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ESPN had to invent a special signal to get Dick Vitale to stop talking

Dick Vitale in 1995, talking.
Dick Vitale in 1995, talking.
Al Bello/Getty Sports Images

March Madness is Dick Vitale season, when the analyst yells into microphones and kisses people (usually on ESPN). But the eccentric routine isn't new — when Vitale first joined ESPN, the network had to figure out a special signal to get him to stop talking.

As recalled in These Guys Have All The Fun, an oral history of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales, Vitale always talked too much. Production director Ellen Beckwith said Jim Simpson, who was partnered with Vitale in 1979, developed a special technique to silence him:

He had gotten tired of telling Dick to stop talking and poking him in the arm, so he would take a white napkin or handkerchief, put it in front of Dick's face, and just drop it. And that meant, shut up, Dick.

Despite the white napkin, Dick Vitale has yet to surrender the microphone.

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