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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.

2 hours ago - World

Taiwan leader confirms U.S. troops on island training forces

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei earlier this month. Photo: I-Hwa Cheng/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen told CNN Thursday that a small number of American troops are on the island for training purposes and she has "faith" the U.S. would defend the democracy against a Chinese military attack.

Why it matters: This is the first time a Taiwanese leader has publicly acknowledged the presence of U.S. troops on the self-governing island since the last U.S. garrison left in 1979, when Washington switched formal diplomatic recognition to Beijing.

Updated 5 hours ago - Health

NYC firefighters union urges members to defy mayor's vaccine mandate

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The president of New York City's firefighters union told reporters Wednesday that he's advised unvaccinated members to ignore Mayor Bill de Blasio's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers, per Reuters.

Why it matters: Under de Blasio's order that's due to take effect Friday, unvaccinated city employees would be placed on unpaid leave. But Uniformed Firefighters Association head Andrew Ansbro said he told members that "if they choose to remain unvaccinated, they must still report for duty," according to Reuters.

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