AUDIO/VIDEO: Don Imus Joins Mike Francesa On WFAN’s 25th Anniversary Show

Don Imus appeared on WFAN for the first time since his firing in 2007, as Mike Francesa brought him in as part of the station's 25th anniversary special. Imus thanked Francesa for putting his "job on the line" in the wake of the comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team that led to his departure from WFAN, as well as MSNBC.

WFAN is celebrating is 25th anniversary. And Mike Francesa has long argued that it would not even have lasted 25 months, had it not been for the show that Don Imus hosted every morning.

So naturally, Francesa welcomed the longtime WFAN morning man, whom he referred to as “my old friend” and “the smartest man I ever knew”, on the program, because as Francesa told listeners on WFAN, as well as viewers on YES Network, “it would not be a 25th anniversary program without” him.

In his first appearance on the station since his controversial ouster five years ago – though his likeness was actually heard on their air back when the station commemmorated their 20th anniversary – Imus, speaking by telephone from New Mexico, began by joking, “I’m out at the ranch currently, trying to figure out how to breathe.”

Certainly, WFAN was able to breathe a little easier ever since the move from AM 1050 to the blowtorch at AM 660.

“Emmis Broadcasting, Jeff Smulyan, I guess he bought ‘NBC,” explained Imus, because ‘FAN had already been established on 1050… which you can’t hear, by the way, if you parked next to the transmitter in your car.”

A laughing Francesa, in perhaps a veiled swipe at his competitor, ESPN Radio, which up until April had only been heard on AM 1050, replied, “That’s true.”

Imus: “So that was moved over then, to where we were at 660, which is where you guys are now, which is one of the great signals in the history of broadcasting; at night, you can hear ‘FAN in 38 states.”

“And then, we inherited you,” Francesa said to Imus.

“At that point, the sports talk thing, which is a great idea – it was Smulyan’s idea, I believe – was not taking off [due to] a number of things; they didn’t have any great talent, I don’t think they did, I don’t want to disparage anybody; and then, they had a horrible signal [on 1050]. So by coming to 660, getting us, I think that’s some decent talent, and then along came you and Mad Dog…”

“And the thing took off,” Francesa added, “thanks to you.

“As I always told people, how do you start a sports talk station? I said, ‘go get Don Imus, that’s the way you start, and you take it from there’, because without you, it never would have got off the ground. You carried us for a long time before any of us figured it out.”

And just as he had told Chris “Mad Dog” Russo earlier, Francesa let it be known that Imus has not only greatly influenced WFAN, but the “Mike And The Mad Dog” show, as well.

“There wouldn’t be a Mike and the Mad Dog, or an ‘FAN, without you,” Francesa informed Imus. “You carried us for a long time before we kinda figured everything out, so this is all credit to you.

“It was a wonderful run that I will never forget, both the years with Dog – which I’ve tried to forget through the years as much as I possibly could – and obviously, the time with you.”

Francesa remembered how, on some days right before his show started, he would spend quality time with Imus in his office, “and someone would come down and talk to us, and we’d have him running down the hall within five minutes.”

“I was a horrible influence on you,” Imus recalled. To which Francesa countered, “You taught me everything I knew, as a matter of fact.

Francesa remembered one morning, in anticipation of WFAN’s move to 660, doing the sports updates for Don Imus’ WNBC-AM show. “You couldn’t have been worse to me if –”

Imus: “That’s not true.”

“You were terrible to me that day.”

“That’s just lies.”

“Oh, you were throwing your gum at me and stuff –”

“That was a form of affection; it had to be.”

“And then after that, you learned to love me, so it’s unbelievable.”

Francesa also reminisced about when he started filling in for the precursor to “Mike And The Mad Dog” on WFAN, Pete Franklin. Imus immediately jumped in with a “Brief Franklin” crack – he had been on the air for about as long as WFAN was on 1050 – then added, “What a psycho.”

Imus then shared what may have been the weirdest moment during his tenure at WFAN – a moment that turned out to be an inpatient stay.

“[Mark] Chernoff was reminding me that one time… at ‘FAN, my lung collapsed when I was on the air.”

Francesa: “Is that true?”

“Yeah. So I’m doing the show, and Bernie and Lou are making fun of me, because I’m gasping for air… I didn’t know what it was… [Joel] Hollander and Chernoff take me to the hospital for a collapsed lung… Long story short, I had to have a lung operation, which was horrible… So Chernoff and Hollander would come see me all the time, they were great… They come over to see me, and they had moved me to another room for some reason. So they go in the room, the beds were all made up. I thought I was dead.”

“No,” Francesa advised Imus, “you got it wrong, they were hoping you were dead… after what you put them through.”

Imus: “They got me on the days I wasn’t drinking and doing drugs.”

Francesa told Imus that he remembered when “Imus In The Morning” emanated right from Imus’ hospital bed. “You went in, got your lung done, and you didn’t miss one show the whole time,” an amazed Francesa remarked. “I think you did a show from the operating room one morning.”

In closing, Imus had heartfelt words for Francesa: “I’ll always appreciate, for the rest of my life, the loyalty of both you and certainly Chernoff, and by the way, Mad Dog… You guys are very standup guys. A lot of people don’t know that you actually put your job on the line and tried to save mine, and I really appreciate it. It all worked out fine and God bless you.”

In April 2007, after WFAN had fired Don Imus as a result of the backlash following his infamous “nappy headed hos” comment, the station had been placing various substitute hosts in morning drive for several months – for the first two weeks of this period, it was none other than Mike and the Mad Dog, who had actually done both the morning shift and their regular afternoon drive program on WFAN later in the day. And while Imus had been dismissed by WFAN and MSNBC, the program was still being syndicated via Westwood One for a short time thereafter, so some listeners across the country – that is, those who didn’t jump ship when Imus got the ax – got to hear “Mike and the Mad Dog” in Imus’ old timeslot – on Imus’ old affiliates.

And while Imus returned to national radio via Citadel (since acquired by Cumulus last year), WFAN is thriving in morning drive with “Boomer And Carton.”

So when Don Imus tells Mike Francesa, “it all worked out fine,” it has – on both sides.

The final words of Don Imus on WFAN on their 25th anniversary, five years after being fired from the station: “May the ‘Fan have 25 more.”

(Click here to watch video of Mike Francesa’s interview with Don Imus from the WFAN 25th anniversary show.)

(Click here to download Mike Francesa’s interview with Don Imus from the WFAN 25th anniversary show.)

AUDIO: Chris Russo Joins Mike Francesa On WFAN's 25th Anniversary Show

Chris "Mad Dog" Russo joined his former radio colleague Mike Francesa on WFAN's 25th anniversary show. The duo ruled afternoon drive during their radio run, which lasted just short of nineteen years.

The last time Mike Francesa and Chris Russo got together was at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis earlier this year. From that appearance, it was as if the afternoon drive show they hosted for nearly two decades on WFAN/New York, “Mike And The Mad Dog,” was still going strong. Their chemistry is that strong.

So, of course, when Russo appeared on a special six-hour Francesa program commemmorating the 25th anniversary of WFAN signing on the air, the two naturally picked up right where they left off.

“Dog and I have actually been apart since August of ’08, but it’s almost like you can flip a switch and start over,” Francesa told WFAN listeners, as well as viewers on YES Network.

“It’s amazing,” Russo affirmed.

Russo spent nearly an hour on Francesa’s program, as he and Francesa reminisced about their long-running WFAN show, which aired from the 5th of September, 1989, through the 5th of August, 2008. None of these years more impactful than year one.

“Our lives changed dramatically that first year,” Francesa told Russo.

“Mike And The Mad Dog” would also impact WFAN in many positive ways – billing being an important one – even though the vibe on the air may have been negative at times.

Said Russo: “I think the first time the fans sort of acknowledged the fact that they liked what they were hearing, it gave us, ‘You know what? If we’re making money, let’s not moan and groan about this. Let’s make it as good as we possibly can’.”

Russo also argued that “Mike And The Mad Dog” had benefitted from local sports teams performing well – especially since, once upon a time, WFAN was the only game in town when it came to radio play-by-play for most teams. There would be no ESPN Radio in New York until Francesa and Russo had their dozenth year in the bag.

“‘FAN became the place to go, because you had all the games on.”

In its inception, WFAN had been broadcasting on AM 1050. Then, NBC put WNBC-AM, along with their entire NBC Radio repertiore on the block. Emmis made an offer, and the rest is history.

“The turn right in the beginning, from changing the station to 660, inheriting Don there, and then having Mike And The Mad dog take off” were the three key variables that Francesa believed contributed to the start of WFAN’s success – “Don,” of course, being Don Imus, a holdover from WNBC-Am.

“Him getting there in ’88 was huge,” Russo said of Imus, “and the switch to 660, too…”

Even though Imus, and Russo, have long since moved on from WFAN, Francesa remarked that both of them will be a part of WFAN’s legacy – even though Imus has set up shop with another radio station and syndicator, and Russo is on SiriusXM Satellite Radio with his own channel bearing his likeness.

“You deserve a tremendous amount of credit,” Francesa said to Russo. “You were an enormous part of this station’s success, and that will never, ever change. This is always home to you, and it always will be.”

While it’s obvious that WFAN was the pioneer in sports radio, it’s amazing just thinking about the head start the station had on the landscape as we know it today (and with two new networks launching this fall, it keeps getting bigger).

“Look at everything out there,” Francesa advised Russo. “There’s so much there that wasn’t there when you and I started. I mean, we pretty much had the first ten years to ourselves… It was pretty much you and me, and that was it.”

“No competition,” Russo responded.

So when will Mike and the “Mad Dog” be together again next? Will it be for WFAN’s 30th anniversary?

If the baseball gods have their way, we may not have to wait that long.”

As he ended his call with Russo, Francesa promised him: “If the Giants and the Yankees make the World Series… we’ll do a show together.”

Now that would be a home run.

Not as deep a home run as WFAN hit on the 1st of July, 25 years ago.

(Click here to download the third hour of WFAN’s 25th anniversary show, which includes all three segments of Russo’s appearance in their entirety. Also appearing on this audio file are former WFAN program director Mark Mason, and three people who had previously produced “Mike And The Mad Dog”: Bob Gelb, Chris Carlin, and Marc Malusis.)

Quarter Flash: WFAN – And Sports Radio – At 25

New York's WFAN, the first 24-hour sports radio station in the country, celebrates its 25th anniversary on July 1. Shown is a billboard from the early '90's, featuring caricatures of the station's iconic morning host, Don Imus, and afternoon duo, Mike Francesa and Chris Russo.

July 1, 1987. 2:55 PM. Disc jockey Dan Taylor was wrapping up not only the country format that had been on AM 1050 for fourteen years, but the WHN callsign that had graced the frequency for 51 of the previous 65 years. In doing so, Taylor wished new station owner Emmis Broadcasting luck with the new format that would be heard on the frequency at the top of the hour: sports talk radio, with the new call letters WFAN. He called the new project “very ambitious” – twice in a six-second period, in fact.

It was in February of 1986 that Emmis Broadcasting – known since 1998 as Emmis Communications – purchased WHN, along with two other stations in New York and Washington, D.C., from Doubleday Broadcasting, who had only purchased WHN two years prior from Mutual Broadcasting. 1986 would prove to be a very hectic year for Doubleday Enterprises, which purchased the New York Mets earlier in the decade: not only would their book publishing practice be sold to Bertelsmann, but the Mets would go on to win the World Series. Coincidentally, the flagship station of the Mets at the time was WHN, which under Emmis’ watch, had added sports talk programming in the evenings. Not necessarily as an accomplice to Mets broadcasts, or to offset nights when the Mets were not playing.

Emmis founder Jeff Smulyan had believed in the concept of a 24-hour sports radio station, going back to his childhood days. “This one,” he says of the format idea, “was my baby.”

And he thought AM 1050, which, according to New York Daily News media columnist David Hinckley, Emmis “had to take as part of the deal” with Doubleday to acquire two FM stations, WAPP (now WKTU) in New York and WAVA in Washington, would be the perfect breeding ground for that “baby” of his.

So in early 1987, Smulyan, along with three future presidents, if you will – two top company executives, Doyle Rose, who would become president of Emmis’ radio division the very next year, and hold that title for over two decades, and Steven Crane, a good friend of Smulyan’s (I’d use the term “BFF” but it didn’t exist back in 1987) who would later become president of Emmis International; as well as company sales manager Joel Hollander, who, after a future stint as VP/GM of WFAN, would become the president of future WFAN owner CBS Radio for what would turn out to be five tumultuous years in the ’00’s – convened in a coffee shop in Manhattan to discuss the future of the 1050 frequency.

“We felt there was no future in country music on AM,” said Smulyan in a conference call telephone interview with radio trade publication Radio Ink.

Of course, we would find out over the course of the next quarter-century that, not only was there no future in any music format on AM in general, but the future of spoken word formats, which once dominated the AM band, would be joining, if not replacing, music formats on the FM band in leaps and bounds.

Including the sports talk radio format that Smulyan believed in – but most of his peers back in 1987 did not.

“We had a managers meeting,” Smulyan recalled. “It was sort of overwhelmingly voted down.”

Rick Cummings, who served under the title of National Program Director for Emmis back in 1987 – and would eventually succeed Rose as the president of Emmis’ radio division in 2002 – was with Smulyan on that conference call and remembered his exact statement on the concept of 24-hour sports talk radio: “It’ll never work.”

Indeed, Cummings was pessimistic that there would be little demand for an all-sports station in two of the most important facets of radio. “From an operational standpoint, it was going to be extremely expensive to do,” said Cummings, who also thought that “from a ratings standpoint,” sports radio would be as equally harrowing to launch as “a music station.” He also recalled how research failed to dictate the need for a sports radio station at the time.

The day after that managers meeting, according to Smulyan, he received some apologies from Cummings and Rose – with a side of approval.

“We feel bad for you. We feel like we owe you one. It’s still a stupid idea. But let’s do it.”

And so, they did.

At 3 PM on July 1, 1987. Right after the final record on WHN played, Ray Price’s “For The Good Times.”

While the good times would eventually roll for WFAN as a sports station, it was not so much in its initial year of existence. “It was a struggle,” Smulyan said, who reminisced about hearing the first several days of the first sports radio station in the country, while vacationing with his family in the Hamptons for the Fourth of July holiday. “For the first year, it was really pretty dead.”

As much as it may have been a struggle to hear WFAN’s first weeks on the air, it was equally a struggle to sell the format to advertisers. Smulyan remembered sampling commercial breaks on WFAN in the fall of 1987 and “hearing a particularly marginal spot for do-it-yourself funerals or wills… We ran it every twelve minutes.” That would lead Smulyan to tell the general manager of WFAN at the time, Stewart Lane, “Gosh, I don’t know how much they’re paying us for that spot, but it’s not enough.” (In other words, it was an episode of “WKRP In Cincinnati” come to life.)

The early talent pool on WFAN was modest. Greg Gumbel was their first morning drive host, while Jim Lampley, who hosted the very first sports talk program on WFAN on the afternoon of July 1, 1987, eventually migrated to middays to make way for Pete Franklin. Smulyan remembers bringing Franklin, whom he labeled “probably the most iconic sports host in America,” in from Cleveland, where he had hosted the popular “Sportsline” program every afternoon for fifteen years on WWWE, nicknamed “3WE” (these days, going by the callsign WTAM). He agreed to a two-year deal to duplicate his success in afternoon drive in Market No. 1.

“Pete laid one of the giant eggs of all time in New York City,” recalled Smulyan. “He was awful.” (Dare I say it, real life radio in New York City imitating yet another episode of the fictitious “WKRP.”)

WFAN’s loss in Franklin, who quit with a few months remaining on his contract, would result in their pivotal gain in “Mike And The Mad Dog,” the quintessential New York sports talk show that would be WFAN’s benchmark for nearly two decades. And while Chris “Mad Dog” Russo left for satellite radio, Mike Francesa still holds down afternoons to this day – though the two cross paths every now and then.

Cummings described the early years of “Mike And The Mad Dog” as “pretty significant failure in the first year to pretty quick success after that.” A turnaround, more or less, mirroring WFAN’s financial status from their first year, in which they lost as much as $4 million, according to Cummings. In fact, he commended Francesa and Russo for “influencing advertising buys” on the station, contributing to the first phases of their financial success with the format.

And while Smulyan credited Francesa and Russo for “clearly” contributing to the station’s identity, “Imus gave that station tremendous, tremendous credibility.”

And it was an equally tremendous transaction in 1988 – Emmis’ purchase of 66 WNBC-AM from NBC, upon General Electric’s acquisition of NBC – that not only gave WFAN a more powerful signal at 660 AM, but would grant them their new morning host in Don Imus, whom Smulyan admitted coveting even before WFAN launched in 1987, as his program, which had been heard on WNBC-AM, shared the same 35-54 male demographic as WFAN’s all-sports format (“he owned that demographic”).

Smulyan called the Don Imus era on WFAN “the perfect marriage, even though Imus didn’t spent most of the time talking about sports.”

Of course, there was that controversial moment in the spring of 2007 when Imus, in making an effort to talk sports – specifically, the Rutgers women’s basketball team – used a poor choice of wording which resulted in defamation, and eventually, the end of his tenure at WFAN. But much like the successors of Pete Franklin, whose hire in and of itself was a poor choice, CBS seems to be satisfied with the successors to Imus in the morning, Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton.

WFAN would discover many notable names over its first twenty-five years on the air: Mike Breen, Scott Ferrall, Chris Carlin and Linda Cohn, just to name a few. Many of these folks would eventually move on to other opportunities – or, in the case of Gregg Giannotti and Adam Gerstenhaber, a.k.a. “Adam The Bull,” other brand new sports radio stations that CBS Radio would be launching in other markets. And any host, guest host, or “20/20 Sports” update anchor could tell you that they were grateful for the opportunities that they had at WFAN. (Okay – almost everybody.)

As the innovator of the sports radio format, WFAN was never afraid to try new things. The “20/20 Sports” updates, given every twenty minutes at twenty-minute increments of the hour, would be the device that WFAN would use to deliver sports news and information to listeners. It was inspired, according to Smulyan, by the wildly popular success of SportsPhone, which dispensed up-to-the-minute sports scores to callers in less than a minute. With the advent of the Internet, the evolution of how people get sports scores has altered dramatically – and thanks to consolidation and other financial factors, the sports anchor on a TV newscast is slowly becoming a thing of the past. And while ESPN Radio, the leading national sports radio network, has all but phased out full-time sports update anchors (example: Mike and Mike reading sports scores), that position still exists at WFAN.

In its infancy, WFAN would integrate radio calls of “great moments in sports” into their legal ID’s. Prior to the first voice heard on WFAN, Suzyn Waldman – who is currently the color commentator for New York Yankees radio broadcasts alongside John Sterling – cracked that mic and said, “Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to the first broadcast of WFAN, all-sports 1050. You’re sharing a part of radio history with us today. This is the beginning of the first 24-hour-a-day sports station,” WFAN would play a legal ID spotlighting the New York Jets winning Super Bowl III.

“That was a great idea,” Cummings said of playing classic sports calls at the top of the hour, “that worn out in about the first 48 hours.”

“And I still thought it was the best idea of all time,” countered Smulyan.

While that legal ID idea might be tacky in retrospect, the concept of sports radio, while frowned upon 25 years ago, is certainly paying dividends in 2012 – a year that will see the creation of two new national sports radio networks to go along with the three preexisting major national sports radio networks, led by ESPN Radio and its 600+ affiliates.

In fact, over the last decade, the number of sports radio stations across the country has dramatically grown, with a figure of 634 recorded in 2010. When you factor in ESPN’s current tally of over 600 stations, Fox Sports Radio’s 400+, over 150 for Yahoo! Sports Radio, dozens involved with the new CBS Sports Radio, and some who will carry NBC Sports Radio Network programming, even if stations in this mix jump from one sports radio provider to another, you’re looking at over 1,000 radio stations dedicated to the sports radio format.

Quite a far cry from just one twenty-five years ago.

And WFAN’s finances, which bled $4 million in its first year on the air, is nothing to laugh at these days. In fact, they are a billing heavyweight, consistently ranking in the top ten billing radio stations in New York City, if not the entire United States, for years. And per advertising research firm BIA/Kelsey, for the first quarter of this year – perhaps enabled by another Super Bowl season for the New York Giants, whom have called WFAN home since the turn of the millennium – the station ranked number one in billing for all New York radio stations.

Mind you, not one penny of that revenue comes from a “do-it-yourself funeral” chain these days.

The secret to WFAN’s success is anything but a secret, what with hundreds of radio stations (and networks, it seems) aping their approach. But the winning formula, Smulyan says, is “information” – consisting of the aforementioned “20/20 Sports” updates and breaking sports news – and “entertainment” – knowledgeable, friendly hosts discussing sports news with guests and/or listeners. It’s a formula that CBS Radio has adhered to since purchasing WFAN from Emmis in 1992 for $75 million.

Aside from that formula, there are three on-air constants that remain on WFAN since they signed on in 1987: Steve Somers, the Fan’s original overnight host, who now handles the evening daypart; the ’80’s-era imaging on the station; and of course, play-by-play of the baseball team that they inherited from the country days as WHN, the New York Mets.

Of course, that relationship might come to an end after this year. And how ironic would it be if the first voice on WFAN would be heard every day on the station by way of Yankees broadcasts, 25 years after the fact? Now that would be quite a homecoming.

And it will be a homecoming for some of the people who have called WFAN home over the last twenty-five years, as Dave Sims (who currently calls “Sunday Night Football” radio broadcasts, as well as Seattle Mariners play-by-play on TV), Len Berman (longtime WNBC-TV sports anchor who once co-hosted a show on WFAN in the ’90’s with Daily News columnist, and current afternoon host on rival ESPN 98.7, Mike Lupica) and Spencer Ross (one of the original WFAN hosts), among others, will return to the airwaves of The FAN on July 1, where they will reflect on the station’s past, and perhaps revert to their previous roles and talk present-day sports. In addition, Somers will host a four-hour program on the afternoon of Saturday, June 30, and the day before that, Francesa will host a special six-hour show (not necessarily unprecedented since his regular shift is five-and-a-half hours) commemmorating the station’s 25th anniversary.

WFAN will be able to spend that time, and more, during afternoon hours on WFAN’s anniversary weekend, since the Mets will be in Los Angeles to play the Dodgers. And how’s this for another twist of irony: On the weekend that WFAN turns 25, the baseball team that they currently hold broadcast rights to, the New York Mets, will be playing a franchise that, up until 1957, played in Brooklyn – and whose games were heard for nearly twenty years on AM 1050.

Who knew that, some three decades after the Bums packed up the truck and moved to Beverly, a 24-hour sports radio station, with the Mets, and more – the first of what would be a multiplying breed – would unfold on that frequency.

“When we put ‘FAN on the air, people thought we were nuts.”

Twenty-five years later, everybody – from programmers, to advertisers, and of course, the fans – is crazy about sports radio.

And not just Jeff Smulyan.

Happy 25th birthday to his baby.

(Click here to read a timeline of WFAN’s first 25 years via their website. Note: CBS Radio websites tend to get all Drudge-y and refresh every five minutes.)

Mike Francesa Sic'ed By Former Partner "Mad Dog" Russo On Radio Row

No, you're not seeing - or hearing - things: Mike Francesa was joined by his old on-air companion of twenty years, Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, for a colorful discussion today on Francesa's WFAN radio/YES Network television show. Francesa later returned the favor on Russo's "Mad Dog Unleashed" program on Sirius XM's "Mad Dog Radio" channel.

“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, good afternoon, everybody!”

That was the popular greeting on New York sports radio for two decades by Chris Russo on the “Mike And The Mad Dog” program. Of course, Russo left WFAN for a new challnge at Sirius XM Satellite Radio, in which he is now in his fourth year as host at the “Mad Dog Radio” channel. Since then, Mike Francesa had sailed solo on WFAN, with a show renamed “Mike’d Up” for about four years, and now “Mike’s On” for about four months.

With both Russo’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” show and Francesa’s “Mike’s On” on location in Indianapolis for Super Bowl Week – WFAN is the flagship station of the New York Giants, who are in this year’s big game – there were rumors early on that the two would get together and do a segment.

And so, for the first time in over two years, since both of their respective shows crossed paths at Yankee Stadium, Francesa and Russo were together again, in person (Russo phoned into Francesa’s show in 2010 after the San Francisco Giants, Russo’s favorite baseball team, won the World Series; that was the last time both have talked to each other, at least with millions listening in).

There were a few exchanges during the fifteen-minute conversation (click here to watch video in a new window) that were amusing. One started with Francesa invoking an ugly ordeal involving Russo last year: he had went to Port Charlotte, Florida for an interview with Yankees skipper Joe Girardi, but Girardi was a no-show. “Are you going to spring training this year, and then blame us for not getting into the building?”, Francesa asked Russo. “I’m getting blamed for you being in spring training… I didn’t even know you were in Florida!”

Russo responded by telling listeners (and viewers on YES Network): “It wasn’t Mike’s fault.” And he’s right. True, in the past, Francesa’s employer had issued a mandate that Russo may not broadcast his show live from Yankee Stadium or the Mets’ ballpark, CitiField. But Francesa had absolutely nothing to do with Girardi blowing off Russo in Florida last year.

The Mets also came up in conversation, as well. “You have a good job,” Russo told Francesa, “[but] you have nothing with the Mets now, you’re dead.” WFAN is also the flagship station of Mets baseball, and has been well before “Mike And The Mad Dog” went on the air (and there’s a possibility that the relationship may come to an end after the 2012 season).

“The Mets,” Francesa opined, “you feel bad for them… I wish something would happen.”

Russo also asked Francesa about Kim Jones, a WFAN contributor who just recently parted ways with YES Network as the pregame, postgame, and in-game reporter for Yankees games. “[New York Daily News sports media columnist Bob] Raissman wrote [about Jones leaving], didn’t he?”, Francesa asked Russo. “You probably gave it to him… if you don’t talk to Raissman, he’s got nothing!” Russo: “I dig that one… Funny!”

The top of the 2 PM (ET) hour was approaching, which meant Russo’s “Unleashed” show for the day would begin, so it was time for the Francesa/Russo reunion to come to an end – though Francesa would appear hours later on Russo’s radio show as soon as he finished up his WFAN/YES business.

“Dog has his show now,” Francesa told listeners/viewers, “but he don’t care, he’ll stay here.”

An animated Russo shot back: “I got some calls!”

To which Francesa, painting a picture of the demographic that calls Russo’s Sirius XM show, replied: “We’ll get one from the Eastern time zone.”

Parting in such sweet sorrow.

Ain’t that right, Mikey?

What a “good afternoon” for New York sports radio.

Mike Francesa No Longer "Mike'd Up" On WFAN

Starting this week, WFAN will need to change the title of their afternoon radio show hosted by Mike Francesa, since they could not come to an agreement with WNBC-TV for the rights to the name "Mike'd Up." Oh, by the way: Francesa has not hosted the WNBC show of the same name since last summer.

Do you remember the first time you heard “Houses Of The Holy” by Led Zeppelin?

When I first heard the song, I discovered that there was an album by Led Zeppelin, also titled “Houses Of The Holy.” Only to find out that the song I had anticipated owning my own copy of was not on that album. It was originally intended to appear on the 1973 album, but the band decided it didn’t fit with the theme of the rest of the album, so it was left on the cutting room floor, only to be released on a subsequent album, 1975’s “Physical Graffiti.”

Such is the feeling you’ll get if you’re a viewer of WNBC-TV’s Sunday night sports program, “Mike’d Up.”

Especially moreso since the program’s original host, WFAN’s Mike Francesa, officially left the program citing the desire to spend more time with his children.

Bowing on Labor Day Weekend 2003, “Mike’d Up” – subtitled “The Francesa Sports Final” – featured Francesa delivering real-time reaction to significant local and national sports stories of the day, and perhaps the week prior. However, during the summer months, WNBC-TV sports anchor Bruce Beck would host “Mike’d Up” as Francesa took his usual summer sabbatical away from television as well as the radio show, even when Chris “Mad Dog” Russo co-hosted the WFAN afternoon drive program up until 2008.

The decision for Francesa to relinquish his WNBC-TV show full-time was eyebrow-raising, in that the announcement came just three months after he proclaimed that he would be reducing his “Mike’d Up” TV duties from three dozen weeks per year to two dozen, mostly during football season.

Equally eyebrow-raising is the fact that, despite Francesa no longer appearing on WNBC-TV’s air, WNBC-TV has retained the rights to the “Mike’d Up” title.

As a result, WFAN – owned by CBS Radio – can no longer call Francesa’s radio show “Mike’d Up.”

Francesa disclosed on his “NFL Now” Sunday morning program on WFAN, and reiterated on his daily radio show (simulcast on YES Network) on Monday, that WFAN “and NBC could not come to an agreement.”

This also means that WFAN must now work on a new opening jingle for the show. Monday’s radio show started with a cold open, with Francesa explaining there was “no jingle today” because things were “in flux” at the moment. (AUDIO: Hear Francesa’s WFAN cold show open here.) He said that a new jingle should debut on Tuesday’s show. As far as what WFAN’s Francesa show will be called, it was expected to be “Francesa on The FAN,” which had been the subtitle of the program during WFAN’s “Mike’d Up” era – WFAN sports anchors referred to the afternoon show as such during sports updates on Monday – but Francesa disclosed on Sunday that “we have a new one ready to go,” including a corresponding jingle, but it needs approval from attorneys before going forward.

This begs the obvious question: Why in the world would WNBC need to hold onto the “Mike’d Up” name, when Francesa is no longer on WNBC, and has not been for half a year and counting? Perhaps they’re grooming a full-time replacement on the Sunday night show, who just happens to be named Mike? Or could they be saving it for a new show hosted by “Today In New York” co-anchor Michael Gargiulo? Hey – the Mayor of New York City is also named Mike… There are several possibilities as to why WNBC would choose to retain the name and not allow WFAN to use it for Francesa’s radio show – the most popular of which could be spite. There does not appear to be any bad blood between Francesa and WNBC; perhaps Francesa’s decision to scale back his WNBC duties to a half-year, before abruptly deciding to leave WNBC just three months later, did not sit well with WNBC.

There is no word on when WNBC’s ownership of the phrase “Mike’d Up” expires. Also, a search for the trademark of the phrase shows it was registered in September 2003, at around the time the WNBC show debuted, and is currently listed as “dead” with a 2010 expiration date.

For those outside the New York City area, Mike Francesa is known for his grandstanding demeanor, especially against listeners that call his show. This is why New York Daily News sports media columnist Bob Raissman has affectionately nicknamed Francesa “The Sports Pope.”

Maybe “Houses Of The Holy” should be the new name for his WFAN show after all.

UPDATE: As of Tuesday, January 17, the new name of Francesa’s WFAN program is “Mike’s On.” The new theme song sounds exactly like the old theme song, with the singers saying “Mike’s On” in the parts of the song where “Mike’d Up” had been said. Listen to the new Mike Francesa WFAN program theme song here. And hear the open of the first show in the “Mike’s On” era here.

WFAN's Mike Francesa Hints At Retirement

New York sports radio host Mike Francesa, one of the most polarizing figures in the format, is planning to leave radio in 2014 - but he assures that he's only "leaning" at the moment.

I tip my hat to Newsday sports media writer Neil Best for this scoop.

Mike Francesa, the longtime afternoon drive host at WFAN in New York, has disclosed to Newsday that he is “leaning toward leaving” the station when his contract expires in two years. It was originally set to expire next year, but he agreed to continue up until at least February of 2014 – when New York (or, if you prefer, New Jersey) hosts their first Super Bowl.

“That could be an interesting backdrop if that was going to be it,” Francesa said upon his final radio show possibly being broadcast amid the big game at MetLife Stadium. “It would be a fun way to leave if that’s the end.”

And it most likely would be the end for Francesa on the New York radio dial. When asked by Newsday if he would consider taking a job at WFAN rival WEPN “ESPN New York 1050,” Francesa said he “would never do that.”

For close to two decades starting in 1989, Francesa was paired with Chris Russo on the “Mike And The Mad Dog” radio program that was so popular, not only did it enjoy a video simulcast on YES Network, the regional sports network owned by the New York Yankees, but for a time, it was also syndicated regionally in markets such as Albany and Tampa.

When Russo left WFAN to embark on a new journey with Sirius Satellite Radio (now known as SiriusXM) as a personality and program director of the “Mad Dog Radio” channel, Francesa remained on WFAN in the same time slot, and the show, renamed “Mike’d Up” – which remains on YES Network – still achieves ratings success.

But there are three reasons why Francesa would gladly give it up – three young children that he is raising with his wife, Rose: twins Jack and Emily, who will turn 7 later this month; and 5-year-old son Harrison James (no word if a popular Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker inspired that kid’s name).

Yet Francesa remained steadfast that retirement is but a thought, and not set in stone. “I’m leaning [toward it],” says the 57-year-old Long Island resident. “I’m not here making any proclamations. I have a lot to think about… But I don’t see me doing nothing. I don’t think I’m cut out to do nothing. I just don’t know what I see me doing.”

One may get the feeling that this premature retirement talk from Francesa might be a ploy for his employer, CBS Radio – which owns WFAN – to put together a juicier contract with more money, and perhaps more vacation time – time that can be used spending with his three kids.

And there is always the possibility of Francesa receiving an even juicier offer from satellite radio – where his former on-air partner now makes a living.

As far as a possible reunion with Russo on SiriusXM, Francesa said bluntly, “I would say there’s a better chance that the Mets win the pennant.”

Certainly, the person WFAN eventually hires to fill Francesa’s shoes had better be amazin’.