Drennan hired after serving time for tax fraud

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- The Cleveland Indians are taking a chance on a sportscaster fresh out of prison for not paying taxes on gambling earnings.

SportsTime Ohio, a 24-hour TV network owned by the club, announced Tuesday that it has hired longtime local radio personality Bruce Drennan to host a weekday talk show entitled "All Bets Are Off with Bruce Drennan."

Drennan was released from a federal prison in Morgantown, W.Va., on March 2 after serving a five-month sentence for tax fraud.

In July 2006, Drennan was sentenced after pleading guilty for failing to pay between $12,500 and $30,000 in taxes on gambling winnings. From 2000-04, Drennan placed bets on baseball games with five or six bookmakers daily with some bets up to $5,400, according to the plea agreement he signed.

SportsTime Ohio's show is to make its debut April 1. Drennan will serve an additional five months of house confinement with work privileges.

Drennan's affiliation with the Indians could be viewed in conflict with baseball's strict rules about gambling.

Bob DiBiasio, the Indians' vice president of public relations, said Drennan will not have access to the team's clubhouse. However, Drennan will be allowed in the press box and on the field at Jacobs Field.

"We informed Major League Baseball of the situation and told them of our plan," DiBiasio said. "They felt what we were doing fell in line as appropriate action."

Drennan, whose booming voice and strong-minded opinions on virtually any subject made him a media icon in Cleveland, said he isn't worried about his recent past damaging his credibility or his relationship with fans.

"Not at all," he said in a phone interview. "Either you love me or you don't. I know my stuff. I've spent the past five months cramming and researching sports. The fans will be with me and that will be evident as soon as I go on the air."

Drennan said it was because of his success with betting that led to his arrest.

"Unlike 95 percent of the guys who bet and lose, I won," he said, "and that's what attracted the feds."

In 2004, federal agents seized a revolver, more than $1,000 in cash, a computer and other items in a search of Drennan's home, according to warrants released in U.S. District Court.

Drennan called his time in prison "very, very humbling." He said that on his new show he will incorporate stories of other inmates into his act.

He said perhaps one of the biggest lessons he learned during his prison stay was to be less judgmental.

"From now on, I'm going to be very, very careful when an athlete gets in trouble," he said. "I'm not going to jump to any conclusions and sensationalize like I sometimes did before. I'm going to wait until the facts are in."

The 56-year-old Drennan was a TV commentator on Indians broadcasts from 1980-82 and is a member of the Ohio Radio/Television Hall of Fame. He has worked for various Cleveland radio stations, most recently as a sports talk show host for WKNR in 2004.