Wednesday, February 1 2023

One night, he’s fighting his way through the frenzied crowd in the streets of Houston, through a packed hotel lobby, just to get back to his room with a cold beer after Game 6 of the World Series.

Six days later, he’s sitting 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 the Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis at the Champions Classic, featuring three top-10 college basketball schools with Kentucky and Michigan State playing the first game, and Kansas and Duke in the nightcap.

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

He managed to keep from crying, at least until he was off the air, broadcasting his final Major League Baseball game for ESPN after 24 years.

“I don’t appear to be it on the outside,’’ Shulman tells USA TODAY Sports, “but I’m actually a very sappy, sentimental, nostalgic person. And anytime a chapter closes, I feel it a lot. So I thought about it a lot. This has been an unbelievable opportunity. What a blessing and what a privilege.

“I will miss this. I will miss this a great deal.’’

Dan Shulman is at Minute Maid Park before Game 2 of the 2022 World Series.Dan Shulman is at Minute Maid Park before Game 2 of the 2022 World Series.

Dan Shulman is at Minute Maid Park before Game 2 of the 2022 World Series.

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

Shulman, 55, will continue calling 35 to 40 college basketball games for ESPN, but no longer 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 badly wants to be behind the mic when the Blue Jays win their first World Series title since 1993.

While TV broadcasters for the 29 other Major League teams no longer can broadcast during the postseason, Sportsnet has the rights to do its own playoff broadcasts, meaning Shulman can stay with the Blue Jays through the final out. He really didn’t want to be calling 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 doing the regular-season games,’’ Shulman said, “and then to not be there if they make a run deep into the playoffs. It just made sense to me that if I’m all in on the Blue Jays, I’m all. That’s my home, and sentimentally, that’s where my heart’s at right now for baseball, and the opportunity to call playoff games across Canada on TV.

“So now it’s clean. It’s baseball in Toronto. It’s college basketball in the U.S.’’

Shulman, who stepped down as the lead voice for Sunday Night Baseball in 2017 after he remarried, was able to broadcast his final 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 to win a World Series.

“I couldn’t be happier for both men,’’ Shulman said. “We take a lot of pride in our Canadian baseball community, so I was thrilled for Rob Thomson, and how can you not root for Dusty, too? It was going to be great for me either way.’’

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, too, with Shulman as the pre- and postgame host on the Blue Jays Radio Network.

“I thought I had the best job in the entire world,’’ Shulman says. “My family and friends are all Blue Jays fans, and to be around the teams that won the World Series, and as a young kid to be around Dave Winfield and Jack Morris, it was unbelievable.’’

The memories will be cherished forever, the good, the bad and the comical.

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

‘It was like right out of a movie,’’ Shulman says, “and we were stuck. I heard this unbelievable noise. I thought it was like an earthquake. It was Joe Carter hitting the home run. I missed it. I got there in time for the show, but I missed it.

“One of the great regrets of my life.’’

Shulman’s favorite World Series game was Game 6 of 2011, the David Freese game. It was Shulman’s first World Series for ESPN, and he was watching an instant classic. Two times the Texas Rangers were within one strike of winning the World Series. Two times, the St. Louis Cardinals came back, with Freese tying the game with a run-scoring triple in the ninth inning, and winning it with a home run in the 11th for a zany, 10-9 Cardinals victory.

“First, I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to do the World Series,’’ Shulman says, “and then to have a game like that. I’ll never forget it. I saw him years later at Dodger Stadium, and I told him, ‘I know that was pretty big for you, but it was some kind of fun for me.’ ’’

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

In particular, that seventh inning of the Jose Bautista bat-flip game.

“That inning, from top to bottom,’’ Shulman said, “was the most emotionally charged event I’ve ever been at.’’

The game was tied 2-2 in the seventh inning when the Rangers scored the go-ahead run in bizarre fashion. Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin’s throw back to the mound with two outs inadvertently hit off Shin-Soo Choo’s bat while standing at the plate. It caromed into foul territory, permitting Rougned Odor to score from third base. The crowd went bonkers.

“Everybody in the place went nuts, everybody in the ballpark were throwing cans and bottles, it was bad,’’ Shulman said. “It was the fifth and deciding 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 text them and I said, “If they lose, don’t go anywhere. Stay in your seats. I’ll come get you.’’

Everything changed in the bottom of the inning. Bautista hit a three-run home run into 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 text him, ‘You’re good. We’ll see you at home. Everything’s fine. That’s the loudest I’ve ever heard a place.’’

The World Series event that perhaps caught him most off-guard was Cleveland outfielder Rajai Davis’ dramatic two-run homer in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. The Chicago Cubs had been cruising the entire game, leading 6-4 with two outs in the eighth. Davis, who had only 55 home runs in his career, and was hitting .132 in the postseason, hit a game-tying, two-run homer off Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman. It was bedlam.

“It’s actually the call I’m most unhappiest about in my career,’’ Shulman says. “I was so stunned, I think I ran out of breath in the middle of the call. It’s an awful call. You won’t find it anywhere. I was just trying to say too much, and I couldn’t get to the finish line. That was such a stunning moment.

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

Three innings later, he was calling the Cubs’ first World Series championship since 1908.

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

“You know what, hockey is obviously a bigger deal than baseball is in Canada,’’ Shulman says, “but there are seven NHL teams in Canada. There’s 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 wonderful baseball games, famous World Series moments and iconic collegiate basketball games, just one item remains on his bucket list of broadcasting.

“I’ve been blessed, I’ve gotten a lot of breaks, had some good timing, and I was just lucky to come along when I did,’’ Shulman says. “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 make it to a World Series, and I’m able to call it for millions of people up in Canada, that just might trump it all.’’

An entire country will be watching and listening.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dan Shulman says goodbye to 24 years of ESPN baseball

Source: Yahoo Sports

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