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Volume 21 No. 26

Media

I
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.
ESPN IMAGES
But that’s not Shulman’s style. Despite manning one of the most visible posts at ESPN, Shulman does not seem comfortable when the spotlight shines on him.

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.

Dan Shulman’s most memorable “Sunday Night Baseball”
moments

  2016 NL Wild Card Game: “I don’t know how it gets much better than Syndergaard-Bumgarner in a wild card game.”
  Yankees-Cubs in May 2017: “Chapman blew a save, and it wound up going 18 innings. We were at Wrigley until like 2:30 a.m.”
  Cubs-Dodgers in August 2015: “It was Jess’ first game with us, and Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium. I bring my son with me on the road once or twice a summer. He was sitting with a buddy in the seats. As a dad and a broadcaster, that was memorable.”
“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.”

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.


Several talent agents have been spending the past several weeks telling their sports clients to stick to sports when it comes to their social media feeds.

These conversations took a new importance last week after ESPN suspended anchor Jemele Hill after she made tweets suggesting that NFL fans boycott Dallas Cowboys sponsors — many of whom also buy advertising on ESPN.

Hill’s tweet came after news reports that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would not play athletes who knelt during the national anthem.

“My advice to my clients who work for a content company is that social media is not the right area to voice opinions other than ones that you’re paid to give,” said Sandy Montag, president and CEO of The Montag Group, whose client list includes Bob Costas, James Brown, Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt.

First Look podcast, with talent discussion beginning at the 17:32 mark:

JEMELE HILL
Photo by: DANIEL STARK / ESPN IMAGES
Some agents who did not want to speak on the record expressed frustration at ESPN’s social media policy, which they called confusing. With President Trump increasingly tweeting about sports, they said the line between political and sports commentary has become too blurry.

Even some ESPN executives admitted that the company has been way too inconsistent in how it enforces its social media guidelines. Sources expect ESPN management to lay out specific social media guidelines — and spell out potential punishments — before the end of the year.

Last month, ESPN President John Skipper tried to address ESPN’s social media policy through an internal memo that said, “we have social media policies which require people to understand that social platforms are public and their comments on them will reflect on ESPN. At a minimum, comments should not be inflammatory or personal.”

Skipper’s memo was in response to another Twitter controversy that involved Hill, who called President Trump “a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

ESPN opted not to suspend Hill after that tweet. At an industry conference days before Hill’s Cowboys tweet, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he was part of the decision not to suspend Hill the first time.

“I felt that we needed to take into account what Jemele and other people at ESPN were feeling in this time,” he said.

One agent not associated with Hill defended the anchor, saying that ESPN gave her a premium weekday afternoon timeslot because of the way she expresses opinions. The agent felt that ESPN suddenly grew scared of Hill’s opinions once the White House started taking notice.

But most of the talent agents interviewed for this story thought that Hill should have been smarter with her social media interactions. One agent said he was talking to clients about understanding the long-term picture and to take into account that their public actions reflect on their employers.

Another pointed out that Hill got herself into trouble on Twitter, a social media platform that has no affiliation with ESPN or Hill, rather than advocating her position on her show, “SC6.”

“What makes this country great is that you have the right to speak your mind,” Montag said. “But you have to recognize that your platform on social media is partly because of your employer. Some fans believe that you are speaking for, say, ESPN.”

Hill is represented by CAA’s Evan Dick.