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Mike Stone is the King Of Rebuild City

“It was just weird between COVID and Jamie passing. The year really sucked. We’re pretty much back to normal now.”

Brian Noe

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George Fox/97.1 the Ticket

Mike Stone has been a fixture in the Detroit radio scene for roughly 30 years. He’s learned a few tricks along the way. Stoney knows that carrying on about the sad state of local teams would just depress listeners even more. Who wants to feel worse during their morning commute by listening to a show that only bellyaches about how badly things suck? Stoney appreciates the value of not sticking to sports all the time; especially when sticking to Detroit sports might give the audience a splitting headache or sharp abdomen pain.

Mike Stoney – CBS Detroit

Stoney was born and bred in suburban Philadelphia and has lived in Detroit since May of 1986. He talks about the personal and professional pain of losing Jamie Samuelsen due to colon cancer. Stoney also discusses what he likes most and least about doing radio in Detroit, his obsession with Bruce Springsteen, and what he’d love to experience before his career ends. Although you obviously can’t hear Stoney, take it from me that he also does a really solid impression of his former radio partner Rob Parker. “Come ooooon, Brian.” Enjoy.

Brian Noe: How did your path unfold that led to you landing in Detroit?

Mike Stone: Very strange. I interned in college for the NBC television station. I worked in the newsroom. We hired a guy named George Michael. You probably know him from the Sports Machine. He was their local sportscaster.

I produced a sportscast on the weekends and worked in the newsroom during the week. Then I wanted to get on the air. That didn’t work at first. Another sportscaster in Washington happened to get a job in Detroit. He needed somebody with NBC ties. He moved here and I was his producer. Then one thing led to another and I became friends and roommates with two other guys, one being Mitch Albom, who besides working at the Free Press, did sports on the morning radio rock ‘n’ roll station. We did this show on Sunday nights starting in 1988. I did some talk radio with him. It was more of a guest heavy show with some trivia. Then WDFN started in 1994. I got the afternoon gig with Rob Parker. He left and then Wojo [Bob Wojnowski] came in and there we go.

BN: Was it surprising that George Michael blew up the way he did?

MS: Yeah, absolutely. It was weird because when I grew up as a kid in Philly, George was basically a Top 40 DJ. Then he moved to New York. He went from WFIL in Philly to WABC in New York. Then he did weekends on Channel 7 in New York for Warner Wolf. He did some Islander games. I knew he was really good. He had influence where he convinced the network — we were owned and operated by NBC — to do a half-hour Sunday show. Then it became the Sports Machine. Before the Sports Machine — this is back in the early ‘80s, right around when ESPN started — but most TV stations didn’t have satellite dishes. Like for instance last night there was an NBA playoff game. A lot of people didn’t have cable. We would get the games fed in, cut the highlights, and I would voice it among the three or four people who would do voiceover highlights. We would send it to every NBC station. The bigger stations would just take two or three highlights and do it themselves. The small markets and in Canada would just run me with my voice. I did that for a while.

BN: What was it like to work with Rob Parker?

MS: I just talked to him earlier today. It was great. Rob Parker is basically an old Jewish guy in a Black man’s body. We got along great. We actually were the first Odd Couple and he’s stolen that name and now has a successful show with Chris Broussard.

We’re very good friends. It was a lot of fun. We’d goof on a lot of things. We obviously did mostly sports but we talked about other stuff as well; his love for the Golden Girls, my love for Bruce Springsteen. Rob was a lot of fun. Looking back I think he made a poor decision by leaving and going to New York, but he always wanted to be a columnist in New York. That’s why he left. I love him but his Tom Brady take is so ridiculously wrong it’s incredible.

BN: [Laughs] And he’s just going to die on that hill, man. He’s dug in.

MS: I know. It’s like he sits there and goes if this didn’t happen, if the Tuck Rule. Okay fine, but give the side where luck went against him like Asante Samuel dropping an interception before the Eli Manning play. So he would have won another Super Bowl. I mean, whatever. He won’t give it up.

Wojo and I did a Sunday morning show. It was natural that he took Rob’s place. That show just completely took off. It was very successful. The only downfall was we were on a station that was AM, 50,000 watts sunrise to sundown. Then during the winter, nobody could really hear us outside of a certain area. We did very well all things considered, small budget, no advertising. I’m very proud of that show. We did it for about 14 years probably. DFN started in July of ‘94 so Wojo and I probably started April or May of ‘95. We were fired along with 2,000 other people from Clear Channel the day Obama got inaugurated in ‘09.

BN: I got caught in that myself. I was doing radio in Fresno. I went to work like normal and got chopped that day too.

MS: Yeah, it was weird. We heard all the rumors but we never thought our show would get cut because it was very successful; it was the only thing that made money on that station. But they didn’t care. It’s corporate radio, corporate America.

BN: Do you love Springsteen more or does Rob love the Golden Girls more?

MS: Oh, I love Springsteen more. I’ve seen him 126 times. I used to have it in my contract where if he was within 750 miles of Detroit, I could take the day off and go. I didn’t abuse it but I used it. [Laughs]

BN: What has it been like for you personally and professionally following the passing of your former partner Jamie Samuelsen?

MS: Personally it really sucks because Jamie worked with us on DFN when it started in ‘94. He was doing updates. Then he did the afternoon show, and then the morning show. Just a great, great guy. A great friend and just a wonderful human being. Professionally, we did probably about three or four years together. He was great because he was smart, he was witty, he took control because I wander. He pretty much held me in check so to speak.

Stoney's Tearful Tribute To Jamie: 'I Loved You'
Courtesy: Audacy

We had a really good thing going. We went from a show with my other buddy Bill McAllister that was maybe 60 percent sports; they wanted more sports so that’s why they brought Jamie along. We loved it. I love Jamie.

That whole experience was just brutal. He told us early on but he never let on that it was really bad. We knew he went to chemo a lot. But other than that he never showed it. He played tennis basically a month before he passed away. It wasn’t until the end that it got bad and he passed away at such a young age.

It’s horrible. But every day I walk in that studio, you see the little sign Jamie Samuelson Studio, and I think of him all the time. We’ve kind of regrouped. It was just weird between COVID and Jamie passing. The year really sucked. We’re pretty much back to normal now.

BN: What’s your new radio partner Jon Jansen like?

My new partner is somebody completely different. He’s a hunter, a fisherman, more of a man’s man. Played in the NFL for 10 years. All-American at Michigan and he’s a great guy too. That’s been different. If we care about ratings, they’ve been really, really good — even through COVID.

We both have improved in trying not to step on each other. That’s usually my fault more than his. He’s improved where sometimes he’ll take a topic and he’ll lead the topic, which before I used to do 100 percent of the time. He used to do a show for Sirius college football, ESPNU, Big Ten Network, I believe all that stuff, so he was very comfortable doing that.

BN: What was it like to see The Fan lose more and more local shows and then eventually go away?

MS: Well it was weird. When we were there obviously it sucked. It was like a college radio station because we started it from scratch. We didn’t have the teams. We could pretty much do whatever we wanted for the most part. We had a lot of fun. We still have fun, not as much as we used to.

Seeing DFN fail, most of it was sad. The people who were still there locally were all friends of ours so you hated to see them lose jobs. It made no sense. You just wanted to shove it up Clear Channel’s ass. If they just would have left things the way they were.

We actually tried to convince them to go to FM years ago before even 97.1 went from 1270 to FM years ago. Corporate there just wouldn’t listen. Our market manager was a great guy named Dave Pugh, Dan Patrick’s brother by the way, and they would never listen to him. They would never listen to us. They basically got what they deserved. My friends always talk about how I’m still bitter at hedge fund takeovers. I just think it’s awful.

BN: The Ticket is dominant with a bunch of bad teams in the area. If the Lions or Pistons were just crushing it, would that have a big impact on the ratings?

MS: I would assume so, especially the cume. When the games are on, definitely. We have the Lions back this year so it’ll be interesting to see how that plays. Everybody talks about, ‘Oh, you guys are lucky the Lions stink, you get to bitch about them all the time.’ It might make better radio for periods but I go back to when the Pistons made their run and even when the Wings were winning Stanley Cups, it might not have been compelling radio all the time because you have no issues.

You break down a regular season one of 82 games, oh the Wings play Dallas tonight, what are you going to say? It might not have been compelling to have great teams all the time, but you get a lot of fringe people that get on the bandwagon especially during the playoffs. So yeah, I think ratings would go up if we were any good. 

We’re rebuild city. Every team blows. They’re all in the same boat for the most part. It’s unbelievable. Even colleges — Michigan football stinks. At least Michigan basketball and Michigan State basketball are pretty good but other than that, it is just depressing. It really is. That’s where the deal of doing non-sports things, especially on the morning show, is really important. A great example, we were talking about something sporty, and we weren’t getting up a lot of calls. Then Jon was talking about how he got into an argument with his daughter about how to cut grilled cheese. The phone’s lit up. Do you cut them square or triangle?

Air Fryer Grilled Cheese - Julie's Eats & Treats ®
Courtesy: Julie’s Eats & Treats

Those things people just relate to so much more than some sports topics. It’s incredible. That’s what we did at DFN a little bit and then at 97.1, they’ve been doing that for years and it has really paid off. The non-sports stuff really does well especially when it’s done in an entertaining fashion.

BN: It’s so funny, man. You could have a sports thought that is well laid out, it’s got depth, and there’s hardly any reaction. But if you talk about, I don’t know, what are the most comfortable shoes, the reaction is crazy. How do you take that?

MS: I used to get really pissed off about it but now I just realize that’s the way it is. People are more into reacting to something that they can relate to. They might not relate to the Pistons trading this guy for that guy especially when your teams are bad. People react to things they can relate to. It’s not just the quote-unquote cliché guy talk; it’s even just stupid stuff like food. That always goes well — any type of food topic. Yesterday there was a story I saw — I forget the guy’s name, he’s like the Gordon Ramsay of fast food — with tips on how to eat fast food while you’re driving. People like that stuff because everybody does it.

BN: What’s the sensitivity level like from the local pro teams?

MS: The Lions have historically been very difficult. They call sometimes even during shows to set you straight so to speak. Sometimes they are right. They’re like oh, we just want to give you the facts. Well you know what? It’s an opinion.

My answer to that — even going back to when the team was .500 and would make the playoffs every once in a while — just win games. As long as we’re not saying anything that is inflammatory, personal about someone as far as off the field or anything, who cares?

I’ve had a few little things over the years where I’ve tweeted something stupid where somebody says take it down. And I have because it was a personal thing. Other than that, they’ve been pretty good. But they know; what are we going to say about this? Every team is awful. Back in the DFN days, they’d try to pull credentials. We weren’t even rights-holders.

There have been stories when we lost the Lions whether or not it was because of our afternoon show. That might have something to do with it but I also think the other station paid more money.

BN: What is your favorite and also your least favorite part of doing radio in Detroit?

MS: My favorite part is just interacting with people, listeners, talking to people on the street. I know a lot of people don’t like that. If somebody goes up to a particular person in the media and asks a question about a team, they’ll say I’m not working right now. I love that these people are listening. I like that type of interaction.

On the air I don’t like the fact that I think we’re too knee-jerk. Maybe being older I’ve gotten a lot more patient. The fire this guy, fire that guy mentality I think has gotten out of hand a little bit. I think you should give guys especially colleges four or five years to have recruiting classes, things like that. I think we try to fire people way too often.

Off the air the only thing I don’t like — I can’t complain, I have a great job — but I’d much rather be doing afternoons. I’ve always been a nighttime person. I hate getting up at 4:45 in the morning.

BN: If you were able to handpick a pro team to win a championship either in Detroit or Philly, who would be the team you’d choose?

MS: Oh, it’s not even close, it’s the Lions. We had millions at the parades when the Red Wings won, the Pistons. The Tigers haven’t won since ‘84. In Philly when I was a kid I was like the biggest Flyer fan also; I’ve been to those parades. They haven’t won since ’75, which is hard to believe. It’s the Lions. People don’t realize — they’re starting to — they’ve won one playoff game since 1957. It is an incredible statistic. We all know they’ve never been to the Super Bowl. But in this area in the Midwest it’s football first.

If this team, that I believe is cursed, and has had so many awful things happen to it — one guy has died in the NFL on the field, it was a Lion. All sorts of things. The laundry list is incredible and yet people still love this team. If this team could ever, ever win a championship, it would be the celebration among all celebrations. This is like the Cubs, only not as glorious. We’re not the lovable Cubs. We’re the Lions.

BN: Do you have any fun Bruce Springsteen stories?

MS: I have met him a couple of times on vacation in the Bahamas. Word got out that he was there. We went to a restaurant and couldn’t get near his table. The next day I just happened to see him walk into the hotel. I was kind of shy so I didn’t do anything. My wife was with my kids who were five or six at the time, followed him into the jewelry store in the Atlantis. She told him, she goes, “Excuse me Mr. Springsteen, my husband is a big fan. He has this thing in his contract.” He was kind of impressed by that. He goes I’ve got to meet him. I was in a different store so she waves me in. I got to meet him. He was nice. I asked the first question of him at the Super Bowl press conference. I’ve just been to ridiculous amounts of shows although hopefully it works out next year and I can go to Europe and see him. I hear it’s absolutely nuts there.

BN: Any goals going forward that you would like to experience or accomplish?

MS: Wow, I would love to be able to do this for as long as they let me. I’m 62 now. I don’t want to retire. I don’t know if it makes sense healthwise to do mornings for a much longer period of time. But I love what I’m doing.

My one time goal, due to someone getting sick and somebody unavailable, I did play-by-play for two Pistons games. I went on the road with them in Miami and Charlotte when LeBron was on the Heat. That was great. I always thought I’d be better at play-by-play than anything. I would still somehow love to do that but I don’t see too many teams hiring guys my age to do play-by-play for a whole season or something.

BN: Has retirement ever crossed your mind when you’re waking up at the crack of dawn?

MS: No, because I think I’d be bored out of my mind. There’s only so much bad golf I can play. I think as I get older to do more shows from down in Florida where my parents have a place — they’re in their 90s — to go down there and do a week or two of shows would be nice.

My wife’s family has a place up in northern Michigan. Doing a few weeks up there during the summer, that would be good. But as far as absolutely retiring, no I don’t want to do that. I have a feeling those decisions will be made by other people than me. John Audacy; whoever he is.

Actually, I would love to be able to do a podcast whether it’s for our company or not, where I could basically say whatever I wanted. It’s not the company’s fault, it’s just the way terrestrial radio is — that you wish you could just do, but you can’t. Kind of like a Le Batard feel to it, where I’d kind of be like Stugotz, but I’d be old Gotz. I really enjoyed that show. Or because I really enjoy Barstool’s websites and stuff; something like Barstool for old guys. That would be pretty cool.

BSM Writers

In Defense Of Colin Cowherd

“How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of ‘oh my god, look at this!’?”

Demetri Ravanos

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I don’t understand what it is about Colin Cowherd that gets under some people’s skin to the point that they feel everything the guy says is worth being mocked. I don’t always agree with a lot of his opinions myself, but rarely do I hear one of his takes and think I need to build content around how stupid the guy is.

Cowherd has certainly had his share of misses. There were some highlights to his constant harping on Baker Mayfield but personally, I thought the bit got boring quickly and that the host was only shooting about 25% on those segments.

Cowherd has said some objectionable things. I thought Danny O’Neil was dead on in pointing out that the FOX Sports Radio host sounded like LIV Golf’s PR department last month. It doesn’t matter if he claims he used the wrong words or if his language was clunky, he deserved all of the criticism he got in 2015 when he said that baseball couldn’t be that hard of a sport to understand because a third of the league is from the Dominican Republic.

Those missteps and eyebrow-raising moments have never been the majority of his content though. How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of “oh my god, look at this!”?

A few years ago, Dan Le Batard said something to the effect of the best thing he can say about Colin Cowherd is that he is never boring and if you are not in this business, you do not get what a compliment that is.

That’s the truth, man. It is so hard to talk into the ether for three hours and keep people engaged, but Cowherd finds a way to do it with consistency.

The creativity that requires is what has created a really strange environment where you have sites trying to pass off pointing and laughing at Cowherd as content. This jumped out to me with a piece that Awful Announcing published on Thursday about Cowherd’s take that Aaron Rodgers needs a wife.

Look, I don’t think every single one of Cowherd’s analogies or societal observations is dead on, but to point this one out as absurd is, frankly, absurd!

This isn’t Cowherd saying that John Wall coming out and doing the Dougie is proof that he is a loser. This isn’t him saying that adults in backward hats look like doofuses (although, to be fair to Colin, where is the lie in that one?).

“Behind every successful man is a strong woman” is a take as old as success itself. It may not be a particularly original observation, but it hardly deserves the scrutiny of a 450-word think piece.

On top of that, he is right about Aaron Rodgers. The guy has zero personality and is merely trying on quirks to hold our attention. Saying that the league MVP would benefit from someone in his life holding a mirror up to him and pointing that out is hardly controversial.

Colin Cowherd is brash. He has strong opinions. He will acknowledge when there is a scoreboard or a record to show that he got a game or record pick wrong, but he will rarely say his opinion about a person or situation is wrong. That can piss people off. I get it.

You know that Twitter account Funhouse? The handle is @BackAftaThis?

It was created to spotlight the truly insane moments Mike Francesa delivered on air. There was a time when the standard was ‘The Sports Pop’e giving the proverbial finger to a recently deceased Stan Lee, falling asleep on air, or vehemently denying that a microphone captured his fart.

Now the feed is turning to “Hey Colin Cowherd doesn’t take phone calls!”. Whatever the motivation is for turning on Cowherd like that, it really shows a dip in the ability to entertain. How is it even content to point out that Colin Cowherd doesn’t indulge in the single most boring part of sports radio?

I will be the first to admit that I am not the world’s biggest fan of The Herd. Solo hosts will almost never be my thing. No matter their energy level, a single person talking for a 10-12 minute stretch feels more like a lecture than entertainment to me. I got scolded enough as a kid by parents and teachers.

School is a good analogy here because that is sort of what this feels like. The self-appointed cool kids identified their target long ago and are going to mock him for anything he does. It doesn’t matter if they carry lunch boxes too, Colin looks like a baby because he has a lunch box.

Colin Cowherd doesn’t need me to defend him. He can point to his FOX paycheck, his followers, or the backing for The Volume as evidence that he is doing something right. I am merely doing what these sites think they are doing when Colin is in their crosshairs – pointing out a lame excuse for content that has no real value.

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BSM Writers

Even After Radio Hall of Fame Honor, Suzyn Waldman Looks Forward

WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.

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Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman was at Citi Field on July 26th getting ready to broadcast a Subway Series game between the Yankees and Mets. A day earlier, Waldman was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame and sometimes that type of attention can, admittedly, make her feel a bit uncomfortable.

“At first, I was really embarrassed because I’m not good at this,” said Waldman. “I don’t take compliments well and I don’t take awards well. I just don’t. The first time it got to me…that I actually thought it was pretty cool, there were two little boys at Citi Field…

Those two little boys, with photos of Waldman in hand, saw her on the field and asked her a question.

“They asked me to sign “Suzyn Waldman Radio Hall of Fame 2022” and I did,” said Waldman.  “I just smiled and then more little boys asked me to do that.”  

Waldman, along with “Broadway” Bill Lee, Carol Miller, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Ellen K, Jeff Smulyan, Lon Helton, Marv Dyson, and Walt “Baby” Love, make up the Class of 2022 for the Radio Hall of Fame and will be inducted at a ceremony on November 1st at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.

Waldman, born in the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts, was the first voice heard on WFAN in New York when the station launched on July 1st, 1987. She started as an update anchor before becoming a beat reporter for the Yankees and Knicks and the co-host of WFAN’s
mid-day talk show. In the mid 1990s, Waldman did some television play-by-play for Yankees games on WPIX and in 2002 she became the clubhouse reporter for Yankees telecasts when the YES Network launched.

This is Waldman’s 36th season covering the Yankees and her 18th in the radio booth, a run that started in 2005 when she became the first female full-time Major League Baseball broadcaster.

She decided to take a look at the names that are currently in the Hall of Fame, specifically individuals that she will forever be listed next to.

“Some of the W’s are Orson Wells and Walter Winchell…people that changed the industry,” said Waldman. “I get a little embarrassed…I’m not good at this but I’m really happy.”

Waldman has also changed the industry.

She may have smiled when those two little boys asked her to sign those photos, but Waldman can also take a lot of pride in the fact that she has been a trailblazer in the broadcasting business and an inspiration to a lot of young girls who aspire, not only to be sportscasters but those who want to have a career in broadcasting.

Like the young woman who just started working at a New York television station who approached Waldman at the Subway Series and just wanted to meet her.

“She stopped me and was shaking,” said Waldman. “The greatest thing is that all of these young women that are out there.”

Waldman pointed out that there are seven women that she can think of off the top of her head that are currently doing minor league baseball play-by-play and that there have been young female sports writers that have come up to her to share their stories about how she inspired them.

For many years, young boys were inspired to be sportscasters by watching and listening to the likes of Marv Albert, Al Michaels, Vin Scully, Bob Costas, and Joe Buck but now there are female sportscasters, like Waldman, who have broken down barriers and are giving young girls a good reason to follow their dreams.

“When I’ve met them, they’ve said to me I was in my car with my Mom and Dad when I was a very little girl and they were listening to Yankee games and there you were,” said Waldman. “These young women never knew this was something that they couldn’t do because I was there and we’re in the third generation of that now. It’s taken longer than I thought.”

There have certainly been some challenges along the way in terms of women getting opportunities in sports broadcasting.

Waldman thinks back to 1994 when she became the first woman to do a national television baseball broadcast when she did a game for The Baseball Network. With that milestone came a ton of interviews that she had to do with media outlets around the country including Philadelphia.

It was during an interview with a former Philadelphia Eagle on a radio talk show when Waldman received a unique backhanded compliment that she will always remember.

“I’ve listened to you a lot and I don’t like you,” Waldman recalls the former Eagle said. “I don’t like women in sports…I don’t like to listen to you but I was watching the game with my 8-year-old daughter and she was watching and I looked at her and thought this is something she’s never going to know that she cannot do because there you are.”

Throughout her career, Waldman has experienced the highest of highs in broadcasting but has also been on the receiving end of insults and cruel intentions from people who then tend to have a short memory.

And many of these people were co-workers.

“First people laugh at you, then they make your life miserable and then they go ‘oh yeah that’s the way it is’ like it’s always been like that but it’s not always been like this,” said Waldman. 

It hasn’t always been easy for women in broadcasting and as Waldman — along with many others — can attest to nothing is perfect today. But it’s mind-boggling to think about what Waldman had to endure when WFAN went on the air in 1987.

She remembers how badly she was treated by some of her colleagues.

“I think about those first terrible days at ‘FAN,” said Waldman. “I had been in theatre all my life and it was either you get the part or you don’t. They either like you or they don’t.  You don’t have people at your own station backstabbing you and people at your own station changing your tapes to make you look like an idiot.”

There was also this feeling that some players were not all that comfortable with Waldman being in the clubhouse and locker room. That was nothing compared to some of the other nonsense that Waldman had to endure.

“The stuff with players is very overblown,” said Waldman. “It’s much worse when you know that somebody out there is trying to kill you because you have a Boston accent and you’re trying to talk about the New York Yankees. That’s worse and it’s also worse when the people
that you work with don’t talk to you and think that you’re a joke and the people at your own station put you down for years and years and years.”

While all of this was happening, Waldman had one very important person in her corner: Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away in 2010.

The two had a special relationship and he certainly would have relished the moment when Suzyn was elected to the Hall of Fame.

“I think about George Steinbrenner a lot,” said Waldman. “This is something that when I heard that…I remember thinking George would be so proud because he wanted this since ’88.  I just wish he were here.” 

Waldman certainly endeared herself to “The Boss” with her reporting but she also was the driving force behind the reconciliation of Steinbrenner and Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. George had fired Yogi as Yankees manager 16 games into the 1985 season and the news was delivered to Berra, not by George, but by Steinbrenner advisor Clyde King.

Yogi vowed never to step foot into Yankee Stadium again, but a grudge that lasted almost 14 years ended in 1999 when Waldman facilitated a reunion between the two at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey.

“I’m hoping that my thank you to him was the George and Yogi thing because I know he wanted that very badly,” said Waldman.

“Whatever I did to prove to him that I was serious about this…this is in ’87 and ’88…In 1988, I remember him saying to me ‘Waldman, one of these days I’m going to make a statement about women in sports.  You’re it and I hope you can take it’ (the criticism). He knew what was coming.  I didn’t know. But there was always George who said ‘if you can take it, you’re going to make it’.”

And made it she did.

And she has outlasted every single person on the original WFAN roster.

“I’m keenly aware that I was the first person they tried to fire and I’m the only one left which I think is hysterical actually that I outlived everybody,” said Waldman.

WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.

“I don’t think about it at all because once you start looking back, you’re not going forward,” said Waldman. 

Waldman does think about covering the 1989 World Series between the A’s and Giants and her reporting on the earthquake that was a defining moment in her career. She has always been a great reporter and a storyteller, but that’s not how her WFAN career began. She started as an update anchor and she knew that if she was going to have an impact on how WFAN was going to evolve, it was not going to be reading the news…it was going to be going out in the field and reporting the news.

“I was doing updates which I despised and wasn’t very good at,” said Waldman.

She went to the program director at the time and talked about how WFAN had newspaper writers covering the local teams for the station and that it would be a better idea for her to go out and cover games and press conferences.

“Give me a tape recorder and let me go,” is what Waldman told the program director. “I was the first electronic beat writer.  That’s how that started and they said ‘oh, this works’. The writers knew all of a sudden ‘uh oh she can put something on the air at 2 o’clock in the morning and I can’t’.”  

And the rest is history. Radio Hall of Fame history.

But along the way, there was never that moment where she felt that everything was going to be okay.

Because it can all disappear in a New York minute.

“I’ve never had that moment,” said Waldman. “I see things going backward in a lot of ways for women.  I’m very driven and I’m very aware that it can all be taken away in two seconds if some guy says that’s enough.” 

During her storied career, Waldman has covered five Yankees World Series championships and there’s certainly the hope that they can contend for another title this year. She loves her job and the impact that she continues to make on young girls who now have that dream to be the next Suzyn Waldman.

But, is there something in the business that she still hopes to accomplish?

“This is a big world,” said Waldman. “There’s always something to do. Right now I like this a lot and there’s still more to do. There are more little girls…somewhere there’s a little girl out there who is talking into a tape recorder or whatever they use now and her father is telling her or someone is telling her you can’t do that you’re a little girl. That hasn’t stopped. Somewhere out there there’s somebody that needs to hear a female voice on Yankees radio.”

To steal the spirit of a line from Yankees play-by-play voice John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman’s longtime friend, and broadcast partner…“that’s a Radio Hall of Fame career, Suzyn!”

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BSM Writers

No Winners in Pittsburgh vs Cleveland Radio War of Words

“As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity. “

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For nearly 18 months, we’ve known the NFL would eventually have to confront the Deshaun Watson saga in an on-the-field manner, and that day came Monday. After his March trade to the Browns, we also could more than likely deduce another item: Cleveland radio hosts would feel one way, and Pittsburgh hosts would feel another.

If you’re not in tune to the “rivalry” between the two cities, that’s understandable. Both are former industrial cities looking for an identity in a post-industrial Midwest. Each thinks the other is a horrible place to live, with no real reasoning other than “at least we’re not them”. Of course, the folks in Pittsburgh point to six Super Bowl victories as reason for superiority.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when news started to leak that a Watson decision would come down Monday. I was sure, however, that anyone who decided to focus on what the NFL’s decision would mean for Watson and the Browns on the field was in a no-win situation. As a former host on a Cleveland Browns radio affiliate, I always found the situation difficult to talk about. Balancing the very serious allegations with what it means for Watson, the Browns, and the NFL always felt like a tight-rope walk destined for failure.

So I felt for 92.3 The Fan’s Ken Carman and Anthony Lima Monday morning, knowing they were in a delicate spot. They seemed to allude to similar feelings. “You’re putting me in an awkward situation here,” Carman told a caller after that caller chanted “Super Bowl! Super Browns!” moments after the suspension length was announced.

Naturally, 93.7 The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi happened to turn on the radio just as that call happened. A nearly week-long war of words ensued between the two Audacy-owned stations.

Fillipponi used the opportunity to slam Cleveland callers and used it as justification to say the NFL was clearly in the wrong. Carman and Lima pointed out Fillipponi had tweeted three days earlier about how much love the city of Pittsburgh had for Ben Roethlisberger, a player with past sexual assault allegations in his own right.

Later in the week, the Cleveland duo defended fans from criticism they viewed as unfair from the national media. In response, Dorin Dickerson and Adam Crowley of the Pittsburgh morning show criticized Carman and Lima for taking that stance.

Keeping up?

As an impartial observer, there’s one main takeaway I couldn’t shake. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are right. No one left the week looking good.

Let’s pretend the Pittsburgh Steelers had traded for Deshaun Watson on March 19th, and not the Browns. Can you envision a scenario where Cleveland radio hosts would defend the NFL for the “fairness” of the investigation and disciplinary process if he was only suspended for six games? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous. At the same time, would Fillipponi, Dickerson, and other Pittsburgh hosts be criticizing their fans for wanting Watson’s autograph? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous.

When you’re discussing “my team versus your team” or “my coach versus your coach” etc…, it’s ok to throw ration and logic to the side for the sake of entertaining radio. But when you’re dealing with an incredibly serious matter, in this case, an investigation into whether an NFL quarterback is a serial sexual predator, I don’t believe there’s room to throw ration and logic to the wind. The criticism of Carman and Lima from the Pittsburgh station is fair and frankly warranted. They tried their best, in my opinion, to be sensitive to a topic that warranted it, but fell short.

On the flip side, Carman and Lima are correct. Ben Roethlisberger was credibly accused of sexual assault. Twice. And their criticism of Fillipponi and Steelers fans is valid and frankly warranted.

You will often hear me say “it can be both” because so often today people try to make every situation black and white. In reality, there’s an awful lot of gray in our world. But, in this case, it can’t be both. It can’t be Deshaun Watson, and Browns fans by proxy, are horrible, awful, no good, downright rotten people, and Ben Roethlisberger is a beloved figure.

Pot, meet kettle.

I don’t know what Andrew Fillipponi said about Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual assault allegations in 2010. And if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it, but I’m guessing he sounded much more like Carman and Lima did this week, rather than the person criticizing hosts in another market for their lack of moral fiber. Judging by the tweet Carman and Lima used to point out Fillipponi’s hypocrisy, I have a hard time believing the Pittsburgh host had strong outrage about the Steelers bringing back the franchise QB.

Real courage comes from saying things your listeners might find unpopular. It’s also where real connections with your listeners are built. At the current time in our hyper-polarized climate, having the ability to say something someone might disagree with is a lost art. But it’s also the key to keeping credibility and building a reputation that you’ll say whatever you truly believe that endears you to your audience.

And in this case, on a day the NFL announced they now employ a player who — in the league’s view — is a serial sexual assaulter, to hear hosts describe a six-game suspension as “reasonable” felt unreasonable. As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity.

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