Gwynn, Ripken in TBS' bullpen


NEW YORK -- Turner Broadcasting System has turned to Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn to join its first season of division and championship baseball telecasts.

Both will be analysts beginning with TBS' coverage of the All-Star Game Selection Show on July 1 (the actual game is on Fox) and continuing in October with Turner's exclusive coverage of the divisional series and the National League Championship Series. Ripken will be an in-studio analyst with Ernie Johns for each of the games and again in 2008 with TBS' Game of the Week. Gwynn will be the on-air analyst (paired with play-by-play announcer Chip Caray) for the primary games.

Of course, both will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on July 29. Ripken is the legendary shortstop/third baseman for the Baltimore Orioles who broke Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played. Gwynn, a 20-year veteran of the San Diego Padres, had a .338 batting average and was a Gold Glove-winning fielder as well.

"We couldn't think of a better way to kick off our Major League Baseball package," Turner Sports president David Levy said.

Ripken said that he had declined offers in the past to become either a play-by-play announcer or an analyst after he retired in 2001. Ripken is a busy businessman who owns the minor league Aberdeen (Md.) Ironbirds and has built a complex in Aberdeen that includes a world-class stadium, learning center and newly opened hotel.

But Ripken is a big fan of the NBA and of Turner's "Inside the NBA" studio show featuring Johnson and Charles Barkley, among others. He said that he saw the MLB studio show as being in that vein though no one could mimic Barkley and his impact.

"It's a nice blend of insight and humor at times in the show and it requires you (the analyst) to watch the game and pay attention," Ripken said.

A third person in the studio could be added, Turner Sports executive producer Jeff Behnke said. Ripken said he knew Gwynn a little bit and called him one of the greatest hitters ever.

"I like to ask him questions and keep quiet and listen to the answers," Ripken said.

Levy said that Turner would do intense marketing and promotion around its new part of the baseball rights deal to get fans to realize that TBS is the new home. He said that he isn't worried about the production end, which Turner has proven for 30 years with Atlanta Braves baseball to a national audience.

Major League Baseball president and COO Bob Dupuy said Thursday that MLB wasn't worried about the potential for audience loss switching some of the divisional series and all of one of the championship series to cable.

"We're very comfortable with the performance of Turner and what Turner will bring to the game," Dupuy said. MLB executives declined Thursday to discuss the Extra Innings deal with cable that was reached Wednesday night or the prospect of negotiations with Echostar-Dish Network.