Gammons opts for free agency, inks multi-year deal MLB Network, according to Gammons’ sources close to the situation

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Peter Gammons, the Baseball Hall of Fame journalist, former Boston Globe writer and a fixture on ESPN’s baseball coverage for the last 20 years, signed on to join the MLB Network and MLB Advanced Media today.

On the TV side, he will report on breaking news, trades, winter meetings and the postseason. Online, he’ll start a new column and post stories.

As part of his departure from ESPN, which begins after the current winter meetings in Indianapolis, Gammons also signed a deal with NESN as a studio analyst and reporter.

On the MLB Network, Gammons will be seen in about 54 million cable and satellite homes — about half of what the ESPN reach.

So what, he says.

“My decision to leave ESPN and move on at this point in my life has been conflicted,” the 64-year-old Gammons said in an MLB release. “I owe a great deal of my professional life to ESPN, having spent more than half of my 40 years in journalism working for the network, and the choice to move on was made with nothing but the strongest feelings for the people with whom I worked. ESPN gave me a great deal more than I gave it, and will always be a huge part of who I am.

“I will forever be joined at the hip with John Walsh, who hired me as an ink-stained wretch, plunked me on TV and has always been a guiding spirit. Understand how the people who run ESPN treat people: when I was felled by a severe aneurysm in 2006, George Bodenheimer, John Skipper, Norby Williamson, my former Boston Globe boss Vince Doria and everyone made certain that my family and I had the best care and support, far, far beyond any reasonable expectation. My ESPN life has been lined with foxhole people whom I’ll never forget.

“I’ve been able to work with my closest and oldest friends, like Jayson Stark, Tim Kurkjian, Buster Olney, Peter Pascarelli, Jerry Crasnick and Charlie Moynihan. I spent three seasons doing games with a producer, Tom Archer, who is among the most revered leaders I’ve ever met. I told everyone last October that the team baseball coordinating producer Jay Levy put together with Mark Preisler and Marc Carman was the most creative in my 20 years on the show. I apologize to hundreds of people I owe for all these years for not mentioning their names.

“You would have had to be there for 20 years to know how hard so many good people sweated in anonymity to make all of us look as if we knew what we were doing.

“My friend Tom Rush – who taught James Taylor and me our first guitar chords – once wrote how strange it seems to walk away alone. With no regrets.”

John Walsh, ESPN executive vice president and executive editor, said Gammons “was the best and the brightest in making the transition from print to video. For ESPN, he contributed 21 Hall of Fame years as a journalist and, throughout, set the standard for others to reach for.”

Gammons began his journalism career as a reporter for the Boston Globe in 1969, also working at Sports Illustrated for two stints (1976-78, 1986-90).

“It’s hard to imagine a reporter who is more deeply associated with a sport than Peter is with Major League Baseball,” said Tony Petitti, President and Chief Executive Officer of MLB Network. “Having Peter associated with MLB Network is an incredible opportunity and another great step for MLB Network as we head into our second year on January 1.”

If there’s any question that the NESN gig has any influence in Gammons’ breaking away from the grips of ESPN, it’s evident in this other statement he gave in an NESN press release:

“I’m a New Englander who wanted to be Jackie Jensen,” said Peter Gammons. “I started out at the Boston Globe and wrote about Jerry Remy when he was at Somerset High School. I was lucky enough to be there for the Munson-Fisk fight in 1973 and The Sixth Game and the ’78 playoff, and when my local cable company wouldn’t put NESN on our system I signed the override petitions.”

“NESN has given me the opportunity to come back to my roots and once again be part of my neighborhood, and I am truly excited about it. During the 2007 World Series, Matt Holliday said that what differentiated Fenway Park from any other stadium is that fans don’t react, they anticipated, and that creates a tension unlike any other audience in sports. It is a great feeling to be back with that audience.”

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