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Lending his voice to a generation

by Paul Mayne | May 8, 2017

Dan Shulman
Dan Shulman, BSc’89 (Actuarial Sciences), is an ESPN play-by-play announcer for Major League Baseball and NCAA Men’s College Basketball.

If it was not for a lengthy line at the student Gazette office in 1985, Dan Shulman may have had an entirely different voice.

Wanting to write for the student newspaper in his first year at Western, Shulman went into the University Community Centre early in Frosh Week to volunteer. However, the line-up for the Gazette was out the door and down the hall.

“I said, ‘Well, screw this.’ I looked across the hall and it said, ‘Radio Western CHRW,’” Schulman laughed.

“Nobody had ever said to me that I had a nice voice or anything. So I knocked on the door. I said, ‘Do you guys do sports?’ They said, ‘Yep, we do sports.’ I said, ‘You need volunteers?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I would like to volunteer.’ They said, ‘You want to come to Windsor Saturday for a football game?’”

And that’s how it started.

Today, Shulman, BSc’89 (Actuarial Sciences), is an ESPN play-by-play announcer for Major League Baseball and NCAA Men’s College Basketball. Since 2011, he has been the voice of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, alongside Jessica Mendoza, Aaron Boone and Buster Olney. On top of his already busy schedule, Shulman joined the Sportsnet broadcast team where he will call at least 30 Toronto Blue Jays games in 2017.

“It was not meant to be a career; it was just for fun. I didn’t even do CHRW my fourth year. I stopped to concentrate on my marks and exams. For three years, I don’t think I ever once thought I’m going to turn this into a career,” Shulman explained.

“But I was in that place (CHRW) more than when I was just working. It became a hangout, more than the classroom sometimes. It turned into a huge part of my life, obviously.”

After graduating from Western, Shulman worked as an actuary for six months. (“I didn’t enjoy that as much as I thought.”) He then made a deal with his parents.

“I said, ‘Give me two years and let me try this – if this doesn’t work out then I’ll go back to Western and go to business school.’ They didn’t know many people who said they wanted to get into radio. They were nervous, but they were fine.”

His first job was in Barrie at CKBB. For the first three months, he was an actuary Monday to Friday and did weekend radio for $6 an hour. When a co-worker went on maternity leave at the station and he got a full-time job. “I knew then I loved it,” he said. “Emotionally, I was hooked.”

Prior to ESPN, the Toronto-born Shulman worked for CTV at the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Norway and called the 1994 FIFA World Basketball Championship in Toronto. He began play-by-play duties for the Blue Jays on TSN (1995-2001) with former Blue Jay Buck Martinez, who is once again his broadcast partner on Sportsnet this year. He also covered the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies as part of the network’s NBA package.

Outside sport, he is perhaps best known for announcing the death of Osama bin Laden live on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball in May 2011.

“They don’t teach you how to handle something like that in the play-by-play handbook,” Shulman said. “I will freely admit, of however many thousands of games I’ve done, when that happened there was the most nervous I’ve ever been because I’m not trained to do that. I played it very, very safe.

“That was the biggest story in the world; it was surreal because there was a game going on, too. You have an obligation to call the game and you have an obligation to the news, so you’re juggling.”

Shulman is the first two-time winner of the Sports Media Canada Broadcaster of the Year award (2000 and 2007). The National Sports Media Association named him National Sportscaster of the Year in 2011.

This article appeared in the Spring 2017 edition of Alumni Gazette
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