Health Scare For LA, Philly-Based Sports Media Figures

Hall of Fame Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda is recovering from a heart attack he suffered on Monday. Meanwhile, Philadelphia sports radio host Angelo Cataldi (right) is preparing for intestinal surgery, which should sideline him for most of the month of June.

Tuesday presented some sobering medical news involving two popular sports personalities – one prominently known in Philadelphia, and one who hails from the Philadelphia area, but is well-known to baseball followers across the country.

Tommy Lasorda, a native of the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown, suffered a heart attack on Monday in New York City. Appearing in the World Series four times during his 20-year reign as the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he currently serves as an advisor to the team. He was in town for the 2012 MLB draft when he fell ill and was hospitalized. The team subsequently released a statement saying the Hall of Fame manager, 84, had a stent inserted to fix a blocked artery. He’s reported to be resting comfortably. Ironically, a heart attack led to Lasorda abruptly retiring as Dodgers manager in July 1996; he had gone to the hospital citing abdominal pain which, unbeknownst to him, was actually a heart attack.

Among Lasorda’s sports media credits are roles as a commentator on “This Week In Baseball” in 1997, and as a correspondent for the Los Angeles-based “Jim Rome Is Burning” program in 2009. He also starred in the early-80’s baseball sketch comedy show geared toward children, “The Baseball Bunch.”

Meanwhile, Angelo Cataldi, who has practically been the morning host on WIP for as long as it’s been a sports radio station (we’re talking way before its migration to the FM dial last year), was MIA on Monday, and ended up calling into his own show that day – live from a hospital in South Jersey – to share his own medical predicament with his audience: he’s suffering from diverticulitis, a digestive disease usually affecting the large intestine or the colon. Under doctor’s orders, he is to remain off the air for practically the entire month of June, as he is scheduled to undergo surgery on Thursday. Cataldi’s wife, Gail, told the Philadelphia Daily News that her husband, a known “embellisher,” was “really sick” to the point that he could not make it into work to talk about Eagles training camp, or the Phillies’ two-game slide at that point. (Ironically, the Phillies are currently playing the aforementioned Lasorda’s Dodgers.)

As Cataldi, 61, recuperates from surgery, WIP late-night host and throat cancer survivor Big Daddy Graham will sub for him in morning drive.

A speedy recovery to both the godfather of Philadelphia sports radio and the godfather of late-20th century baseball.

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Auld Lang Sigh: Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against WIP Bigwig Another Black Eye For Sports Radio

A lawsuit filed against Marc Rayfield, who oversees several Philadelphia radio stations, including sports WIP-AM/FM, is yet another blow to sports radio in a year that has been totally out of bounds.

The former director of marketing communications for a Philadelphia news station is taking her former boss to court on grounds of sexual harassment.

Attorneys Samuel First and Christopher Wagner have filed a lawsuit against CBS Radio’s entities in New York and Philadelphia on behalf of their client, Shelley Kanther, who claims she endured a “highly offensive, discriminatory environment and culture at CBS Philly.” Kanther was fired from her position at KYW Newsradio 1060 in Philadelphia, an action that she thinks is “in retaliation for… complaints” about the “degrading and extremely upsetting” atmosphere that she and co-workers experienced while working at the top-rated all-news station in Market No. 7. “No remedial action of any kind was ever taken” at KYW, according to the lawsuit, “despite Ms. Kanther’s repeated complaints.”

Specifically identified in the lawsuit by Kanther is CBS Radio Philadelphia Senior Vice President and Market Manager Marc Rayfield, whom Kanther dubbed “one of the worst offenders” during her tenure at KYW.

In addition to KYW, Rayfield also oversees five other radio stations in the cluster, including WIP, which has been broadcasting a sports format on AM 610 for close to a quarter-century – and just this past fall, added a simulcast on 94.1 FM; the station now brands itself as “SportsRadio 94 WIP.” This is actually Rayfield’s second go-round working at WIP: in the early 1990’s, he had previously served as the station’s local sales manager when it was owned by Spectacor Broadcasting. He was hired in the same capacity by KYW in 1992, and worked his way up to station manager. Later, KYW owner CBS Radio merged with subsequent WIP owner Infinity Broadcasting, and Rayfield had assumed responsibilites for WIP.

I could go into detail about some of the graphic “locker room behavior” that is described in Kanther’s lawsuit, but I won’t. I’ll actually direct readers here. And when you read the alleged comments and actions depicted in the lawsuit, consider this quote from the same lawsuit picked up by this source:

“… Kanther once complained about the discriminatory treatment to another female employee, who in turn told Kanther that the harassment was par for the course, and that ‘that’s always how it has been here’…”

One wonders if WIP employees experienced the same “highly offensive” environment that Kanther has while at KYW. I myself am not alleging, nor confirming, that a similar workplace exists or has existed at WIP. But knowing that Rayfield manages five radio stations – actually, four, when legendary rock station WYSP flipped to a simulcast of what was then known as “Sports Radio 610” and is now known as WIP-FM, though AM 610 occasionally airs programming different from 94.1 FM at times – the immediate thought is whether or not the same behavior can be found in the work environments of all of the radio stations under Rayfield’s watch.

Not to single out WIP specifically, but when you read about the alleged tawdry goings-on at KYW, anyone familiar with Philadelphia radio may immediately ask themselves, “Is this business as usual at WIP?”

In fact, we are coming off of a year in which sports radio personalities have engaged in regrettable behavior, on and off the air. This past spring, former ESPN Radio 1000/Chicago personality Jay Mariotti, who is also seen on ESPN, was arrested in Los Angeles for assaulting his girlfriend. In August, nationally syndicated host Tony Bruno referred to Giants pitcher Ramon Ramirez on Twitter as an “illegal alien pitcher” after a pitch hit a Philles player, ensuing in a benches-clearing brawl. Just this week, we witnessed another lesson in how not to use Twitter as a sports radio personality, as Pittsburgh’s Mark Madden took an unwarranted shot at all women by instructing a female listener to “get in the kitchen, have a kid, dance ’round a pole.” (While the radio station Madden works for has an alternative music format, Madden has a strong sports background.) And, of course, there was the recent fallout with Albany sports radio host Bruce Jacobs and his comments about the WNBA which invoked gay slurs, which was first reported right here on sportsrants.com.

2011 also saw another lawsuit being filed, this one specifically against a sports radio station. Back in March, Jen Royle, reporter for Baltimore’s WJZ-FM “105.7 The Fan” – which is also owned by CBS Radio – hit rival sports station WNST, and its owner and main radio personality, Nestor Aparicio, with a defamation lawsuit stemming from comments Aparicio made on the air about Royle, including, among others, “that she looks like a stripper.” As you can imagine, radio station WNST, like its owner, Nestor, is nicknamed “nasty.” (Royle would drop the lawsuit right before Labor Day.)

And now, this latest lawsuit against one of the people in charge of one of the most well-known sports radio stations in the country.

Again, I’m not holding WIP or any of their personalities accountable. (Even former WIP host Mike Missanelli, who now holds down afternoon drive on rival WPEN-FM “97.5 The Fanatic.”) Yes, the lawsuit revolves around another radio station Rayfield oversees.

But to borrow an old adage, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Name-calling. Gay-bashing. Drunk-tweeting.

These are just some of the examples of things that sports radio can do without.

With all of the ugliness that has taken place amongst the sports radio landscape in 2011, what does 2012 have in store?

Hopefully, more on X’s and O’s, and not so much, T & A.