Steel Dreams: Pittsburgh's "93.7 The Fan" Opens Airshift Up To The Listeners

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pittsburgh's "93.7 The Fan" will be holding public auditions for future air talent at various Steel City locations. The winner will be selected on the air on June 27. The process is similar to New York sister sports station WFAN's "Fantasy Phenom" contest, which current WFAN host John Jastremski (shown with Mike Francesa) won in 2011.

Pittsburgh’s “93.7 The Fan” will be holding public auditions for future air talent at various Steel City locations. The winner will be selected on the air on June 27. The process is similar to New York sister sports station WFAN’s “Fantasy Phenom” contest, which current WFAN host John Jastremski (shown with Mike Francesa) won in 2011.

Pittsburgh’s three-year-old FM sports talker, KDKA-FM/”93.7 The Fan,” is seeking an actual fan to host a weekly show.

The station has organized a contest, “The Next Fan Host,” which invites residents of the area, aged 18 or older, to show up at any of five designated locations, starting with Beer And Pop 4 Less this Saturday afternoon, or any of four other taverns, eateries or wireless phone stores over four nights between May 29 and June 18.

All they’re required to do is give opinions on the hot sports topics of the day (you know, kinda like what we do here at SportsRants).

The ten best entrants from these open auditions will be selected to compete in a semifinal round, with the top four advancing to a live final during Andrew Fillipponi’s nighttime show on Thursday, June 27.

If this process sounds familiar, it’s because KDKA-FM’s parent company, CBS Radio, has been implementing this concept at the original “Fan” of sports radio, New York’s 660 AM/101.9 FM WFAN. Dubbed “Fantasy Phenom,” the grand prize is the same as that of Pittsburgh’s “Next Fan Host” contest: a position on the iconic sports radio station for a year.

And it appears that all three “Phenom” winners are still with WFAN in some capacity. The first winner, Gregg Sussman, is still listed on WFAN’s website, as he occasionally can be heard doing weekend and swing duties; he’s still overseeing sports talk programming on a college radio station in Maryland, according to his LinkedIn page.

The second “Phenom” champion, John Jastremski, is the most visible of the contest’s three winners by far. He’s heard regularly on overnights, usually on weekends, and has also been heard nationwide on the CBS Sports Radio Network. And here’s a scary thought: just last week, he celebrated his 25th birthday – which makes the radio station he works for slightly one year older than him. But when you listen to “JJ After Dark,” with the energy in and on the air, you forget that you’re listening to a 26-year-old radio station – one that’s been an AM station for most of its existence (and CBS Radio is looking to fix that, in due time).

The announcement of last year’s “Phenom” champ, Joe Giglio, was about as low-key as his current association with WFAN, where his presence is mostly through a weekly column on the station’s website. But for the lead baseball writer of Bleacher Report, that’s fine with him.

There’s no plans currently available for a “Fantasy Phenom 4” contest, which would be the first one held during WFAN’s history on FM, but you can expect them to be unveiled sometime next month.

As for who will decide “The Next Fan Host” in Pittsburgh, I can’t help but wonder if “93.7 The Fan” morning co-host Gregg Giannotti – an alumnus of WFAN who has been with KDKA-FM since its inception in February 2010 – will somehow have a say in it.

Details on the contest, as well as the official rules, can be found here.

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ESPN New York Radio Host Convinced Rangers Played Penguins In NHL Playoffs (Audio)

 

 

 

 

 

 

What game was Robin Lundberg watching? The early-morning host on ESPN Radio 98.7, the New York Rangers' flagship station, said several times on the air that they had played the Penguins in the playoffs, when they were actually playing the Capitals.

What game was Robin Lundberg watching? The early-morning host on ESPN Radio 98.7, the New York Rangers’ flagship station, said several times on the air that they had played the Penguins in the playoffs, when they were actually playing the Capitals.

The National Hockey League has seen more than its share of disrespect in the media. We’ve already experienced the botching of team players and the botching of team logos.

But what was heard early Thursday morning on New York’s ESPN Radio 98.7 really takes the cake.

Robin Lundberg, who hosts a daily, one-hour show at 3 AM – I’ll give them credit for putting on live, local talent in overnight hours, but just one hour? Come on – had asked listeners several times to comment on the previous night’s playoff game between the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. (They’re actually playing the Washington Capitals.)

Mind you, ESPN 98.7 is only the flagship station of the Rangers.

So for Lundberg to make this mistake not once, not twice, not three times, but four times in twenty minutes probably won’t sit well with hockey purists, much less Rangers fans.

Click here to listen to an audio montage – the slip-ups are at 2:10, 3:15, 4:48 and 5:15.

The most baffling of these gaffes has to be the third one, which follows a minute-long conversation with his producer who provided insight on Game 4 of the Rangers/Capitals series. At two points (4:15 and 4:35) during the chat, Chris Mitchell mentions “the Capitals.” Seconds later, Lundberg takes a call and asks him, “What were you watching? Heat/Bulls or Rangers/Penguins?”

It took a tweet halfway through Lundberg’s one-hour show informing him of his repeated mistake. Then and only then did he acknowledge, “I know that. I misspoke because the Islanders play the Penguins” on Thursday night, in a playoff game that will actually air on ESPN 98.7 (the Islanders’ usual radio home is Hofstra University’s 88.7 WRHU).

If you “misspeak” one time, fine. But to do so four times in 50% of your radio show (did I mention it’s only an hour long?), all while assuring listeners, “I’m not trying to insult any hockey fans” (2:55), is downright mind-boggling.

You saw the Rangers game, Robin Lundberg. You said so several times on your program. But it looks like you weren’t paying enough attention to the Rangers’ opponent in that game.

I wonder if he’s going to Habib “Islanders/Capitals” on his next show.

Mike Francesa Talks Islanders Hockey, And A Fight With Michael Kay Breaks Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEPN/New York's Michael Kay thought it was a mistake for his rival, WFAN's Mike Francesa, who beats him handily in the ratings, to open his show by talking about the New York Islanders.

WEPN/New York’s Michael Kay thought it was a mistake for his rival, WFAN’s Mike Francesa, who beats him handily in the ratings, to open his show by talking about the New York Islanders.

Mike Francesa is the most popular sports radio host in New York. In fact, he’s strong enough to carry a list of sports talkers coast-to-coast.

So it probably doesn’t matter if he even watches hockey, let alone discuss the NHL on his show.

On Wednesday’s edition of his WFAN radio/YES Network program, he actually did something that few people expected him to do: Not only did he talk about the New York Islanders, in the midst of a first-round series, tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins at two games apiece, he actually led his show with the Brooklyn-bound NHL squad.

Perhaps it was because center John Tavares, who scored in two straight playoff games, was scheduled to appear on Francesa’s program in the first half-hour.

“John Tavares on with Francesa in the first segment of the show? After a Knicks win? That’s big time,” tweeted known sports radio tweaker @AirChecked.

But there was a big-time tweaking at Francesa a couple of hours later from the fingertips of his rival, WEPN/”ESPN 98.7″ afternoon host Michael Kay:

And yes, at one point, Francesa actually fielded a call from a listener asking him of he was aware of what people on Twitter were saying about him and his radio opponent.

Anyway, here’s more Twitter feedback regarding Francesa vs. Kay:

Hoosier New PD Of Sports Radio And "Soft Rock" In Indianapolis? It's Greg Rakestraw

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veteran sports broadcaster Greg Rakestraw, shown here with Marian University president Dan Elsener, is the new program director for "1070 The Fan" in Indianapolis. He had previously served as PD of another sports radio station in Indy from 2002-2009.

Veteran sports broadcaster Greg Rakestraw, shown here with Marian University president Dan Elsener, is the new program director for “1070 The Fan” in Indianapolis. He had previously served as PD of another sports radio station in Indy from 2002-2009.

Once in awhile, there will be a sports broadcaster that will land in a market, and work a host of sporting events in the area. In New York, it was Marv Albert. In Los Angeles, it was Dick Enberg.

And in Indiana, the person that best fits this description could be Greg Rakestraw.

His play-by-play resume consists mostly of college athletics; you may have seen him calling a game on ESPNU. He’s also served as pregame and postgame host on the Indianapolis Colts radio network, based at WFNI-AM/”1070 The Fan.” He’s actually been aligned with the station for a couple of years. Prior to, he had toiled at two other sports radio stations in Indy: WNDE-AM 1260, where he was a producer and reporter from 1996 until 2000; and WXLW-AM 950, the market’s former ESPN Radio affiliate, where he had been a jack of all trades, notably program director, for seven years (2002-2009).

Indy’s current ESPN Radio affiliate, Emmis Communications’ “1070 The Fan,” recently launched an FM translator at 107.5 FM which simulcasts some local programming, and also clears some shows from “the mothership”; local hosts on 1070 include ESPN announcer Dan Dakich.

Some of Rakestraw’s tasks at “The Fan” since 2011 include subbing for Dakich’s midday show, as well as the afternoon program hosted by John Michael Vincent (best known by his initials, “JMV”) when neither host is available for whatever reason. He’s also maintained a blog on the “Fan” website, titled “Rake’s Take.”

And now, Rake has but a giant take: he’s taking the program director position at the “Fan” tandem, a return to the PD chair for the revered local personality.

And even if he isn’t taking calls or doing play-by-play, Rakestraw will have a say in what you hear on the stations somehow.

“If you hear it on the air, Greg one way or another will have influence over it,” commented Bob Richards, the operations manager for Emmis’ cluster in Indianapolis, which includes WYXB-FM/”Soft Rock 105.7″.

In fact, as an added bonus, Rakestraw will be given the keys to operate the adult contemporary formatted music station as well.

This must be a first: a female-targeted music station that will be programmed by a man who’s worked in sports broadcasting for the last two decades. While the idea may sound far-fetched, it’s the current economics of the radio business that mostly dictates one person being a PD for two or more radio stations, regardless of the stations’ individual formats, and regardless of the programmers’ background in formats on radio.

That being said, Rakestraw’s following across the Hoosier State, combined with “Soft Rock 105.7” usually being the top-rated radio station in Indianapolis not playing country music, should make for a winning team. It’ll be an odd pairing, but with Rake’s involvement in the station, they should continue holding their own.

As for Emmis’ other station in the Indianapolis market, news/talk WIBC, which had been heard for seven decades at AM 1070 before migrating to 93.1 FM, their new PD is the old “Fan” PD, David Wood. So the entire cluster will not be under Rake’s watch. But something tells me he would be open to the challenge.

I’m sure Greg Rakestraw would somehow find a way to balance Steve Simpson, high school basketball, and Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love.”

Mike Francesa Attended Easter Mass At A Long Island Church (Photos)

 

 

 

 

 

 

WFAN/YES Network's Mike Francesa appeared at a Manhasset church for Easter Sunday mass.

WFAN/YES Network’s Mike Francesa appeared at a Manhasset church for Easter Sunday mass.

Yes, today is April 1.

However, this year, April Fool’s Day happens to fall right after Easter Sunday.

And there just so happens to be a couple of photos circulating of Mike Francesa attending an Easter Sunday mass at a Manhasset, Long Island church.

One reason to be skeptical is that being largely unavailable to the public is one of Francesa’s specialties. And even when he does make a public appearance, he can’t get any peace and quiet, it seems.

But according to one of Francesa’s fellow parishioners, it doesn’t seem like there was any holy hecklement hurled his way. In fact, he even sang along with some of the psalms, says the testamental tipster.

Rather than scare him away by saying “hello,” he decided to stealthily snap a couple of photos and send them in to Barstool Sports. (It’s important to point out that Barstool has the original photos, because, well, I don’t want to be accused of ripping them off, or anything.)

And if it was a doppelganger that looked a lot like Mike Francesa and not the “Sports Pope” himself? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time he punked us (or he would have you believe, anyway).

Female Sports Radio Hosts Should Not Be An Endangered Species

 

 

 

 

 

 

Atlanta is one of the few markets where there are multiple females on the air on local sports radio, including Rachel Baribeau, co-host of the afternoon program on "92.9 The Game," which has had a female voice on both its "drive time" shows since its inception last fall.

Atlanta is one of the few markets where there are multiple females on the air on local sports radio, including Rachel Baribeau, co-host of the afternoon program on “92.9 The Game,” which has had a female voice on both its “drive time” shows since its inception last fall.

After four months on the air, there is already a talent change at Atlanta’s FM sports talker, WZGC-FM/”92.9 The Game.”

No, the station isn’t in as bad a shape as their sister station down Route 41. In fact, the move was completely on the host’s volition. C.J. Simpson, one-third of The Game’s “Opening Drive” morning show with Rick Kamla and Randy Cross, is leaving Atlanta to become a studio host for Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA) broadcasts on Time Warner Cable SportsNet.

Simpson’s replacement? Another woman: Kristen Ledlow, who has been the Atlanta-based field reporter for Fox Sports’ NEXT website, formerly known as Scout.com.

This means the number of female on-air hosts at “The Game” remains at two, with Rachel Baribeau continuing to co-host the station’s “Game Time” afternoon drive show with Carl Dukes and Kordell Stewart.

It’s certainly rare for a sports radio station in any city, let alone a major market such as Atlanta, employ two female hosts full-time.

But believe it or not, these “Game” birds are not alone: before “The Game” signed on last fall to become Atlanta’s third all-sports station, Sandra Golden had been heard on the others: first on the WQXI/”790 The Zone” morning show for five years starting in 2004, and later joining WCNN/”680 The Fan” in the same daypart in 2011; she’s since transitioned to a new midday show, “The Front Row,” which kicked off just this month.

Which means there is at least one female voice on Atlanta sports radio for all but a couple of hours during the day.

And in a medium dominated by males – if you need any proof, Golden was the lone female that made the first-ever Talkers Magazine “Sports Radio Heavy Hundred” list last year – why not welcome more personalities of the female persuasion into the field?

On national sports radio networks, you can hear Amy Van Dyken co-hosting Fox Sports Radio’s weeknight program. The current lineup on ESPN Radio is virtually exclusively male, but in the past, Amy Lawrence was heard on their air; she now does weekends on the new CBS Sports Radio network, which actually has three female hosts on their roster: in addition to Lawrence, Dana Jacobson is one-third of their “TBD In The A.M.” morning show. Also, not long after WFAN/New York personality Marc Malusis started his Saturday morning program for CBSSR, they quietly added Sports Illustrated’s Maggie Gray as a co-host; the program is now known as “The Moose And Maggie Show.” Cute. In addition, NBC Sports Radio has given veteran Baltimore sports radio figure Anita Marks a show on weekends.

I must say it’s a good sign to have four female talents among two brand new national sports radio networks right out of the gate – of course, with CBS giving shows to three females, including one in the major daypart of morning drive, that to me is pretty damn impressive.

But as far as sports radio on a local scale is concerned, it really needs to get in touch with its feminine side.

On the Internet radio station that’s affiliated with this website, SportsRantz Radio, there are at least four or five female hosts at any given time, including Katy Mitchel from “The Rantin’ And Ravin’ Show,” Kristina Chambers from “Slicks And Sticks,” Amy Gist from “The Siren1363 Radio Show,” and Robyn Vandenberg from “The Sports Breakdown.”

Now, the point I’m about to make is not intended in any way to diss the aforementioned, or the radio station, or this website, or the man who makes this all possible, Anthony DiMoro.

But… It’s sad how no sports talk stations on terrestrial radio have hired four female on-air talents. Of course, we have one market, plus a new national network, that have three of them, so it’s progress. But shouldn’t we be at a point where there’s at least one female on-air host in several of the top major markets – and not just Internet radio?

And I’m not saying they should put them on the air, just to fulfill a quota, or we hear a female’s voice “for a change.” Of course, they should be qualified to do so – and I have no doubt there is no shortage of females that wouldn’t hesitate to seize that opportunity – why, just look at SportsRantz Radio.

Just last week, ESPN columnist Sarah Spain – who can also be heard daily on WMVP/”ESPN 1000″ in Chicago – published an article expressing her confoundment on the belief by many that women are just “incapable” of fulfilling many positions in sports media. In it, she featured a few tweets from Stephen “Steak” Shapiro, a radio host who thinks that “men simply do not want women as full-time sports radio hosts.”

By the way, “Steak” Shapiro has been doing radio for over fifteen years in the city of Atlanta – yes, that market with the rare existence (medium rare?) of three full-time female on-air sports radio hosts.

“Does [“Steak”] believe the chromosomal makeup of a person decides his or her ability to talk about people who make a living kicking, throwing, shooting or catching a ball?,” Spain wonders. “Your neighbor, Bill, who has never watched a football or baseball game in his life is not, in fact, more qualified to host a sports radio show than a sports-crazed woman with years of experience in the industry.

“There is nothing in the DNA of a woman that prevents her from understanding the Cover 2 or knowing which guy on the hometown squad should be batting cleanup.”

It’s encouraging to see that, when CBS Radio could have easily handed over C.J. Simpson’s vacant position to another guy – while keeping in mind that they’re equal opportunity employers – the end result is another woman in Kristen Ledlow waiting in the on-deck circle.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Ledlow told me, regarding the opportunity to work in a market where sports radio has shattered the glass ceiling. “Rachel [Baribeau] and I want to set the precedent for major markets hiring smart, funny, hard-working women in sports.”

Indeed, there is already a long list of women who meet all of those criteriae – many of them on television.

It shouldn’t be long before sports radio, locally and nationally, hires more females, thereby eradicating a stereotype that women in the business are “eye candy.”

In other words: if you’re not in front of a camera, your opinion and your talent should be just as valued as anyone else’s.

Hopefully, Atlanta will buck the trend – but at least for now, it’s a good sign that females are a force to be reckoned with in the medium.

Or, as Sarah Spain exclaimed to me: “I think that’s great… Good to see women are being given the same chances to excel there… Didn’t realize Atlanta was so evolved.”

The evolution continues.

(Sandra Golden did not respond to my request for comment; incidentally, at the time this post was published, she is scheduled to begin jury duty.)

Sweet Deal: Howard Hoffman Becomes Baseball Announcer On ESPN Radio/Walla Walla

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howard Hoffman, whose voice has been heard on many commercials, programs and radio stations, is now bringing his pipes to the ballpark, as he will be calling baseball games for the Walla Walla Sweets on the local ESPN Radio affiliate starting this summer.

Howard Hoffman, whose voice has been heard on many commercials, programs and radio stations, is now bringing his pipes to the ballpark, as he will be calling baseball games for the Walla Walla Sweets on the local ESPN Radio affiliate starting this summer.

Whether you’ve watched TV commercials or animated programs, or listened to big-market radio, chances are you’ve likely heard the handiwork of Howard Hoffman.

He’s lent his voice to several cartoons, and has been heard in advertisements from Hostess to Hyundai, and from Post to Publix.

But he also has an impressive track record on radio, having been heard in the top four markets over the last five decades, including three in New York City. Though his most recent radio gig with KABC-AM in Los Angeles was quite steady, enjoying a 17-year run that included being the station’s production director, as well as contributing to the Los Angeles Dodgers radio network, which was based at KABC.

In October 2011, Hoffman was a victim of budget cuts by KABC’s parent company, Cumulus. Not coincidentally, the Dodgers would be moving their radio flagship to KLAC the following year.

While largely a free agent since then, Hoffman remained busy through his voiceover production company, and would remain so even after he relocated to the town of Walla Walla, Washington last year.

You might think this is the point of Hoffman’s career where he officially starts dabbling into retirement – on the contrary. Because he has found a new calling: baseball announcer.

Yes, you can now add Howard’s name to the likes of Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Harry Kalas, and current Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, whom Howard himself has dubbed “a national treasure.”

Okay, so he’s going to be calling games for the Walla Walla Sweets, so it won’t be in the same league as the others. But given his background, Hoffman will be in a class by himself.

Because in Hoffman, the Sweets, who play in the West Coast League, Eastern Division (no contradictions there) will be getting a living legend – no, I’m not trying to upstage another living legend, Vin Scully, but he has the talent, the knowledge and the “enthusiasm” – a trait that Sweets vice president/general manager Zachary Fraser awaits – to pull this off.

Even if his only work as a play-by-play baseball announcer was in a Bud Light commercial.

“Doing play-by-play on the radio is a totally different animal,” Hoffman told the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.

Recently, he spent some time with his good friend Ken Levine, who like Hoffman was a disc jockey in the “music radio” era of the 70’s, and is a noted film and television producer, writer and director – but he has a baseball announcing career of his own: for six years during the 1990’s, he worked games on radio and/or TV for the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres; upon the untimely passing of Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus, Levine agreed to step up to the plate, and is currently in his second go-round with the M’s in the booth. The time was spent watching baseball with the volume down and interpreting the game action – just as Hoffman will be doing for real starting with the season opener on June 5.

“I’ve got three months,” Hoffman said. “It’s going to be a lot of homework.”

The one subject in particular that he’ll be studying: stats. “When you’re watching the game, you really have to immerse yourself,” he explains. “You have to know if the batter’s right-handed, and describe what happens when he faces batters from a certain direction.”

In addition to painting a verbal picture for radio listeners, he’ll encourage Sweets fans at Borleske Stadium to get involved via Twitter and Facebook. “I’ll be keeping the lines of communication open through social media,” he promises. “It’s going to be a truly interactive live experience with every broadcast.”

He also hopes that fan interaction can enable him to learn as he goes. “As a rookie in the broadcast booth, I know I’ll learn more from our fans than from anywhere else.”

And in a flash of wit, the kind displayed behind the microphone at radio stations like WABC and Hot 97 in New York and KMEL in San Francisco, Hoffman made sure to thank the Sweets “as a fan… for this opportunity to see all the games for free.”

The local radio station that will be carrying Sweets play-by-play is “1490 ESPN”, KTEL-AM – not to be confused with the K-Tel record label. And yes, the station streams online, so anyone who has followed Hoffman through his vast radio career can join him in his next chapter of broadcasting.

“This is a dream job for anyone who grew up loving the game,” he admitted. “I’m genuinely excited to be working with a great team that’s become an instant tradition in the Walla Walla Valley.”

As long as players aren’t fixated on any Bud Light vendors in the stands, Howard Hoffman should do a swell job.

No – a Sweet job.