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Scully Welcomes New Dodgers Voice Joe Davis

Jason Barrett

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The phone rang at 5 p.m. ET last Tuesday and since the number had no caller ID, Joe Davis decided to let it pass onto voicemail.

But no voicemail ever arrived.

No big deal, Davis thought. Wrong number.

A couple of hours later, Davis’s phone rang again. Once again, Davis looked down, saw no caller ID and let the call go to voice mail. But this time, a voicemail did indeed pop up. So Davis, who prior to last week was best known as a Fox Sports college basketball and football broadcaster, checked his voicemail. And the voice coming from his phone left him speechless.

“Hi, Joe. This is Vin Scully,” said the voice recognizable as an American institution.

“Joe, I’ve tried twice and have not been able to get a hold of you so I believe I have started our relationship 0-for-2.”

It’s a call Davis won’t soon forget from a man Davis will be working with next year. Last week the Dodgers announced they had hired the 27-year-old Davis to call 50 road television games on SportsNet LA in 2016 with analysts Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra. In the televised games that Scully and Davis don’t work, Charley Steiner will do play-by-play. Steiner will also do play-by-play on radio with Rick Monday.

The Dodgers are understandably protective of Scully, the singular greatest living sports broadcaster. The 87-year-old announced last August that next year will be his final one in the booth. Prior to speaking with Davis, I received a call from Dodgers management with the explicit design of dissuading me from writing any narrative that Davis was replacing Scully. There was no need to call. Scully is impossible to replace but the Dodgers brass clearly see great potential in Davis, who has already worked for ESPN and Fox Sports (calling regional MLB games) just six years after graduating from Beloit College in Wisconsin.

Davis eventually tracked down Scully with the help of Dodgers executive vice president and chief marketing officer Lon Rosen. The two spent five minutes talking by phone, where Scully welcomed Davis to the Dodger family and told the young broadcaster that he remembered what it was like to be a 20-something being called up to the “big club.”

“When you start a new job there is always nerves about it so it’s always nice to have someone reassure you that you will be welcome,” Davis said. “When it is the guy who is the greatest person whoever lived in the profession you dreamed of getting into, it was one of the coolest things to ever happen to me. When I finally got hold of him I said, ‘Vin, you are 1-for-3 now, which I’m pretty sure is a Hall of Fame average.’ He said he looked forward to meeting me on the road, or if I was at a home game, he said he’d hope to steal some of my time. I said, ‘Yeah, I think I can carve out a few minutes.’”

The morning after he spoke with Scully, Steiner called him from Bradley University, where Steiner went to school as an undergrad and was doing some symposiums at the school. They spoke for 15 minutes or so, the first time he had interacted with Steiner. “He welcomed me the same way Vin did for him when he joined 10–12 years ago,” Davis said. “He delivered a lot of same sentiments Vin did. So before the news was even released, I had a couple of guys I admired reach out to me.”
Davis he does not have a specific schedule yet for his 50 games but he believes he will do the majority of the weekday road games and a good number of weekend games prior to September. He will also spend 10 spring training games in March, juggling between his Fox Sports college basketball schedule.

He currently lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., and he and his wife plan to relocate to Southern California prior to the 2017 season. He signed a multi-year deal with the Dodgers.

“Clearly there is a lot more context with this position than any other 50-game package I might take with a team because of how spectacular Vin Scully is,” said Davis. “He is the greatest there ever was and the greatest there ever will be and comparisons are going to be natural in a spot the year before he does what he said he will do. So I realized coming into this that those comparisons will be made and, sure, there is some intimidation to that. But I have one shot a living this life and going through this career, and I’m not going to make decisions based on fear and fear of failure and fear of criticism. I don’t think that’s the way to live. I looked at this as a remarkable opportunity to have a chance, whatever that chance or opportunity may be or manifest itself over the coming years, to be with an organization that is one of the best in all of sports. That outweighed the fear of taking a job where you would inevitably be compared to Vin.”

Rosen said the Dodgers embarked on a two-year process to add another broadcaster and were excited with the addition of Davis. “I just think he has mature delivery, a unique delivery and he wants to learn,” Rosen said.

At 22, Davis was the youngest Double-A broadcaster in the country when he landed a job with the Rays’ affiliate in Montgomery, Ala. That led to regional work calling college basketball for ESPN. In 2012 he joined that network full-time and called a variety of sports including college baseball, basketball, football, hockey and softball as well as spot duty for Major League Baseball games on ESPN Radio. On Dec. 26, 2013, Davis called the network’s broadcast of the Poinsettia Bowl between Utah State and Northern Illinois, becoming the youngest person, at 25, to ever announce a bowl game for ESPN. The following year he moved to Fox, where his assignments have included college football, college basketball and regional MLB games on FS1. Davis said he called about 20 MLB games for Fox over the last two years.

Davis said the first time he heard anything from the Dodgers was when Rosen contacted his agent, Josh Santry of IF Management, last fall. “We shot them a [broadcast] reel over and did not hear much after that,” Davis said. But the Dodgers were impressed, and Davis met with briefly with Rosen in early 2015. Things then picked up significant steam midway through this summer. By the fall, both sides knew it would happen. When asked which broadcasters have served as sounding boards over the years, Davis cited Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper, Brewers announcer Brian Anderson, ESPN’s Mike Tirico and Fox’s Joe Buck among the broadcasters. He also cited Santry for believing in him at a young age.

“The best piece of advice Vin would tell you Red Barber ever gave him was you bring something to this booth that nobody else does and that is you,” Davis said. “Don’t water your wine by listening to so many other people and taking so much from those other people that you dilute who you are. Baseball is a long season and you are going to expose yourself if you are being someone that you are not. I am hopeful that my style is one that people will get used to. I don’t make it about me. It’s about the game. Then it’s about the analysts, especially in television. That’s the analysts medium.”

Davis played quarterback and wide receiver at Division III Beloit College and said one of the sales pitches made by the coaches was that he could call the team’s basketball games as a freshman.

“I didn’t have a lot of competition to get those reps,” he said, laughing, “so that turned out very well.”

Read more in Richard Deitsch’s column at Sports Illustrated which is where this story was originally published

Sports TV News

Ian Rapoport: I Have Never Thought It is Me vs Adam Schefter

“I don’t even think that, it’s just I report what I know, and he reports what he knows.”

Jordan Bondurant

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In terms of NFL insiders, Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter are the two biggest names out there. And sometimes it can be a race between the two to get the biggest scoops first. Especially now with the NFL coaching carousel in full swing.

This week two teams hired new head coaches – the Broncos traded two first round picks to the Saints to acquire the rights to Sean Payton and the Texans signed DeMeco Ryans.

Rapoport tweeted that Denver had pursued Ryans up until the day they announced the trade for Payton.

Not even 15 minutes later, Schefter appeared to clarify the information out there with the two teams.

On The Pat McAfee Show on Thursday, Pat McAfee referred to the conflicting information as a “source off.”

Ian said he stood behind what he put out there.

“I know it’s fun to call it a source off or whatever, but for me I reported what I had based on the best information I can get – based on talking to many, many people throughout the course of the last month,” Rapoport said from the Senior Bowl. “And then whatever happens as a result of this I don’t really mind.”

In terms of any sort of rivalry between him and Schefter, Rapoport doesn’t view it as a head-to-head matchup.

“I don’t even think that, it’s just I report what I know, and he reports what he knows,” he said. “And everyone can sort of judge for themselves whichever way to go.”

McAfee gave kudos to Rapoport for his reporting on the Ryans situation. He also said it’s a good thing Rapoport doesn’t worry himself too much about what other insiders are doing.

“I think you should feel good about it, but I do like a good source off,” McAfee said. “And I appreciate the fact that you don’t view it as you versus Schefter. But you two are at the top of the game. So that’s a compliment more so than anything.”

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Sports TV News

AEW Considers Launching Streaming Service

“It’s possible an AEW streaming service could be independent, but many are hopeful AEW’s offerings would be available on HBO Max or Discovery+ akin to how WWE Network is now available on Peacock.”

Jordan Bondurant

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All Elite Wrestling is looking into launching its own streaming service.

According to reporting from Bloomberg, a source “familiar with management’s thinking” said AEW is looking to strike a deal with broadcast partner Warner Bros. Discovery.

Since launching in 2019, AEW now puts on two weekly shows on Warner channels TBS and TNT and airs two shows on YouTube.

Last year AEW acquired Ring of Honor from Sinclair Broadcast Group. As part of that deal, AEW took ownership of RoH’s extensive content library Honor Club. So much like WWE did with WWE Network when it launched in 2014, AEW could launch its streaming service and have all of Ring of Honor’s content in a one-stop shop.

It’s possible an AEW streaming service could be independent, but many are hopeful AEW’s offerings would be available on HBO Max or Discovery+ akin to how WWE Network is now available on Peacock.

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Sports TV News

NBC Officially Unveils Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge as New Big Ten Booth

“With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

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It’s officially official: Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge, and Kathryn Tappen will join the Big Ten on NBC booth when the network begins airing the conference’s football package in 2023.

NBC made the announcement Thursday, after weeks of speculation about the moves.

“We are excited to showcase Big Ten Saturday Night on the NBC Sports’ primetime marquee,” said NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood. “When you hear Todd’s voice, you know it’s a big college football game. It has been that way for decades.

“Noah is one of the industry’s rising young play-by-play commentators, who has excelled calling numerous sports across multiple platforms for a wide range of audiences. We are thrilled to pair him in the booth with Todd.

“Kathryn has told the stories of so many memorable Notre Dame Football moments over the last decade in her on-field reporting and interviews,” Flood continued. “With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

Blackledge joins NBC after working as a college football analyst for the network for the past 17 seasons. Previously, he was the an analyst for CBS and ABC, making 2023 his 30th consecutive season covering college football as an analyst.

Eagle is the son of broadcasting legend Ian Eagle, and currently serves as the radio voice of the Los Angeles Clippers. He comes to NBC after calling college football games for FOX Sports in 2022.

Tappen has spent the past nine seasons working NBC’s college football coverage with Notre Dame. Eight of those nine seasons were spent as the network’s sideline reporter before anchoring the studio coverage from South Bend in 2022.

2023 will mark the beginning of a seven-year contract for NBC to air Big Ten football games in primetime. The move is one of the biggest notable expansions in the college football arena for the network since its partnership with Notre Dame began in 1991.

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