Dan Shulman says goodbye to 24 years of baseball ESPN

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One evening, he pushes his way through the cheering crowd on the streets of Houston, through the lobby of a crowded hotel, only to return to his room with a cold beer after Game 6 of the World Series.

Six days later, he sits on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in San Diego, calling the Peraton Armed Forces Classic college basketball game.

Now, on Tuesday, he’s at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis at the Champions Classic, featuring three of the top 10 schools in college basketball with Kentucky and Michigan State playing the opener, and Kansas and Duke at the last drink.

Welcome to the life of ESPN broadcaster Dan Shulman, who pulled off perhaps the most successful feat of his illustrious career.

He managed not to cry, at least until he was off the air, airing his last Major League Baseball game for ESPN after 24 years.

“I don’t seem like it on the outside,” Shulman told USA TODAY Sports, “but I’m actually a very sappy, sentimental, nostalgic person. And every time a chapter closes, I feel it. a lot. So I thought about it a lot. It was an incredible opportunity. What a blessing and what a privilege.

” I will miss it. I will miss it very much.”

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Shulman nearly broke down when broadcast partner Eduardo Perez released a 2-minute, 10-second sound bite of Shulman’s most famous calls after the World Series ended. The clip included everything from Steve Bartman’s play to the Chicago Cubs’ first title in 108 years, to the Astros’ first title in franchise history in 2017, to the Kansas City Royals’ first title since 1985, through the Dodgers’ first championship since 1988, to the Washington Nationals’ first World Series in franchise history.

Shulman, 55, will continue to call 35-40 college basketball games for ESPN, but no more baseball, deciding to stay exclusively doing the Toronto Blue Jays for Sportsnet in Canada. Shulman grew up in Toronto, watched his first game at Exhibition Stadium, broadcast his first game with the Blue Jays and really wants to be behind the mic when the Blue Jays win their first World Series title since 1993.

While TV broadcasters from the other 29 Major League teams can no longer broadcast during the playoffs, Sportsnet has the right to make its own playoff broadcasts, which means Shulman can stay with the Blue Jays until the final. He really didn’t want to call games for ESPN radif the Blue Jays were in the World Series and not broadcasting for his own network.

“It would be tough to be there all year for regular season games,” Shulman said, “and then not be there if they make a deep run in the playoffs. It just made sense. for me that if I’m all about the Blue Jays, I’m all This is my home, and sentimentally, this is where my heart is right now for baseball and the possibility of calling playoff games through Canada on television.

“So now it’s clean. It’s baseball in Toronto. This is college basketball in the United States”

Shulman, who stepped down as the main voice of Sunday Night Baseball in 2017 after remarriage, was able to broadcast his last ESPN baseball game with Rob Thomson as the first Canadian to manage in the World Series and Dusty Baker becoming only the third black manager. win a World Series.

“I couldn’t be happier for both men,” Shulman said. “We are very proud of our Canadian baseball community, so I was thrilled for Rob Thomson, and how can I not cheer for Dusty too? It was going to be great for me anyway.

There would be no greater satisfaction for Shulman, of course, than seeing the Blue Jays return to the top of the baseball world. He saw the Blue Jays’ inaugural game on April 7, 1977 at the old Exhibition Stadium. He was at the SkyDome when they won their first World Series in 1992, and again in 1993 as well, with Shulman as the pre- and post-game host on the Blue Jays Radio Network.

“I thought I had the best job in the whole world,” Shulman says. “My family and friends are all Blue Jays fans, and being with the teams that won the World Series, and as a young kid, being with Dave Winfield and Jack Morris was amazing.”

Memories will be cherished forever, the good, the bad and the funny.

There was Game 6 of the 1993 World Series in Toronto when Shulman was getting into position for his post-game show with the Blue Jays losing, 6-5, to the Philadelphia Phillies. He decided to take a freight elevator to save time, the one whose only metal door closed before the main door.

“It was like straight out of a movie,” says Shulman, “and we were stuck. I heard this incredible noise. I thought it was like an earthquake. It was Joe Carter hitting the home run. I missed it. I arrived in time for the show, but missed it.

“One of the great regrets of my life.”

Shulman’s favorite World Series game was game six of 2011, the David Freese game. It was Shulman’s first World Series for ESPN, and he was watching an instant classic. Twice, the Texas Rangers were one strike away from winning the World Series. Twice the St. Louis Cardinals have come back, with Freese tying the game with a ninth-inning triple, and winning it with a homer in the 11th for a goofy 10-9 victory for the Cardinals.

“First, I can’t believe I got the chance to make the World Series,” Shulman said, “and then to have a game like this. I will never forget him. I saw him years later at Dodger Stadium, and I said, “I know that was pretty important to you, but it was kind of fun to me.” ”

The most emotional game Shulman ever broadcast was Game 5 of the American League Division Series between the Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers.

In particular, that seventh round of Jose Bautista’s beat-flip game.

“This round, top to bottom,” Shulman said, “was the most emotional event I’ve ever been in.”

The game was tied 2-2 in the seventh inning when Rangers got the go-ahead in bizarre fashion. Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin’s throw to the mound with two outs inadvertently hit Shin-Soo Choo’s bat as he stood at home plate. He moved into foul territory, allowing Rougned Odor to score from third base. The crowd went crazy.

“Everyone in the place went crazy, everyone in the stadium was throwing cans and bottles, it was bad,” Shulman said. “It was the deciding fifth game. It looked like they were going to lose. I was really worried about what the fans might do after the game,” Shulman said. “My parents were there with two of my sons. I texted them and said, “If they lose, don’t go anywhere. Stay in your seats. I’ll come get you.”

Everything changed at the end of the round. Bautista hit a three-run home run in the upper deck, violently flipped his bat, and the place erupted. Two innings later, the Blue Jays were playing in the American League Championship Series.

“I texted him, ‘You’re fine. We’ll see you at home. All is well. That’s the loudest I’ve ever heard anywhere.’

Perhaps the World Series event that caught him the most off guard was Cleveland outfielder Rajai Davis’ spectacular two-run homer in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. the game, leading 6-4 with two outs in the eighth. Davis, who had just 55 home runs in his career and was hitting .132 in the playoffs, hit a two-run tying homer against the Cubs closer to Aroldis Chapman. It was heckling.

“It’s actually the call I’m most unhappy with in my career,” Shulman said. “I was so stunned I think I ran out of breath in the middle of the call. It’s a horrible call. You won’t find it anywhere. I was just trying to say too much and I didn’t able to reach the finish line. It was such an amazing moment.

“It’s definitely one of the most memorable games I’ve ever done, I just didn’t like the call.”

Three innings later, it called the Cubs’ first World Series championship since 1908.

Shulman says his friends still find it odd that he’s a Canadian, born and raised in a country obsessed with hockey, but is a beloved baseball broadcaster. He loved baseball, listened to Ernie Harwell in Detroit, Harry Caray in Chicago, Vin Scully in Los Angeles and Tom Cheek in Toronto, and became one of the industry’s most iconic voices.

“You know what, obviously hockey is bigger than baseball in Canada,” Shulman says, “but there are seven NHL teams in Canada. There is only one baseball team. So hockey is a bigger deal, but the Blue Jays, in my opinion, are the most national brand there is.

Now, after calling out wonderful baseball games, famous World Series moments, and iconic college basketball games, there’s only one item left on his broadcast list.

“I was blessed, I had lots of breaks, I had good timing, and I was lucky to be there when I did it,” Shulman said. “These are special jobs, and to have one in your hometown, I feel very, very lucky.

“But I will say this, after everything I’ve done, if the Blue Jays get to a World Series, and I’m able to call it for millions of people in Canada, that might just trump everything. .”

An entire country will watch and listen.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale

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