Nets go deep for Bonds

ESPN, Fox want record homer

When San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's career home-run record, ESPN and Fox Sports are looking to bring the occasion to viewers live nationwide.

ESPN and Fox Sports said Thursday that they are negotiating with Major League Baseball for the rights to bring Bonds' at-bats — and perhaps a game — to a nationwide audience.

For Fox Sports, that could mean carrying an extra game beyond its Saturday afternoon exclusive package, as it did in September 1998, when it broadcast Mark McGwire's 62nd home run of the season to pass Roger Maris' long-standing record. For ESPN, it would mean carrying live Bonds' at-bats each game as he nears the record.

"Do we have an interest? Absolutely," Fox Sports president Ed Goren said Thursday.

Fox Sports has exclusive rights to the Giants' July 14 game against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. "It would be an appropriate game to set a record," Goren said.

Bonds hit his 751st career home run Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds, putting him four shy of Aaron's record.

ESPN already has the rights to break in to programming and cover historic events like this one if they happen during its regularly scheduled baseball programming, either the Sunday, Monday or Wednesday game windows or ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" that airs several times during the day. The only caveat would be that it couldn't break in and televise something that is either on Fox exclusively or the other national TV partner, Turner. TBS will carry three Giants games with the Atlanta Braves on July 24-26, but the network said it isn't in negotiations to carry any more.

But ESPN is, senior vp programming strategy Len DeLuca said.

"We are working with MLB, working out the details to be able to cover (Bonds' at-bats) from a certain point," DeLuca said. That could be after Bonds' 753rd or 754th home run and could be expanded to include "SportsCenter" and other programming on days that ESPN does not carry live baseball. ESPN carried McGwire's 61st home run of the 1998 season on a Labor Day telecast that ranks as ESPN's highest-rated non-NFL telecast.

"We obviously are very interested in doing it, and baseball has been proactive in getting the big stories out there," DeLuca said.

DeLuca said that it's going to be a signature moment in sports history, no matter when it happens or who covers it. "I think you could make a very, very sane and cogent argument and legitimate argument that we're talking about the greatest record in sports," he said.
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