Sports’ greatest hits: League-owned TV networks dip into archives with no live games to air

With no live games to broadcast, recap and debate now that the coronavirus outbreak has shut down the sports calendar, several TV outlets are altering their programming to look backward instead of forward.

In an effort to “deliver engaging and compelling programming,” MLB Network has picked out a theme for each of the next few days that will center around a particular classic game or moment. 

For example, Wednesday’s featured game is the Wrigley Field slugfest from May 17, 1979, when the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies combined for 45 runs.

The entire game will be replayed at 8 p.m. ET. A one-hour special, “MLB’s Greatest Games,” will precede it at 7 p.m. with former Phillies shortstop (and later manager) Larry Bowa joining host Bob Costas and insider Tom Verducci to offer insights into that high-scoring affair. 

Other themes to come later in the week include: 

— Rookie sensation Mark “The Bird” Fidrych making his national TV debut in 1976.

— The Seattle Mariners’ franchise-saving playoff victory over the New York Yankees in 1995. (Ken Griffey Jr. slides across with the winning run.)

— The one-game AL East playoff between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in 1978. (The Bucky Dent game.)

The NHL Network, which is run out of the same Secaucus, New Jersey, headquarters as MLB Network, is taking a similar approach with the hockey season on ice.

Stanley Cup-clinching games are featured for the rest of the week including: 

— Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Billy Smith leading the New York Islanders to four consecutive titles in the early 1980s.

— Wayne Gretzky and the high-scoring Edmonton Oilers finally ending the Isles’ dynasty in 1985 and starting one of their own.

— The Montreal Canadiens getting stellar goaltending from Patrick Roy to hoist the Cup in 1986.

And the NBA, which is also on hiatus, will be following a similar blueprint on NBA TV, featuring classic contests with a mix of documentaries and original programming. That includes: 

— Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers (Thursday, 4 p.m. ET). 

— Game 7 of the 1988 NBA Finals between the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers (Friday, 12 p.m. ET). 

— Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) and Shaquille O’Neal (Miami Heat) meet for the first time as adversaries in 2004 (Friday, 8 p.m. ET). 

— Several airings of NBA TV’s “The Dream Team” documentary. 

— Games from the 2019-20 season on Saturday. 

Contributing: Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY