ESPN, Inc.: 1989 in Review

AnnouncementsYear in Review

ESPN, Inc.: 1989 in Review


ESPN, the year 1989 was highlighted by the acquisition of Major League Baseball, the renewal of CFA football and the celebration of the network’s 10th anniversary.

The total of live and original programming hours televised during the year increased to a record-setting 4,370 — more than double the total of the three broadcast network sports divisions’ combined.

“In 1989, we continued to enhance our reputation as the network for sports coverage in auto racing, NCAA basketball, golf and skiing,” said Roger L. Werner, ESPN president and CEO.  “In addition, our commitment to improving the quality of non-event programming — the news/information and recreation/lifestyle categories — also increased.”

A list of the major accomplishments of 1989 follows:

New Events Covered

ACC/Big East Challenge Week, Formula One U.S. Grand Prix, NASCAR Pepsi 400, NBA Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies, NFL American Bowl from Japan, NFL Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies, the NIT, Tour de France, Tour de Trump and many others.

New ESPN Series

America’s Horse, Black College Sports Today, Bowling World, Crooked Creek, The Gamesman, The Great American Baseball Quiz, Harness Racing ‘89, Home Run Derby, Jimmy Houston Outdoors, NFL Dream Season, Play Ball with Reggie Jackson and Sportsman’s Challenge.

Expanded Series

Many existing sports series were expanded, including NCAA basketball, auto racing, cycling, track & field and yachting.


In the first year of the studio show category in the Sports Emmy Awards, “NFL GameDay” took the honors.  In January, ESPN also captured four ACE (Award for Cable Excellence) Awards — the most ever for the network — for 1988 programming, and received a record 18 ACE nominations in 1989.

ESPN boxing commentator Al Bernstein was the recipient of the Sam Taub Memorial Award, which recognizes excellence in boxing broadcast journalism.  In addition, Chris Berman was voted Best Cable Sports Commentator for the second consecutive year by the readers of The Cable Guide and Dick Vitale was honored by the American Sportscasters Association as Sports Personality of the Year.

SportsCenter Highlights

SportsCenter continued  to be the sports news show of record in 1989,” said John A. Walsh, ESPN managing editor.  “We provided the most in-depth and immediate sports news coverage on television of all the major events of the year,” including the first live pictures of the dramatic events in San Francisco during the earthquake-shaken World Series, the Pete Rose saga, the death of baseball commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti, the Miami riots during Super Bowl XXIII, the America’s Cup in court, the sale of the Dallas Cowboys, the naming of new NFL and MLB commissioners, the death of a high school athlete who used steroids and Montreal Expos pitcher Tim Burke’s trip to Guatemala to adopt a baby.

International Expansion

ESPN has greatly expanded its overseas distribution, serving television outlets in more than 60 countries around the world.  In March, ESPN launched a 15-hour daily satellite sports programming network serving South America.

ESPN Today

ESPN is now seen in 54.8 million homes, 59.4% of American television households.  There has been a 609% increase in households since December 1980 and a 10% increase in 1989 alone (up from 49.9 million).  The network is carried on 21,650 affiliates nationwide and lists over 800 national advertisers.


Dave Nagle

As I write this on 11-11-21, it's now 35 years for me at ESPN, the only real job I’ve ever had. I joined merely to help with the upcoming America’s Cup in Australia. I was told it would be for three months at all of $5.50 per hour. I like to say I simply kept showing up. I’ve worked on almost every sport, plus answered viewer calls and letters (people used to write!), given tours, written the company newsletter and once drove NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon to the local airport. My travels have been varied…I’ve been to Martinsville, Darlington, Indy and Super Bowls; the America’s Cup (all 3) in San Diego and College GameDay in the sport’s meccas such as Eugene, Auburn, Lubbock, Stillwater and more; the NBA Finals, Wimbledon (16 times and counting) and the “other Bristol,” the one with a race track in Tennessee. These days, my main areas are tennis, UFC, boxing, network-wide ratings (by month/quarter/year), and corporate communications documents, including fact sheets, chronologies, lists and nearly 35 of the Year in Review press releases. UPDATE EXACTLY ONE YEAR LATER: Today, November 11, 2022, I am retiring from ESPN -- 36 years to the day I began. As I ride off into the sunset – top down and E Street Radio blaring – I do so with so many wonderful memories, proud of my contributions and a heart full of gratitude for the opportunity. 
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