Controversy With Drennan

Our title, of course, is a play on the name of sportscaster Bruce Drennan’s former WKNR/850 morning show, “Mornings With Drennan”. Feel free to sing it out loud in the style of, say, a show tune…

Ever since regional sports network SportsTime Ohio announced that Drennan would host a daily talk show on the channel (“All Bets Are Off”), the Northeast Ohio media world can’t stop buzzing about the hiring of a man who so recently walked out of a federal penitentiary, he has to get a work release exemption to even be able to leave his home and do the show.

(For the three people who haven’t already heard, Drennan recently completed a five-month sentence in a West Virginia federal penitentiary for not claiming tens of thousands of dollars in gambling income on his federal taxes, and is now serving another five months on house arrest.)

Another local TV sports host, Les Levine, weighed in last week on his Time Warner Cable show “More Sports and Les Levine”. He basically interrupted an in-studio interview with former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Fratello to comment on the hiring…with a statement we transcribe here:

I realize that what I’m about to say is going to be scoffed at by some people who will say that I have a case of “sour grapes” because I have a television show on a network – FSN Ohio – that competes with SportsTime Ohio.

I’m all for deserving people getting a second chance, and it would be nice if some TV or radio station would give Bruce Drennan that second chance.

But not one that is owned by the Cleveland Indians.

Somebody’s gotta help me out here.

According to a published report in the Plain Dealer, Drennan bet between 14 and 37 thousand dollars – a day – on baseball for several years.

Now, the Indians have hired him to do a daily sports show called “All Bets Are Off”, and will have segments on the show featuring the manager, Eric Wedge.

Gambling scares baseball more than steroids scares baseball. Now, if you want to believe I have an agenda here, you can be my guest, but I do have one question: What the heck are the Indians thinking?

Les has a good point.

In the Cleveland Plain Dealer article about the hiring (“TV station gambles on host” by writer Mark Gillispie), a Major League Baseball spokesman is quoted:

Major League spokesman Richard Levin said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he had not heard about Drennan’s hiring.

“This is new to us, so we’ll have to look into it,” Levin said. He declined to comment further.

But in the Associated Press story on the Drennan hiring, found here on the website of the Times-Reporter newspaper in Dover-New Philadelphia – don’t reach for that copy/paste, T-R folks, you already printed it! – gives us the impression that STO and the Indians have already run this by MLB.

Long-time Indians PR guy Bob DiBiasio tells the AP that Drennan won’t be allowed in the clubhouse, but will be allowed on the field at Jacobs Field and in the press box. And then, there’s this:

“We informed major league baseball of the situation and told them of our plan,” DiBiasio said. “They felt what we were doing fell in line as appropriate action.”

Either way, Mr. Levine is correct in his above statement. Baseball is VERY antsy about gambling, and even if the Indians have run this by the folks at the MLB offices, they WILL be watching Drennan closely…and the Indians, as well.

The whole thing is made even more odd by the fact that the sport Drennan admittedly betted on, and in some quantity, is baseball itself. That’s something even fellow gambling addict and former Cincinnati Reds great Pete Rose didn’t even admit until fairly recently.

MLB probably doesn’t have much say in Drennan sitting in a SportsTime Ohio studio, and pontificating about sports from afar – even if it’s the Indians’ owners who own the network. They didn’t hire Drennan to manage the team, or to do anything but open his mouth on TV.

It’s the contact directly with players, manager Eric Wedge and others, that they’ll be concerned about.

How will it go? Well, as Drennan says, people either love him or hate him. And that’ll probably rule the day.

And even the show tanks, or if for whatever reason, the powers in New York force them to pull Drennan out of Jacobs Field, STO has already gained thousands upon thousands of dollars of free publicity…

UPDATE 3/27/07 1:58 PM: As per our new policy, this item is now closed for comments.

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