Peter Gammons

December 9, 2009 by USA Post 

Peter Gammons:Viewers are about to see something that only old-timers have witnessed: ESPN without Peter Gammons on its roster as the veterananlyst moves on TV and online reporting for MLB Network.

He’s been there since 1989. Gammons, 64, was among the first to make a move — going from print to TV reporting — that became an industry norm. But after covering MLB’s winter meetings, which wrap up Thursday, and writing a Friday farewell column, the backbone of ESPN’s baseball coverage will move to a competitor — the MLB Network.

At MLBN, Gammons will appear on studio shows such as Hot Stove and MLB Tonight. Also, Gammons will join the regional New England Sports Network as a studioanlyst and reporter. Those outlets landing Gammons is an example of what ESPN has to worry about: While it’s nearly impossible to imagine anybody else creating a sports media giant that could challenge ESPN head-on, niche channels like MLBN could eat away at ESPN.

For ESPN, even with its platoon of baseball reporters, Gammons had the demanding role of being the instant authority — across ESPN’s various platforms — on just about any breaking news. And he did it after making a big personal comeback. On June 27, 2006, he was driving to a gym on Cape Cod, where he lives, and “suddenly had this terrible headache” and pulled over to sleep in the backseat. A passerby happened to call 911 and Gammons — who didn’t remember what happened the 10 days after he passed out — was rushed into surgery for a brain aneurysm. He returned on-air months ahead of schedule.

That he got on-air in the first place, recalls ESPN executive editor John Walsh, seemed almost exotic at the time. Before being entrusted with TV pancake makeup, Walsh says Gammons “was already the premier print journalist” on baseball from his reporting for the Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated. And while the ink-stained were already occasionally popping up on-air — notably the late Will McDonough to report on the NFL for CBS — they were novelties.

Walsh, whose print background included editing Hunter S. Thompson while at Rolling Stone, recalls hiring Gammons a year after he’d arrived at ESPN: “I’d graduated from the status of the alien who dropped in from Mars to someone who paid attention to sports, so the thinking (with Gammons) was, ‘let’s give it a try’ — at least on a freelance basis.”

But for ESPN now, he’s a competitor.

Gumbel’s cancer:

Guest-hosting on theLive with Regis & Kelly talk show Tuesday, Bryant Gumbelnoted his recent previously undisclosed cancer surgery to explain why he wasn’t up to joining in on a dance segment.

Later Tuesday, Gumbel spokesman Sean Cassidy offered more details: “He doesn’t have lung cancer. He had a tumor removed from his chest cavity adjacent to one of his lungs and had some lung tissue removed. His prognosis was good. But he had a malignant tumor next to the lung and not lung cancer.”

Gumbel, 61, is a rare TV genre crossover, moving from NBC Sports to NBC’s TodayShow — and hosting NBC’s 1988 Summer Olympics — and then being NFL Network’s first play-by-play announcer, although he hadn’t called football before. He’s hosted HBO’s monthly Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel for 14 years, offering distinctive takes like this on the 2006 Winter Olympics: “Try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that make the Winter Games look like a GOP convention.”

HBO spokesman Ray Stallone says Gumbel hasn’t missed any Real Sports work. The next show, debuting Dec. 22, is a year-end review that was already taped.

Spice rack:

BCS Executive Director Bill Hancck, on CBS College Sports Network Tuesday, suggested a college football playoff is simply too complex an idea for universities: “In reality it’s very difficult if not impossible. Who plays? Where do you play? When do you play? And what’s to be gained by it?”

If those issues truly overwhelm university officials, let’s hope they get help ordering lunch and reminders of how they like their coffee.

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