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Illustration: Axios/Sarah Grillo

With the future of the 2020 baseball season still unknown, ESPN is relying on reruns of classic games, including a May 12 telecast focused on Derek Jeter, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: ESPN sees value in re-airing classics, especially with mega-stars. Without live sports, it's the closest thing the network can offer to baseball fans, who tend to be older and less likely to tune into alternatives like eSports.

Details: The Jeter game will be subject to a fan vote as part of ESPN’s MLB Encore Tuesdays series.

  • There will be a poll on ESPN.com starting next Monday with a handful of Jeter’s most significant games.
  • The winning game will air at 7 p.m. ET.
  • Jeter, who is headlining the National Baseball Hall of Fame class this year, remains one of the most popular MLB personalities.

The big picture: Specialized programming around stars or historic games allows the network to build new content, like interviews with athletes, or fan engagement polls, which ESPN will be leveraging for its Jeter special.

  • ESPN is airing on Tuesday the 2003 American League Championship Series Game 7 between the Yankees and Red Sox. That game was made famous when Aaron Boone, a former ESPN analyst and current Yankees manager, hit the game-winning home run. 
  • Boone will join ESPN’s digital show “BBTN Live” (Baseball Tonight Live), which leads into the MLB Encore Tuesdays show.  BBTN Live is available on ESPN’s Twitter, YouTube and the ESPN App.

Between the lines: ESPN launched the “BBTN Live” show on digital platforms tied to the MLB Encore Tuesdays to build shoulder programming around the classic game re-airs. Special guests have included Cal Ripken Jr, Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez.

What's next: The network is trying to offer baseball fans alternatives across all of its platforms.

  • ESPN Radio is re-airing classic World Series games from the past decade every Saturday night.
  • It's launched Tim Kurkjian's daily “Baseball Fix,” a video series in which the popular ESPN commentators tells the best story in baseball from that date in history.
  • It's still running "Baseball Tonight," a baseball podcast hosted by Buster Olney.

Our thought bubble: Sports can have a second life if they are made relevant through new commentary, interviews or reflections.

  • ESPN is experiencing that success right now through its classics strategy, but also through some of its documentaries, like The Last Dance.
  • These nostalgia plays can sometimes are more effective engaging fans right now than other forms of content, like HORSE competitions.

Go deeper

Aug 3, 2020 - Sports

13 members of St. Louis Cardinals test positive for coronavirus

Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Seven players and six staff members from the St. Louis Cardinals have tested positive for the coronavirus over the past week, prompting the MLB to postpone the team's upcoming four-game series against the Detroit Tigers.

Why it matters: Seven consecutive Cardinals games have now been canceled after St. Louis became the second team to report a significant coronavirus outbreak, just two weeks into the season.

Resurrecting Martin Luther King's office

King points to Selma, Alabama on a map at his Southern Christian Leadership Conference office in Atlanta in January 1965. Photo: Bettmann/Getty Contributor

Efforts to save the office where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., planned some of the most important moments of the civil rights movement are hitting roadblocks amid a political stalemate.

Why it matters: The U.S. Park Service needs to OK agreements so a developer restoring the historic Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in Atlanta — which once housed King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference — can tap into private funding and begin work.

Off the Rails

Episode 4: Trump turns on Barr

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer, Pool/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 4: Trump torches what is arguably the most consequential relationship in his Cabinet.

Attorney General Bill Barr stood behind a chair in the private dining room next to the Oval Office, looming over Donald Trump. The president sat at the head of the table. It was Dec. 1, nearly a month after the election, and Barr had some sharp advice to get off his chest. The president's theories about a stolen election, Barr told Trump, were "bullshit."

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