People ask me, when they stop me these days, ‘What are you doing?’.
They also ask about the good old days of sports-talk radio. And they want to know how I got into the business, why things happen, and what has happened.
So here goes, since we all have lots of time on our hands, self isolating, while most of us are waiting for the phone to ring.
I grew up in baseball family. Born in Brooklyn, Utica Avenue-St John’s Place. Father was huge baseball fan, the days of the Old Gas House Gang of the St Louis Cardinals. He was a pitcher, never got to the big leagues. College educated man, who got stuck in the Philadelphia A’s system, and feuded with Connie Mack. His show was Class B-Eastern League. He actually worked at Ebbets Field as a teenager. Biggest thrill, going to Cooperstown, Hall of Fame library, to research baseball records in minor leagues. He died way too young.
Uncle was sportswriter, covering the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field for the Brooklyn Eagle, one of 9-daily newspapers in New Yo rk and Long Island (can you believe that) back in the day. Became famous World War II correspondent in the Pacific covering MacArthur. Saw some horrible things in combat, survived, but did not come back right. I have spent my life piecing together his career, and have uncovered amazing scripts and broadcasts from combat in the Pacific.
Me, huge baseball fan, growing up on Long Island. Hated the Yankees (Mantle-Maris), the Dodgers (Duke of Flatbush), the Giants (Say Hey). Grew up Indians fan, but don’t know why, except I liked the Chief Wahoo logo, and that great pitching staff (Score-Lemon-Garcia-Mossi-Narleski).
Grew up NFL fan, no not the Giants (YA Tittle-Sam Huff)..but the Browns, guess I liked the color Orange. Liked Jim Brown. It was as if the Browns-Giants played every Sunday on TV.
Followed the NBA, again not the Knicks, but rather the Cincinnati Royals (Oscar Robertson-Jack Twyman) and so many more.
Hockey, do remember watching it, and liking the name Maple Leafs (still do). Oddly became my first love in broadcasting.
Track and Field had lure to me, did compete in it, all-state distance runner, once hoped I could be 4-minute miler. Actually ran in the high school division of the Wannamaker Mile at Millrose Games in New York City, got my ass kicked by kids that wound up going to Villanova, an NCAA power.
Athlete, yes, success, yes, till I got hurt. Could throw the hell out of the ball, till I hurt my shoulder in high school. I have a torn rotator cuff to prove it. Distance runner setting school records, but got hurt in college second week of cross-country practice in college. Never got healthy, sports medicine not being what it is now.
Education at very strictly disciplined St Philip Neri, Catholic school, on Long Island. Tremendous education and got whacked a bunch of times by the nuns.
High school was at Northport High on Long Island. Hated it. Too crowded, split sessions last two years, felt I got cheated on my education. Couldn’t wait to go to college.
College at Ohio University, on doorstep of Appalachia. Started in Journalism, wanted to be a sportswriter-columnist, as I am now on my own website. Drifted into Radio-Television, where I spent my entire broadcast life. Wound up doing network football and basketball play-by-play for the Bobcats. Changed my life.
Career started at small station in Southern Ohio, WLGN-Logan, spent four years there going from night time rock-and-roll disc jockey, to doing all types of high school play-by-play, and college games. Became Program Director, sold advertising, made lots of money…Was working radio and going full-time to Grad School, burning the candle at both ends.
Went to upstate NY to do hockey, in the Eastern Hockey League, at WIBX-Utica. Yes, the movie ‘Slapshot’ was real, it was a takeoff of the four years I spent in upstate New York. The Charlestown Chiefs, were really the Johnstown Jets. That bus, was our bus, the Mohawk Valley Comets. I slept in those bunks, drank beers with those guys, and got hooked on hockey in the four years I was in the Iron Lung, or as we called it ‘Brotherhood of the Bus’. Full disclosure-I fibbed to get the hockey job, had never done it, spent two weeks listening to Dan Kelly-St Louis Blues broadcasts to learn the game-fell in love with it. Learned so much in News-Talk business. Guys at my station went on to do Orioles baseball, Warriors basketball, Flyers-Avalanche hockey.
Got chance to go to the big leagues at 3WE-Cleveland, as voice of the Cleveland Crusaders hockey, and to do sports-talk alongside the pioneer of the format, Pete Franklin. Loved being in the WHA, but it folded the year after I got there. Got to cover the boyhood teams I loved, Indians-Browns, then followed the Miracle on Richfield, the Cavaliers. Went to Indianapolis to be the TV voice of the Indianapolis Racers, lots of fun, till they sold Wayne Gretzky to the Edmonton Oilers. But the WHA-NHL was merging, and lots of us got left out.
Wound up pioneering sports-talk radio at WHLO-Akron-Canton, covering all the Cleveland teams, and doing Akron U-Zips games. Fun time, till station changed format, and we all got wiped out.
Life took me to the Valley of the Sun, KTAR-Phoenix. They knew me, and my style and my philosophies. They recruited me hard, sending me brochures from Chamber of Commerce, palm trees-swimming pools, girls. The mail came in the winter, but they neglected to tell me on May 1st it went to 100-degrees everyday till October. Learned to love the sunshine. Did Arizona State Sun Devils football as it grew into a Pac-10 power. Broadcast Rose Bowl as Devils beat Bo and Michigan. In 1981, as I went there, ASU got put on probation (Frank Kush scandal), the 1st seed Suns got knocked out of the playoffs, and baseball went out on strike. I had 61-straight four hour shows on that station. Think there were a few topics on the table. The phone lines lit up like a Christmas Tree.
Phone rings, guy on other end wants to talk to me about becoming Voice of the Chargers, on radio station they were going to take News-Talk-Sports, XTRA-690 out of San Diego. Tried to explain to me it was Mexican License 50,000-watt blowtorch signal. Never understood the concept. Told him I didn’t speak Spanish. Dummy me-thought they wanted me to do NFL games in Spanish. Came to San Diego, started sports-talk show on then 690-XTRA Gold. Wolfman Jack was my lead-in. Station became a legendary sports-talk station, third in the nation to jump into the format. Became Voice of the Chargers, designed that 9-hour gameday broadcast ‘Countdown to Kickoff’…built amazing following on ‘Sportswatch’ afternoon drive talkshow. Broadcast the Super Bowl. Did Aztecs-USC also as station exploded into popularity. Chargers left our station, and I promptly wound up as the voice of the Seattle Seahawks, had fun for 3-years before that deal ended. Sadly Clear Channel bought the station, decided to get rid of the format and the Mexican license. We were moved to LA and eventually had contract bought out as they let everyone go. Gave them 22-years of my life in the community. They gave me a pink-slip in a brown envelope…’sign here’…not even a thank you.
Went to Sirius XM to work on ‘Home Plate Channel’ doing weekend shows on satellite, had a blast, met lots of people. Thought I was moving to NY to do mornings on Chris Russo’s ‘Mad Dog Channel’, but then 2008-Wall Street hit, and we all went under.
Surfaced at Mighty 1090 doing sports-talk, watching the station grow, but as always, management decisions hurt the station, and it went off the air a year ago this week.
Since then, moved back into TV, and had a fun 3-years at CW-6. They let me do a lot of creative packages, opinion pieces (I always have something to say), met fabulous people. Yes you can teach old dog-new tricks. Learned so much, really liked TV. But then Televisa folded the entire news department, so we all became free agents.
Here is my website, going on 8-years, some 8,000-hits a week. Do things just to keep my brand out there, like providing content. Like to write (reverting back to my reason for going to college). And yes, I know everything about everything, to the chagrin of the ‘haters’ out there. Love doing a national sportstalk show, love writing about sports. Still think there should be a place for strong journalism and opinions.
Wouldn’t trade any of it, though I would trade the outcomes of some of the jobs. Stupid me thinking I could go out on my own terms. I have made so many friends in broadcasting since that first job as ‘Voice of the Logan Chieftains’ in Southeast Ohio. Still friends today.
I love sports history, probably have 300-books at home on history of sports, including the old Spaulding-Reach baseball guides that go all the way back to the 1930s…sentimental value more than anything else.
Have loved it, will continue to do it. Oldest son is priest. Youngest son flies helicopters Med-Evac. So proud of them.
Thrills….being on radio, even in small market Appalachia…1st broadcast from Maple Leaf Gardens in hockey…broadcasting the Rose Bowl…an AFC-Championship game win with the Bolts in Pittsburgh (I love gameday)…the Super Bowl (even with Steve Young throwing 6TDs)..my first broadcast from Yuma with the Padres, and my first broadcast from historic Vero Beach-Dodgertown. Talking to Bob Costas and Jack Buck when they both tried to convince me to come work in St Louis…My first interview with Vin Scully
Disappointments…Some print media guys who thought it was their job to smear me (even got punched out by one)…Wished I had sued two others-but didn’t….Dean Spanos leaving XTRA-690 after all we did for that franchise…..then taking the Chargers out of San Diego after 55-years of loyalty from the fans (will never-ever forgive him).
Not many regrets, except I turned down a lot of job offers at really big stations, KMOX-KNBR-KABC-ESPN, and didn’t take an NHL offer from the Ducks-because I stayed loyal to the Seahawks. Always wonder ‘what if’. Loved San Diego, didn’t want to move my kids, was loyal to my stations, wanted to take care of my wife. End of day, loyalty didn’t mean much, and that’s my only disappointment.
That’s who I am, how I got here, what I do, what I like.
As Robert DiNero told Billy Crystal in the famous movie about the psychiatrist and the mafia……”Analyze This”