n a broadcasting business that is known for big egos, Dan Shulman’s humble nature stands out. That was never more evident than in the way he wrapped up his “Sunday Night Baseball” play-by-play career at the end of the regular season.
The telecast neared the four-hour mark as the Angels and Astros game crawled to the top of the ninth inning. Shulman, only the second play-by-play announcer in the history of ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball,” broke away from game action to highlight cameraman Mike Chiasson, who was retiring after 28 seasons.
It was a sweet and touching tribute for a well-liked mainstay of “Sunday Night Baseball.” And it seemed like a natural moment to transition into Shulman’s own decision to step away from the “SNB” booth after seven seasons, especially coming at the end of a meaningless game that had no effect on the playoff race.
|Dan Shulman will still call games for ESPN, but his “Sunday Night Baseball” run has ended.
He kept his focus on the game, as did the two analysts who shared the broadcast booth with him, Jessica Mendoza and Aaron Boone. After the final out, Shulman simply said, “I’m Dan Shulman saying so long from Houston. Here comes SVP [Scott Van Pelt].”
And that was it. It was the exact send-off Shulman wanted.
“I went into it thinking that it’s not about me,” Shulman said. “I didn’t want to put myself ahead of the telecast or ahead of the game in any way. It’s just not my style.”
In fact, a week before the game, Shulman got an inkling that “Sunday Night Baseball” producer Andy Reichwald was planning to produce something to honor Shulman during that final telecast.
“I begged our producer the week before,” Shulman said. “I said, ‘If you’re planning anything, please don’t.’ He got this look in his eye that told me that he was planning something. Whatever it was, he stopped because I asked him not to.”
Shulman gave the same message to Mendoza and Boone, who both complied for the Sunday night finale. But Mendoza made it a point to give a quick on-air send-off at the end of last week’s Wild Card game telecast.
“As a crew, we all had dinner the night before,” which is when Mendoza told Shulman that she planned to say something at the end of the telecast, Shulman said.
“No you’re not,” Shulman said.
“I want to,” Mendoza said.
“I don’t want you to.”
“I don’t care. It’s not about what you want.”
One of the smoothest voices in the game, Shulman said he probably would not have been so publicity shy if he were retiring for good.
“But I’m not retiring. I’m just making a change. I’m still there for basketball and some baseball and radio.”
Through ESPN PR, Shulman turned down interview requests as the season wound to a close. I had the chance to catch up with him by phone as he prepared to call the Dodgers-Diamondbacks NL Division Series for ESPN Radio.
Did you ever second-guess your decision to leave?
■ SHULMAN: I had a lot of mixed emotions and was feeling nostalgic as the season came to a close. I’m leaving a lot of friends of mine that I’ve worked with for many years. I probably don’t show it that much on the air, but I’m a sentimental softie on the inside. I thought about it a lot in recent weeks. But I feel content with my decision.
■ What will you miss?
SHULMAN: There are specific people on the crew, obviously. There are the Saturday-night dinners we had. There are the 15 minutes in the manager’s office before the game, where we get that kind of access. There are the cool things that we did, like the Little League Classic with the Pirates and Cardinals in Williamsport.
■ What advice would you give to your replacement?
SHULMAN: I don’t know that I’m qualified to give advice. It’s like that scene in “Hoosiers” when they go into that gym for the state finals — it’s still 94 feet and it’s still 10-foot rims. It’s still a baseball game. I tried not to change at all. I figured that if they liked me enough to give me the job, then it was OK to keep doing things the way that I was doing them.
■ What was it like to replace Jon Miller?
SHULMAN: The most nervous I’ve ever been in my career was replacing Jon. I remember my first day on TV. I remember my first day at ESPN. I remember my first Duke-Carolina game. There are a lot of nervous moments. But the most nervous I ever was, was replacing Jon because he’s so great and he was the only guy to do “Sunday Night Baseball.”