Radio days in New York sports
It has been 92½ years since live sports first broke into the radio business, when KDKA in Pittsburgh carried a bout between lightweights Johnny Ray and Johnny Dundee, neither of whom tweeted about the no-decision afterward.
Nearly a century later, let us pause before recycling another calendar to marvel at the medium’s staying power in an era of communication marvels, because nothing made New York-area sports media news quite like radio in 2013.
The biggest story of all was the Yankees’ move to from WCBS to WFAN, which had carried Mets games since the station’s inception in 1987; the Mets eventually landed on WOR (710 AM).
But there was more where that came from, including the re-signings of old partners Mike Francesa and Chris Russo by WFAN and Sirius XM, respectively. It was far from a sure thing both would re-up, but in the end they did, ensuring that at least until early 2018 there would be no “Mike and the Mad Dog’’ reunion, no matter how much old fans pine for it.
More recently came word that Francesa and YES will part ways after 12 years, and that Francesa’s ESPN New York afternoon counterpart, Michael Kay, will replace him on YES’ simulcast.
True, the news directly related to television, but the reason it quickly became the most-viewed story on Newsday’s sports website was the power of Francesa as a WFAN radio personality and lightning rod.
Most memorably, he had embattled third baseman Alex Rodriguez in-studio last month for a relatively sympathetic interview that was the single most riveting New York sports media moment of the year.
Rodriguez wasn’t the only sports figure to make news on the radio; Giants safety Antrel Rolle did it on a regular basis during his paid weekly spot on WFAN.
By the way, the call for that very first live bout on April 11, 1921, was provided by Florent Gibson – a newspaper sportswriter. We’re still here, too!