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Media: November 2017

| November 1, 2017

Tom Shaer

Tom Shaer’s career in Chicago media includes stints as the morning man (and first voice ever) on the Score, ESPN AM 1000, morning sports anchor on WBBM News radio, and TV sports anchor at Channel 5, among other positions, but the Massachusetts native got his start in the business in Boston, and he did it in a way that simply isn’t possible today.

“I was a ridiculously insane baseball fan,” Shaer recalls, “and I lived in a dorm about three blocks from Fenway Park, so I went to as many games as possible. At the end of my freshman year of college, I snuck into the press box at Fenway Park. That would be impossible now. Back then there were two check points. I wore a shirt and tie to the games because I was coming there straight from work (in the library), and I looked a little older than I was. I was only 18 at the time.

One day I just walked past the usher at the first checkpoint who saw me all the time and must have thought I was a reporter. He just gave me a wave through. When I got to the second check point, the usher had left his post, so I just walked right into the press box. When I left after the game the usher was at his post, and I shook his hand and said ‘See you tomorrow night.’

He saw me the next night, knew I already had been in the press box, so he didn’t ask to see my credentials. On the third night I met the sports editor for the AP, and his part-time assistant had just quit the night before, and he offered the job to me. And that’s how I got my first media job. I never would have gotten it if I hadn’t snuck into the press box.”

After making the transition to radio in Boston, and working in the market for six years, Shaer heard about a job opening in Chicago. Chuck Swirsky was looking for a guy to be the co-host and producer of Jack Brickhouse’s nightly show on WGN Radio. “I was 24 years old. It was a wonderful station. The minute you walked into the door you became a better broadcaster. I did the show with Brickhouse, and I loved working with him.”

He also loved the city, which has been his home ever since. “Chicago was much less intense than Boston. It was a much happier tone here. In 1983, I figured I’d take this great job in Chicago but, in the back of my mind, I planned to return to Boston for a great job at some point. 95% of my relatives are there. However, after covering the 1983 White Sox Division Champs and 1984 Cubs Division Champs, I was so widely known and accepted by the great Chicago people that I had no desire to leave!”

He never left the market, but he did jump from media job to media job. “When Dave Eanet left WBBM, Rich King approached me in the press box and said ‘we’d love to have you.’ Rich King was the greatest boss I ever had, bar none.”

While he was working as the morning sports anchor at WBBM, Shaer made an even more dramatic move. He dipped his toes into the TV sports world as the #2 man at Channel 32 behind Bruce Wolf. That led to an even higher profile job at Channel 5. Ironically, the most memorable day of employment at Channel 5 didn’t involve sports at all. “I started at Channel 5 on May 18, 1988. On May 20th, my third day on the job, I got a call at Bears camp. The newsroom was desperate to get someone over to cover a nearby shooting. It was the Laurie Dann shooting.” (That entire story is told dramatically in local Chicago news cameraman Chuck Quinzio’s book Life Behind the Camera).

In 1992, when the market’s first all-sports station went on the air, Shaer was asked to be the morning host. Tom and his broadcasting band of brothers including Mike North, Dan Jiggets, Dan McNeil and Terry Boers helped create a sports radio powerhouse despite having only a daytime radio signal in its early years. He still considers it one of the highlights of his career. “I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for my 30-year career on the air, especially the Chicago years. I covered six Bulls championships, a White Sox World Championship and four division titles, Bears Super Bowl Championship, numerous Cubs playoff teams, Blackhawks 1992 Stanley Cup Finals, five All-Star games in Chicago, etc. I even got to be a psychiatrist because I hosted the ESPN-1000 postgame talk show after the Bartman game!” (ESPN Radio had the network radio rights).

But working in sports media, especially on television, is a young man’s game. So, a few years ago Shaer left the business and transitioned into a related field. At first he ran a media consulting company. Later, he served as a spokesperson for Pat Quinn, and he now serves as the spokesperson for the Cook County Assessor’s Office (Joe Berrios).

Does he miss sports media at all? “I was at a Cubs World Series game last year and I saw the TV guys making a mad rush to do live reports from outside the ballpark because they couldn’t be inside during the game, and I thought to myself, Aaah. This is nice. I get to enjoy the game.”

-Rick Kaempfer


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