ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball will be in Anaheim to cover the L.A. Dodgers against the California Angels of Anaheim and Los Angeles from Orange County, or whatever the Angels name is these days. Lasorda’s Lair had the privilege of spending time with the voice of Sunday Night Baseball, Toronto Ontario’s own Dan Shulman. Among the topics we discussed include The Blue Jays World Series teams, Dickie V, Bartman, Shulman’s childhood sports hero Darryl Sittler. And you do not want to miss how he sums the Dodgers current ownership situation and how most people in Major League Baseball feel about it.
Along with being the voice of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball with ex-Dodgers Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine, Shulman also provides play by play for NCAA men’s college basketball teaming with the great Dick Vitale, and NBA coverage for ESPN primarily with Hubie Brown. He is truly one of the most versatile and recognizable voices in all of sports broadcasting.
As enjoyable as it is listening to Shulman, Lasorda’s Lair fans would have to suffer through listening to me as well, so below is a transcript of our discussion. Shulman graduated from The University of Ontario in actuarial science, but eventually wound up as a sports broadcaster. Which led to my initial question.
Kenny: Aside from having one of the great voices in all of sports broadcasting, how does a degree in actuarial science translate into what your doing currently?
Dan: It doesn’t really, back in school I was a numbers guy, math was my thing so an actuary was just one career path but I didn’t stick with it very long. The only way it helps me is to be honest with you I can figure our batting averages a little quicker than most people, but most of what got me into actuarial science has atrophied over the years so I’m not sure that part of my brain works as well as it used to anymore.
Kenny: I’m not sure I even have that part of my brain. So growing up in Toronto were you a big sports fan and who was your favorite team?
Dan: First and foremost the Maple Leafs, they were good some times bad most of the time when I was a kid, but being Canadian obviously hockey’s kind of in your blood. The Blue Jays started in 1977 when I was 10, so I became a big Blue Jays fan when I was young. But once I got into the business I evolved very quickly from a Blue Jays fan into a baseball fan. I created a professional distance if you will and tried to be a fair and objective announcer, but as a kid an enormous sports fan with the Leafs number one and the Jays number two.
Kenny: Did you ever have the opportunity to work any of the Blue Jays World Series appearances?
Dan: When the Jays were in the World Series I worked at the flagship radio station of the Blue Jays network. So I did a talk show during the day and also did the pre and post-game shows on their radio network. So I wasn’t calling the games but I was in the booth, I was at the dome, taking calls after the game, interviewing players on the field, that kind of thing so I was close to it in ’92 and ’93 and have some very fond memories just as someone who grew up in the city. We don’t get many championships of any kind in Toronto so it was nice to see the city get so excited about something.
Kenny: I’ve covered a few Dodger games and I know rule number one is there’s no cheering in the press box, which was tough for me as a fan, did you find yourself deep down rooting for the Jays or had you been around it so much you were able to maintain a professional distance?
Dan: I removed myself from the fan side of my job very quickly, I don’t remember why or exactly when but I started in radio broadcasting in 1990, in a small city about 50 miles north of Toronto. By the time I got to Toronto in ’91 and started working for the station that covered the Jays it was a matter of weeks before I told myself I’ve got to be professional about my broadcasting, even though I grew up in Toronto. The only reason I got excited if they did well was because of my dad because he was and still is such a huge Jays fan, and he got to go to the World Series games so that was really exciting. But any broadcaster will tell you your job is more fun when the team you are covering is competitive. Whether your a fan of the team or not, it’s more fun to go to the office when there are 50,000 people there and the game really matters.
Kenny: Between Sunday Night Baseball, college basketball and the NBA, how much time are you on the road and how tough is that?
Dan: I look at it as how many nights I sleep in a hotel and I’d say it’s between 150 to 170. I don’t have an off-season as I’m not just covering one sport. That’s the tricky part of the job, and I love my job and I love everything about my job except it’s hard to be away so much. I have a wife and and 3 kids and you end up missing a lot, it’s tough.
Kenny: What’s it like working with Dicky V? Is what you see is what you get, is he on all of the time or does he have an off button?
Dan: 99% of the time what you see is what you get, he is energetic and passionate and fun and alive and on all of the time. I don’t know how he does it. He’s 30 years older than me and he’s got twice the energy I’ve ever had its absolutely amazing. We get along great and you can’t help but be excited and be in a good mood when your with him doing a game. The only time I’ve ever seen him off and this is very rare is if we’re traveling and it’s very late after a game the man knows how to fall asleep. When it’s time to sleep he knows how to fall asleep. But the second he wakes up again he’s good to go. He’s got it figured out he lives life to the fullest but when it’s time to power down he can do it with the best of them.
Kenny: Who was your favorite athlete growing up.
Dan: Darryl Sittler who was the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs back when I was at that impressionable age, an NHL hall of famer, he has the same initials I do so I always felt there was some sort of Karma between us. To this day he’s the guy, you know the guy who was your hero when you were 8 is always your hero and he was my guy. I remember meeting him as a kid and then I remember meeting him for the first time as a broadcaster and how nervous I was about that, that’s the most nervous I’ve probably ever been.
Kenny: You’ve called so many games in your career what one stands out the most as being the most bizarre or exciting or historic?
Dan: The first one that comes to mind and whether you want to call it historic or amazing or bizarre, was when I was doing the MLB playoffs on ESPN radio and I did the game where Steve Bartman touched the ball. That’s the one I always think of, I mean if not for that who knows if baseball history is different but that’s a play people will be telling their grandchildren about 50 years from now. I feel sorry for Bartman because of it, but it was obviously a significant memorable play.
Kenny: How much do you think Cubs short stop Alex Gonzalez is let off the hook as a “Bill Buckner” type of a figure because of Bartman? Because he made a huge error right after the Bartman incident that many people forget about?
Dan: I will say this from the moment the ball was hit before it got to Alex Gonzalez I remember broadcasting and I remember thinking to myself this ball’s got a lot of top spin on it this is not a routine play. But that having been said Steve Bartman getting involved with the play has made Alex Gonzalez’s life much easier there’s no question.
Kenny: Last question, and I have to ask and feel free to say no comment, what are your feelings on the Dodgers situation, what do you hear being around other broadcasters, players, managers etc…as a Dodger fan for me it’s surreal that the organization has gotten to where it is.
Dan: People all around baseball feel that same way, the Dodgers are one of the cornerstone franchises in all of Major League Baseball, in terms of tradition, market size, potential revenues, everything. This is not a team that is supposed to be in this kind of a situation, and I think I feel like just about everyone in baseball feels, it’s time to move on. Obviously it hasn’t worked out under the McCourt’s and it’s hard to envision it working out under the McCourt’s. And in my opinion the quicker that the team is sold the better, the more this drags on through the courts I think the more the franchise suffers, the more the fan base suffers. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with the Dodgers or the Dodger fan base. I think once new ownership comes in assuming they’re financially solvent and once they restore some of the trust with the folks of Los Angeles that obviously has eroded over the last couple of years, then I think the Dodgers will turn it around pretty quickly. If the community was still on Mr. McCourt’s side then I can understand fighting the fight, but the community is not on his side, baseball is not on his side, it seems in everybody’s best interest for him to just sell the team and let he and his Ex figure that stuff out between them but get the team out from that situation then let the team move on, let the fans move on. They’ve taken such a huge hit this year at the gate, pride, reputation, everything you know and it’s just time to move on.
Kenny: Thank you Dan for your time best of luck in your future endeavors and we look forward to Sunday Night Baseball as the Dodgers take on the Angels.