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Volume 24 No. 159
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People & Personalities: Francona Could Be In Line For ESPN Position If Valentine Leaves

In N.Y., Bob Raissman cited sources as saying that ESPN "would not hesitate" to bring Terry Francona into its "Sunday Night Baseball" booth to replace analyst Bobby Valentine should Valentine fill the Red Sox' managerial vacancy created by Francona's departure last month. Francona subbed for Fox' Tim McCarver during the first two games of the ALCS, and Raissman noted Francona "wasn't just well received by critics and fans alike -- they went gaga over him." Prior to his brief stint on Fox, Francona had "only one previous broadcast booth experience." The "extremely positive feedback would provide ESPN brass at least one layer of security if it decided to hire Francona for its marquee 'SNB' package." The composition of ESPN's "SNB" booth also "would provide Francona with adequate cover," as he would work alongside play-by-play announcer Dan Shulman and analyst Orel Hershiser, who can "inhale plenty of air time with his opinions" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/27).

: In L.A., Mike Hiserman noted with less than five minutes to play in Penn State's loss to Wisconsin Saturday, ESPN's Sean McDonough tried "to make a case for interim Coach Tom Bradley taking over the program on a permanent basis." McDonough started by "noting that new university President Rodney Erickson had 'worked alongside' [former President] Graham Spanier, the president the school purged when it also fired iconic football coach Joe Paterno." McDonough continued, "So if the argument against Tom Bradley is … he was there, he must have known. Why doesn't the same apply to Rod Erickson?" Hiserman wrote, "Sometimes announcers need to be saved from themselves, so you have to wonder why ESPN producers ... weren't whispering -- or screaming -- in Sean McDonough's ear" (L.A. TIMES, 11/27).

THE JOKE'S ON HIM: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote the weekend's "worst attempt at humor" came when ESPN "College GameDay" analyst Lee Corso tried to make a joke out of his use of a curse word a week earlier by "putting a piece of tape over his mouth during his prediction segment." Jones: "You said a bad word during the middle of the day on a show that kids might watch. You apologized. Now just move on instead of turning the whole thing into a gag" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 11/28).

FORGIVE & FORGET? In St. Louis, Dan Caesar noted it "appears that Dan McLaughlin will find out if he'll be back in the Cardinals' TV booth in the next week or so." While his "return looked like a long shot in the weeks shortly after he was arrested in late September on his second drunken driving charge in 13 months, all indications now are that he has a good chance of being retained." Working in McLaughlin's "favor is that he has been extremely up front about his situation, not holding back about criticizing himself in a recent interview when he addressed his troubles and seemed sincere" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 11/25).