sunday) is also broadcast on ESPN Deportes, the Spanish version of ESPN. On ESPN Deportes, Ernesto Jerez does play-by-play, former baseball player Candy Maldonado is the color commentator, and Guillermo Celis is the field reporter. This version is also presented on the Spanish feed of ESPN Latin America. The Brazilian feed, in Portuguese, has Romulo Mendonça doing the play-by-play and Paulo Antunes as the analyst. They broadcast from ESPN Brasil studios in São Paulo.
ESPN Radio has aired a weekly Sunday Night Baseball broadcast since 1998. Currently, Jon Sciambi calls play-by-play of the games, with Chris Singleton serving as color analyst. Sciambi was preceded by Gary Thorne (2008–09), Dan Shulman (2002–07), and Charley Steiner (1998–2001), while Singleton was preceded by Dave Campbell (1999–2010) and Kevin Kennedy (1998).
Prior to 1998, CBS Radio aired Sunday night games, usually with Jerry Coleman and John Rooney announcing.
Outside the USA, this weekly game was also broadcast live on Five in the UK from 1997 until 2008 and at the time was the longest running programme on the channel. In Latin America the game is broadcast on ESPN Latin America. When the NFL season begins, the game is moved to ESPN Dos only for the audience in Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, Colombia and the Caribbean Islands.
In Canada, Sunday Night Baseball has aired on TSN2 since May 16, 2010, under a sublicensing agreement with Rogers Sportsnet, the Canadian rightsholder for Major League Baseball. That deal came in exchange for TSN/TSN2 transferring their remaining rights to Toronto Blue Jays games to Sportsnet, which is now the exclusive carrier of Blue Jays games. However, individual SNB games may be reclaimed by Sportsnet in the event both TSN and TSN2 have other programming commitments. Previous carriers of Sunday Night Baseball were TSN (1990–2000), The Score (2001–2002), and Sportsnet (2003–May 9, 2010).