Who Remembers MLB’s 900 Numbers?
Author Jim Passon fired up the Wayback Machine with a tidbit posted on Saturday about how MLB insider Bob Nightengale shared his updates in the days before Twitter.
In 1995, a person needed to pay $.95/minute for Bob Nightengale updates. pic.twitter.com/oTI3n2cea7
— Jim Passon (@PassonJim) February 14, 2021
In order to receive Nightengale’s reports over the phone, MLB fans would need to call a 900 number that charged 95 cents per minute in the USA and $1.45 per minute in Canada.
Those of you who were around in the 1980s and 90s may remember that 900 numbers were best known as the domain of phone sex operators and the Psychic Friends Network. These numbers proliferated during that time period as service providers were allowed to collect part of the high-rate charges billed to phone customers. While adult content was very popular, there were many 900 numbers aimed at kids in order to extract money from their parents or guardians, such as the He-Man hotline and the Santa hotline, as discussed in a BuzzFeed listicle by Katie Notopoulos.
One of the 900 numbers featured by Notopoulos is also related to MLB – the José Canseco hotline. For US$2 per minute, fans could dial 1-900-234-JOSE to hear his batting tips, discussion of life as a twin, or how to enter the “Spend a Day with José Contest.” In a television ad for the hotline, Canseco suggested fans should call the number “if you want to know if I do steroids, how fast I drive, or why I was carrying that gun.”
See the ad below starting at around the 0:50 mark.
Decades later, the internet has taken over the role of the old 900 numbers and democratized access to information. You can read about the lives of celebrity athletes and receive Nightengale’s Trevor Bauer to the Mets updates without paying US$1.65 per minute ($0.95 in today’s dollars) to listen to Bob’s notoriously erroneous reporting. The only downside is the toxic environment of social media.