D’Backs announcer Joe Garagiola “finally decided it was time to put down his microphone for good” after 58 years of broadcasting, according to Bob McManaman of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Garagiola yesterday formally announced his retirement and tried to “thank everyone for making him feel like part of a family during his 15 seasons as a color commentator on select team telecasts.” He is “best remembered for his nearly 30-year association with NBC,” and his broadcasting career earned him the Ford C. Frick Award in '91 and enshrinement in the Baseball HOF. Garagiola’s “charisma and charm led him to other ventures, from co-hosting the ‘Today’ show, guest-hosting ‘The Tonight Show,’ and hosting and appearing on numerous game shows.” In recent years, he was “very active in efforts to educate players about the dangers of using spit tobacco.” Garagiola has undergone procedures “to remove a tumor behind his left eye, fix an ailing back and to have a pacemaker installed, but he insisted health was not a factor in deciding to finally hang up his microphone.” The D’Backs "plan to honor" Garagiola during their April 14 home game against the Dodgers (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/21). USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand notes Garagiola began calling Cardinals games with Jack Buck and Harry Caray in ‘55 and switched to the Yankees in ‘65 with Red Barber “before joining NBC’s national coverage” in ’74. He stayed in that role through ’88, working with announcers such as Curt Gowdy and Vin Scully (USA TODAY, 2/21). An ARIZONA REPUBLIC editorial states, “Few ballplayers ever transitioned more flawlessly into the broadcast booth than did Garagiola. It helps when you are suffused with a love of the game and blessed with a storyteller’s gift for gab” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/21).
ESPN President John Skipper on Tuesday confirmed former Ravens LB Ray Lewis will have "a significant role next fall" on the net, according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. Lewis will serve as an analyst on "Monday Night Countdown" and will also appear on "Sunday NFL Countdown" and "SportsCenter." A formal announcement is "expected to come sometime in the next two weeks because the contract is still not officially signed, and neither ESPN nor Lewis is pressing for an announcement." Skipper said, "We had an opportunity last fall to get Ray and we debated internally some of the history. Obviously, we decided we were comfortable with it. ... I will tell you we did remind ourselves of some of the issues. We sort of decided that the NFL welcomed him back into the fold and the fans welcomed him back into the fold. I think we are fine with second chances and we think he will make great television." Deitsch noted one of Lewis' "main requirements was flexibility in his schedule so he could attend" his son's football games at the Univ. of Miami. Lewis likely will "work a number of Sundays ... depending on his personal schedule." He is "not expected to appear regularly on ESPN's airwaves until the start of next season." Meanwhile, Skipper is "confident" that Jon Gruden will be back in the "MNF" booth, "despite rumblings that some NFL teams might still make coaching changes." Skipper: "There were seven coaching openings, so I was 14 percent more confident every time a team hired a coach. Jon has said he is committed, but every time there is an opening, I lose about an hour of sleep that night."
TAKING A SLAP SHOT: Deitsch noted ESPN is often criticized for "not covering hockey as prominently as it did when it owned the television contract." Skipper said that the "perception that ESPN has given hockey the short end of the stick is not accurate." He said, "Look, I don't think it's fair. I see 'SportsCenter' every day and we cover hockey every day. We do not have a significant differential between highlights of hockey now and when we had it. The only difference is we are not there (as a rights holder)."
FINAL DESTINATION: Asked what network will end up with rights to the Catholic 7, Skipper predicted the group of schools "will sign with Fox, but he's hoping ESPN can still have a presence." Skipper said, "I think it will be good basketball. We are not in a first-position here. It's clear that Fox has established a relationship. I can't tell you that they will get a deal done but I think they will, and then we will be interested in sub-licensing" (SI.com, 2/20).