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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

FOX Sports Sees Record-Setting Ratings Weekend

The World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

Jordan Bondurant

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FOX Sports has been home to a number of record-setting games in terms of viewership over the last several days.

In addition to FOX Sports setting a new mark for a Thanksgiving and regular season NFL audience, the World Cup matchup between the U.S. and England on Black Friday and Michigan/Ohio State on Saturday saw tens of millions of viewers tuning in.

The network reported the U.S./England match in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup averaged 15.377 million. It was the most-watched English-language soccer game in the U.S. ever, topping the 1994 World Cup final between Italy and Brazil.

Viewership of the match was up 11% compared to the second group stage contest for the U.S. team in 2014 against Portugal. The audience peaked at 19.646 million from 3:30-3:45 p.m.

FOX Sports also reported the Michigan/Ohio State game on Saturday drew in 17 million, which made it the most-watched regular season college game on the network ever. That figure was also the highest of any regular season contest since 2011. That game also saw the audience peak at 19.6 million.

Viewership for the game was up 3% compared to last year.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Bowl Plans Could Be Altered By NFL Flex Scheduling

“While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules.”

Jordan Bondurant

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ESPN could be forced to adjust its upcoming bowl season schedule if the NFL decides to flex a Las Vegas Raiders game a week before Christmas.

ESPN announced its contingency plans for two bowl contests, the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. The Las Vegas Bowl is currently planned to kick off from Allegiant Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on December 17. The Raiders right now are still planning to play in the Sunday night game the next night against the Patriots.

Should the NFL decide to flex the Raiders out of the SNF window, ESPN will swap kickoff times between the Las Vegas Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. That would mean the game in sin city will kick off at 11:30 a.m. local time, with the contest in Albuquerque starting at 5:20 p.m. local time that evening.

“The SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl and New Mexico Bowl are both owned and operated by ESPN Events, so this change is a solution that will work for all parties,” ESPN Events vice president Clint Overby said. “While this situation poses a challenge, we are accustomed to flexibility and having to maneuver our event schedules. We are more than prepared to move forward with this revised schedule if necessary.”

Kickoff times will be determined well enough ahead that the schools taking part in both games shouldn’t be adversely affected.

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Sports TV News

NFL Thanksgiving Games Set Ratings Records

FOX Sports added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021.

Jordan Bondurant

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NFL

The Thanksgiving slate of NFL games last week brought in the largest audiences ever. Viewership across all three games averaged 33.5 million.

The game with the largest viewership was Giants/Cowboys in the 4:30 p.m. window. FOX Sports reported that 42 million watched Dallas beat New York 28-20. It is the largest regular season audience ever, surpassing the previous leader set 32 years ago.

The network added that viewership was up 49% compared to 2021. FOX carried the Detroit Lions traditional noon Thanksgiving game last year. Compared to the Cowboys turkey day contest on CBS in 2021, viewership was up 3%.

The Bills/Lions game in the early window on CBS averaged 31.627 million, with the audience peaking at 41.981 million. It was the most-watched early Thanksgiving game on record.

Patriots/Vikings on NBC in the nightcap averaged 25.9 million. That figure was up 24% compared to Bills/Saints a year ago, with NBC Sports claiming it’s the second most-watched primetime Thanksgiving game on record. The game was simulcast in Spanish on Telemundo, which averaged 565,000 viewers and made it the most-watched NFL game ever on the network.

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