As Brad Zager recalls, the decision was made within hours.
On a Friday in March, it was announced that Fox Sports’ premier MLB and NFL broadcaster, Joe Buck, would be leaving the network for ESPN.
The next afternoon, Zager, Fox Sports’ production and operations manager, was on a flight to Las Vegas and wasted little time searching for Buck’s baseball replacement.
“It was a very, very short processing time,” said Zager. “We knew we had the man in the house that we wanted.”
That guy was Joe Davis. And he was about to get the job of his life.
“We met at the hotel,” recalled Davis, who was in Las Vegas that week to work on the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament, “and he said, ‘I’m here to give you a chance to be the voice of baseball.’ ”
Four months later, the 34-year-old broadcaster still feels a little surreal.
Davis had already established himself as one of baseball’s premier announcers, having succeeded Vin Scully as television voice for the Dodgers in 2017 and serving as Fox’s previous No. 2 in the MLB package.
Now, however, Davis sits in the most prominent chair in baseball broadcasting.
He will play his first-ever All-Star game at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night.
In October, he will become the first person, alongside Buck, to take over the World Series play-by-play vote since 1999.
“It’s an incredible responsibility to host the biggest games,” Davis said in a recent interview. “One of the exciting things about the play-by-play announcement is the thought that in the moment you only have one chance to make the call and capture the moment. And that will forever be part of the moment.
“This challenge has always been my favorite part of the job. And now to have that challenge in the biggest moments, that’s quite a spectacular thought.”
Davis has already shaped many great moments. As Buck’s backup — and Fox’s heir apparent to baseball — he has been a regular at national regular season and playoff games in recent years. In 2020, he named Game 7 of the National League Championship Series between the Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves.
“We realized that we had something special here,” said Zager.
But it wasn’t until this spring, when rumors surfaced that Buck and longtime Fox Football broadcasting partner Troy Aikman might be joining ESPN, that Davis’ promotion to the big job began to feel imminent.
“Joe is a friend and mentor to me, but this isn’t a situation where you reach out and say, ‘What’s the matter with you? Is that happening?’” Davis recalled with a laugh. “I just sat on needles and needles, waiting for everything to shake.”
After Buck actually left, Davis’ offer fell through quickly.
He said his new deal with Fox, where he has also named soccer and college basketball, was settled when he took to the air for the Pac-12 title game this Saturday night.
However, the magnitude of the task has taken longer to make itself felt.
“Honestly, I don’t see myself as the voice of baseball,” Davis said. “I just continue to see myself as someone who loves baseball and is lucky enough to call games every day. I do not know. It’s just that overwhelming feeling of gratitude, more than the feeling of having been elevated in any way.”
During the first half of the season, Davis didn’t change his routine and traveled with the Dodgers except on weekends when Fox had a national Saturday show (something Davis has been doing for the past few seasons).
Davis also had extensive calling game experience with Fox’s lead baseball color commentator, Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz.
“As far as his transition goes, it’s been pretty smooth,” Smoltz said, noting that Davis already got through the toughest part of the job when he called nationally televised postseason games with his main team.
“He did a great job,” said Smoltz. “That is not easy.”
The All-Star Game will be the first of several upcoming marquee events for Fox’s new No. 1 duo. In August they will edit the MLB Field of Dreams game in Iowa. In October, they head into their first full postseason – and World Series – together.
The latter is something Davis, even after three months, can’t help but think about every day.
“It’s always there, but in a good way,” he said. “I think about it every day. It’s still at the point where people ask if I’ve taken care of it and settled in, kinda. But every day I wake up and I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s real. This is not a dream.’”
Of course, calling Dodger games has been another dream come true for Davis over the past half decade.
He first joined the team to call out road games in 2016, then took over full-time the next year after Scully’s retirement.
He has formed a deep bond with his main color commentator at SportsNet LA, Orel Hershiser, which has been well received by fans.
And even after his promotion at Fox, Davis insists he wants to balance roles, describing the Dodgers’ job as “something that’s hard to imagine being completely without at any point.”
Davis acknowledged the new challenges that have accompanied the Dodgers’ job this year, which has seen him work with a rotating cast of analysts including Eric Karros, Dontrelle Willis and Jessica Mendoza after Hershiser transitioned to a home-game-only schedule .
“It’s not ideal,” Davis said. “But luckily the three people who made the street games are such simple, great people to be around and go on the air with. They took a less than ideal situation and fixed it.”
Still, he considers the opportunity to do both national and local work a privilege.
“They knew from the start that my dream was to continue working in national television and hopefully do something like that at some point, and they’ve done nothing but help me get there,” Davis said of the Dodgers.
“I enjoyed the role more than I ever expected. I thought I would like it. I didn’t know exactly. But there’s something very special about being with the team and having that connection with the fanbase that you don’t get doing the national stuff.”
Someone who can relate: Buck, who spent the early years of his nearly three-decade run at Fox simultaneously calling St. Louis Cardinals games before finally quitting the gig in 2007.
Buck, who called out 24 World Series and 22 All-Star Games, still resides in St. Louis. And when the Dodgers were visiting last week, he met Davis for lunch to give him the extra-large scorebook he used during his All-Star Game television shows.
“To have passed this literal, physical book and now be able to continue its small tradition of using this scorebook is a really special thing,” Davis said.
Count it as the latest perk to come with Davis’ new job, another byproduct of becoming baseball’s new voice.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-07-19/joe-davis-voice-of-baseball-fox-dodgers-john-smoltz-orel-hershiser Dodgers’ Joe Davis becomes ‘the voice of baseball’ at Fox