Don Shane probably had one at a TV station known for attracting celebrities. Yet, his ability to focus on the foundations of good journalism—informing the public about something they don’t know and telling it like it is—made him popular with WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) viewers.
“He changed the way I viewed to do my job, just by watching him,” said Tom Leyden, who succeeded Shane as the sports director at WXYZ, Metro Detroit’s ABC affiliate. “So many of us tried to find the perfect word or flowery prose. He was just so great at saying, ‘Just talk to the people.'”
“He was a great mentor.”
Shane died on Friday night, 24 Feb 2023 at his home in California. He began working as a sportscaster for WXYZ in 1989, covering numerous critical events in Detroit and Michigan sports history. He was 70.
Although Shane, who retired in 2012, had been ill recently, no cause of death was reported by WXYZ. He died with Justin and Lindsay by his side. He is survived by his wife of 38 years, Mona, and his first grandchild, whom he welcomed in May of last year.
Shane covered multiple championships while at WXYZ, including three NBA titles for the Pistons, four Stanley Cup victories for the Red Wings, the Rose Bowl, the Super Bowl at Ford Field, the Ryder Cup in 2004, the Tigers’ return, including the 2006 World Series, and even prize bouts in Las Vegas.
In contrast to a rival sportscaster known for his blooper segments, Shane had “Dare Don,” where he would participate in various challenges, all captured on camera. Shane damaged three ribs while filming a scene with Lions icon Chris Spielman.
WXYZ said in a statement announcing his death Saturday-
“He joined Channel 7 in 1989 – and was on hand for so many hugely important events over the years. The many championships – but also the heart-breaking defeats – all while showcasing the drama and emotion of the moment for our viewers.”
“No one worked harder than Don. He broke stories and earned the respect of athletes and coaches in this town with his preparation and professionalism.”
“He loved what he did — and that joy came right through the screen into your homes.”
“We’ll miss you, Don. Our thoughts are with his entire family at this difficult time.”
When Shane was interviewing him, the former Michigan football coach’s illness at the station’s Southfield studios in 2006 was one of the darkest times of his career.
Schembechler died before No. 2 Michigan’s game against No. 1 Ohio State. Shane worked closely with Schembechler, Sparky Anderson, and Chuck Daly, among others, in the Detroit sports scene. Shane spoke with Anderson one more time before he died in 2010. Anderson was a fantastic Tigers manager.
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Shane worked at stations in Boston and Chicago before joining WXYZ, where he worked alongside well-known names such as Bill Bonds (with whom he frequently engaged in amusing on-air sparring).
During his career at WXYZ, he garnered multiple honors from the Associated Press, the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, and 23 Michigan Emmy Awards. He also worked as a play-by-play commentator for the Detroit Pistons, Michigan State, and the University of Michigan.
“I’ve been really blessed,” Shane said when he announced his retirement in February 2012; his last day on the air was March 20, 2012. “The things I’ve been able to see and do have far exceeded my expectations.”
This was critical: Shane made numerous observations. According to current WXYZ sports writer Brad Galli, Shane wanted to be out in the field, but many writers like to balance their time between the office and the scene or perhaps lean more toward the office.
Galli initially met Shane while working as an intern at WXYZ for two years — the anchors would pay for the dinners, and the unpaid interns would fly (pick them up), according to Galli — and later as a coworker.
On February 26, 2023, Brad Galli posted a Tweet on his official Twitter account-
“Don Shane took Detroit sports fans inside the biggest events for decades. As we mourn his death at the age of 70, we also celebrate his legacy. Dave LewAllen joined us to discuss Don’s impact on Detroit sports fans and their favorite players.”
Don Shane took Detroit sports fans inside the biggest events for decades. As we mourn his death at the age of 70, we also celebrate his legacy.
Dave LewAllen joined us to discuss Don's impact on Detroit sports fans and their favorite players. @tvnewzguy pic.twitter.com/wQ241BJqUH
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) February 25, 2023
Galli recalls his first job, recording the video and writing the prose from a Tigers game. He brought it back to the studio, where Shane watched it and said:
“We can’t run this on the air.”
Galli claimed that Shane focused on delivering fans the news they couldn’t locate. Galli claimed on Saturday that he has never had another story, not air, since returning home from the Tigers’ spring training in Lakeland, Florida.
“He was the guy I wanted to be like. He shaped my path in life and the path of so many people that passed through that sports department at Channel 7,” Galli said. “Then I got to work with him, and I quickly wanted to be more like him on TV, but I wanted to be like the man that Don Shane was.”
“It’s a busy life working in sports and TV, but he always talked about his kids and what family meant to him. He always did his best to make it work.”
“I learned that the most.”
On February 26, 2023, Brad Galli shared a tweet that paid tribute to Don Shane-
Paying tribute to Don Shane: his wife Mona joined us to remember our longtime sports director.
Diana Lewis, Robbie Timmons, @jimbrandstatter, @ccliffordwxyz, and @tvnewzguy all shared perspective on what made Don special. pic.twitter.com/pK1HgBuwt3
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) February 26, 2023
Leyden and Shane’s commercial collaboration lasted from 2004 until Shane’s retirement and was short-lived, but their friendship endured. Shane made their live televised birth announcements, and Leyden has two children.
“He went out of his way to make everyone feel special,” Leyden said. “He did that for so many people.”
Tom Leyden shared a Tweet on February 25 2023 and wrote-
“Don was 70 years old. My heart is with Mona, Justin and Lindsay and all the Shanes during this sad time, along with my Channel 7 family. Soak in the love knowing Don’s love changed the world.”
“When Don retired from WXYZ in 2012, we gathered the thoughts of many of Detroit’s top sports figures. Don Shane was respected by everybody.”
When Don retired from WXYZ in 2012, we gathered the thoughts of many of Detroit's top sports figures. Don Shane was respected by everybody. https://t.co/H77F6bUaGb
— Tom Leyden (@TomLeyden) February 25, 2023