20 Years Strong
Like many others in the New York area, I grew up with WFAN. Whether you listened to the overnight while working the late shift, lived and died with Mike and the Dog during the afternoon commute, or like myself, tuned in during every free minute, the FAN holds a special place in New York sports. This past weekend they celebrated twenty years on the air, bringing back many old faces, replaying classic moments, and telling great stories about the old days. As they have for twenty years, WFAN did it right.
Love her or hate her, Suzyn Waldman is a female pioneer in sports broadcasting. Waldman has covered the Yankees in one way, shape, or form, almost as long as I have followed baseball. I loved her as the radio beat reporter, she drove me nuts in the TV booth, was as good as anyone doing clubhouse reports on TV, and now brings sanity to the radio broadcasts alongside John Sterling. Basically, my memories of the Yankee dynasty will include Suzyn Waldman. For an hour Saturday morning, Waldman reminded us of her numerous journalistic accomplishments. She played classic Steinbrenner interviews dating back to his suspension, spoke about covering Rickey Henderson and Don Mattingly, told great stories, and relived the night she helped reunite Yogi Berra and George Steinbrenner. But the two segments that resonated most were her report from Candlestick Park minutes after the devastating earthquake before Game 3 of the World Series in 1989, and a Rick Pitino interview followed by stories about covering the Knicks in the late ‘80’s. Besides great coverage, these two events show both Waldman’s versatility, few remember her as a beat reporter for basketball and radio host covering all sports topics, and an ability to cover a big news story.
The next few hours brought back the likes of Bill Mazer, Ian Eagle, Spencer Ross, and Russ Salzberg. Mazer is barely audible, but I can listen to anyone that watched Babe Ruth played and covered sports for close to fifty years speak for an hour. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the youthful Eagle, who worked at the station right out of Syracuse, returned with great behind the scenes stories from the days when WFAN was initially making its mark as a media powerhouse. Eagle teamed with Dave Jennings for Jet games in the 1990’s, the Rich Kotite era most Jet fans try to block out, and the two shared a few memorable moments about traveling together and covering the team. “The Bird” possesses an uncanny, yet unassuming, sense of humor, almost a laugh a minute.
Night owls rejoiced with Steve Somers and Joe Benigno, the overnight stalwarts for many years, returning to late nights with a live broadcast from Little Italy. What better way to celebrate. Again, the FAN did it right, the overnight listeners and callers are by far the most dedicated legion of fans. Providing the opportunity for these loyal listeners to personally come out and join the festivities was a great touch.
Another great reunion segment came Sunday, with Eddie Coleman and Dave Sims preceding the Met game. Just listening to the jingle, “You’re listening to Eddie C. and the Soul Man,” brought upon wholehearted laughter. Few remember this tandem preceded Mike and the Mad Dog, and had history played out differently may have had a crack at the big role. More amazing are dedicated show callers from 15, 20 years ago dialing in with specific stories that both the hosts and callers remember like yesterday.
Of course, Mike and the Mad Dog, who made the station what it is today, along with Imus, as much as I hate to admit that, unveiled the Top 20 moments of the last 20 years. Proving the clout of the station, they dug up a key entity from each event to interview after replaying the moment. Even though I admittedly am not a diehard hockey fan, I still get goose bumps listening to the Rangers receive the Cup in 1994, the clear number one choice.
A great weekend to celebrate a great station. WFAN means more to NY sports than anyone realizes, they have been there for us, the fans, for over twenty years. Here’s to another twenty.