VI. "It Was All Happening Live"
Smulyan: Remember when I told you that nine months in we did research that revealed that 85 percent of sports fans still went to WINS and WCBS for their sports news and updates? Well, a year later, that number was flipped. It was 90-10 in our favor.
Spitz: Very rarely do you have a night like we did on Christmas night of 1989. Nights like that help define the radio station.
Howie Rose: Every Jew in broadcasting is on the air on Christmas night. I always kind of got a kick out of working that night because the traffic was light and the subject matter generally was, too.
Spitz: Howie had the seven-to-midnight that night. We were calling the show "A Very Rosy Christmas," because there was nothing else going on. For those couple of days the sports world really used to shut down.
Howie Rose: The Jets had just played and lost. Joe Walton was the coach and was on the way out. The fans were throwing snowballs at him and I thought that would be one of the main topics of conversation.
Spitz: Shortly after we went on the air I get a call from a guy named Doug White, who had been an original WFAN desk assistant. He was working for a television station up in Binghamton, New York. He called to give me a heads-up that they were about to report that Billy Martin had died. I was 24 or 25 years old and had graduated from school up in that area. So I had some contacts. I started calling and talking to people and about half an hour after Doug's call we got confirmation that Billy had died.
Howie Rose: You could feel the adrenaline coursing through your body because you realized people are tuning in to hear you and you'd better be responsible in what you say and how you say it.
Eagle: Billy Martin was a New York sports icon. Serious world events had unfolded on the air, but not really in sports. This was pre-Twitter, pre-Facebook, pre-Internet. It was very gripping radio. There was nobody else at the station at that time who could have handled it the way Howie did.
Spitz: Back then we had a Rolodex. All of the hosts, producers, and talent pooled their resources and had this Rolodex.
Rose: Spitz did a great job in lining up some of Billy's former players and teammates. And I know he broke the news to more than one person he was close to.
Spitz: I was able to reach Whitey Ford and Lou Piniella at their homes. They were shocked. Here I am, a young kid calling up Lou Piniella and Whitey Ford, telling them that Billy Martin is dead. It was scary. I spoke with some writers and broadcasters, too. They didn't believe me at first. Their first reaction at the news was shock and denial. "Are you sure?" "Where did you hear this from?" I had to give them a minute or two to collect themselves. The fact that it happened on Christmas night was just shocking.
Rose: It was very, very emotional, but I give Eric an enormous amount of credit for seizing the information and, at the same time, finding people who would be able to reflect on Billy's life and career, which, as you know, was rather volatile. It made for a very sad but memorable five hours. I'd known Billy a little bit. He met the kind of sad, violent ending that a lot of people might have forecast for him, and that became a little part of the underlying theme of the show.
Spitz: As the news spread, we opened up the phone lines and we were also able to take calls from people who didn't know Billy but to whom he'd meant a lot. It was just incredibly emotional. And I think this really galvanized, for me, what this station was becoming. This is what we were learning to do best — covering breaking sports news. On nights like that, when you're done with them, you say, "Wow, that was the greatest radio I've ever been involved with. That's sort of why I'm part of this and why I wanted to get into radio." And yet, you're saddened by the tragedy that took place and led to such a great show.
VII. "The Lunatic Fringe"
Lampley: The callers. I can still hear their voices.
Gelb: John from Sandy Hook, Doris in Rego Park, Benny from Brooklyn.
Jody McDonald (weekend overnight host): Doris from Rego Park — she had a gruff, raspy voice as recognizable as a Led Zeppelin tune coming on the radio.
Ann Liguori (host, "Hey Liguori, What's the Story?"): Short Al.
Lampley: Sam from Bayonne.
Howie Rose: Vinny from Queens, Miriam from Forest Hills.
Len Weiner (weekend producer): Eli from Westchester.
Jim Burns (Jim from Long Island): Chuck from Hartsdale. King George from the Bronx. Jack from Bethel. Jerome from Manhattan. The two Bruces: Bruce from Flushing, Bruce from Bayside.
Bruce Lindner (Bruce from Bayside): Bruce from Flushing! He had to invoke his religion every time he called!
Chernoff: Mike from Montclair, Al from White Plains, Ira from Staten Island.
Lindner: Rob from Lake Success, who's called Rob from "Lake Failure."
Chernoff: We had one guy, Vinny from Queens, who called. He got hit by a bus or a truck about four or five years ago on Queens Boulevard.
Lindner: Artie from Manahawkin.
Somers: Jerry Seinfeld called in — "Jerry from Queens." Steven Wright — "Steven from Your Neck of the Woods" — called in. Andrew Dice Clay called when he was popular.
Lampley: I had celeb callers who wouldn't use their real names. I knew who they were. Roy Firestone created a character for my show called Coach Monty Pudge Larabee. I believe he coached at a fictitious university and he was the classic hard-bitten, country-boy, redneck football coach. I would bring him on the air and we would talk about the fictitious last game and the fictitious next upcoming game and how they were getting ready to play Baghdad Central Technical and Vocational College and the name of that team was the Sandworms. It was horribly tasteless stuff. Nobody ever knew it was him.
Russo: The callers were very knowledgeable. They go back 40-50 years with their certain teams. You had to treat the call with some decorum, make sure that you kinda made 'em part of the family.
Raissman: Joe from Saddle River, he ends up employed by the station. He becomes a host — Joe Benigno.
Joe Benigno (Joe from Saddle River): I was a food salesman working for a company called Melba Foods out of Brooklyn. I never thought too much about calling. I just wound up getting into it. I never thought I was anything important. All I know is Francesa and Russo used to drive me crazy, so I would have to get in there and just go at it with those guys.
Lampley: Jeff explained that the callers are the lunatic fringe, that I should never think for a second that the callers represent the general audience — they're different, and therefore it's OK to use them as cannon fodder and make them characters on the show. You could even bully them and mistreat them and they don't mind it. They like it. They will come back for more.
Benigno: It was around Christmas '94 and I'm reading the Post. Phil Mushnick telling me how this caller, this famous caller who now is passed away, Eli in Westchester, that he was getting to get his show. So I'm reading this in Phil Mushnick's column one morning and I'm like, "Are you kidding me?" Eli is getting a show? Anyway, that day on "Mike and the Mad Dog," all they're talking about is how there's all these other callers that deserved a show more than Eli, and they mentioned me. So I'm hearing this and I'm going, "Are you kidding me?" So I get home and I get on the air with them and I'm talking about how I deserve a shot. Next thing I know I'm talking to Mark Chernoff and they set up this day where they had myself and three other callers, including Eli, doing a show.
Russ Salzberg (host, "The Sweater and the Schmoozer," 10 a.m.-1 p.m.): Eli, I just didn't like him. It was the same stupid agenda all the time — race-baiting. It was always the same thing. It was like, if I said good morning, you'd say good night just to be different.
Benigno: So I get an hour. Al in White Plains gets an hour. Eli had two hours. And who was the other one? Dick in Corona. I don't know if he's still alive even, Dick. He was blind, but he did the show too. I guess it went from there. Let me put it this way: As soon as I got off the air there's a call in the newsroom for me from Suzyn Waldman. All right? And I didn't know Suzyn. I mean, obviously I know who she is. I'd never talked to her in my life before. And now she's telling me how great I was. "You were terrific, you were this, you were that." Whatever. So I leave. Now I'm in the car and I'm listening to Eli do his show. He. Is. Bombing. Here was this guy, he always brought race into everything and now you had callers calling him out on stuff and he was backing down. He couldn't handle it. He wilted like a cheap suit, basically. So, for five years I worked at this Melba Foods and that's where I went from there — to go to work for WFAN.
Howie Rose: I remember being told many years ago, "Always remember, the show is not about the caller, it's about the listener." I would much rather lose one caller than 1,000 listeners, so if I felt somebody was bringing nothing to the table, I would shorten the call up. If the guy was being a jerk, I might be a jerk back at him because I knew there was entertainment value there.
Burns: I think about Jerome from Manhattan. No one knows what happened to him, which is very sad. He was a very famous Yankees fan. He literally disappeared about a year or two ago. I tried contacting some of the family and they don't want to have any involvement with anyone who knows him from sports talk radio. My fear is that Jerome's in an institution someplace.
Howie Rose: I didn't always like my persona as a talk show host. I certainly could have crossed the line, and I'm sure I did cross the line several times — yelling at a caller or mocking a caller. But sometimes you have to do that because you have to enhance the entertainment value.
Burns: I used to send Jerome care packages. I would just send him some books and stuff. Or he loves The Three Stooges so I'd send him Three Stooges stuff. And also he's not a bad guy, and also he meant a lot to sports talk radio. Jerome kept a lot of people tuned to their radio dial. And I liked him. I just thought he deserved some respect for what he had done.
Howie Rose: I remember one of the first "Mets Extra" [shows] I ever did in 1987, they were in Philadelphia very early in the season and Gary Carter was a base runner and the Phillies pulled the hidden-ball trick on him. He was tagged out, might have been to end the game, and ironically, it was on his birthday. Some woman calls after the game and she says, "You know, I don't think that was very nice of the Phillies to embarrass Gary Carter like that on his birthday." And my temper was rising, like you could see the mercury level in a thermometer rising from 20 degrees to 40 degrees to about 240, and I started very slowly and in a very low voice I said, "Not nice? Not nice? You think it wasn't nice that they embarrassed him? On his birthday?"
Burns: I could totally see a doctor saying, "Well, Jerome could have no contact with sports talk radio. It's bad for his heart." Part of whatever he has is he can't be happy. The famous story about Jerome is the Yankees had just won the World Series in '96 and the next day he's yelling about who Bob Watson should trade for.
Howie Rose: I got so condescending I said, "Sweetheart, this is Major League Baseball. This isn't your Wednesday-night mah-jongg game. This is big league baseball." If I had said that today, I would have been suspended or fired, but back then, all I could think of is, You've got to be entertaining. You've got to be entertaining. This is a great chance here.
Burns: I know Jerome's personality. He would call me and he'd be depressed and I'd say, "Jerome, do you know how many, not hundreds, but tens of thousands of people love you in radio land?" He says, "Oh, what does that mean? That doesn't matter, Jim." I go, "It's people who care about you. It's no one to hug at night, but there are people who care about you, Jerome. You mean a lot to New York."
VIII. "Overnight, Under the Covers, Schmoozing S-P-O-R-T-S"
Lindner: Steve Somers, the overnight. When he first started out I used to call him. I don't sleep that great at night, so I'd wake up at three in the morning. It's also easier to get through then.
Boyle: The station during the overnight shift — the midnight-to-7 — was like being in a parallel world. There weren't that many people there. It was Steve Somers and myself, and we had a producer and an overnight executive. The energy was different, the feel was different.
Eagle: Somers has been the same guy from day one. As the world has changed, as sports has changed, as the broadcasting business has changed, he amazingly has stayed the same. I think that's why his popularity has never waned. When you turn on the radio to Steve Somers, you know what you're getting. There's comfort in that.
Murray: Steve came to work in the same outfit every single day. It was a brown Members Only jacket buttoned or zipped maybe a third of the way up, brown corduroys, and a beret. But I mean it never changed.
Mason: Somers is a wordsmith, a great storyteller. He's a very unique personality. You never in a million years will hear another Steve Somers.
Bongarten: If you were a night owl or had trouble sleeping at night, Steve was a great place to go.
Vecsey: Tuning in to the Steve Somers show is like being invited to a bar mitzvah every day.
Murray: He was the first guy that I'd ever heard that really injected humor into doing something that's supposed to be news-oriented. He realized that to maintain sanity there was no way you were gonna get through this for six hours every single day just doing straight sports.
Somers: Imus once told me it was the best overnight show he ever heard.
Murray: Every day he came in, you almost wanted to throw some change his way. He looked like he was walking in off the street.
Somers: I had been out of work for two and a half years. I was doing part-time work — a little bit of TV and a little bit of radio. I wasn't unhappy. I mean, if you had told me that I was going to be out of work for two and a half years, then I might have gotten a little bit depressed, but you are always thinking a job is around the corner. My mother was telling me maybe real estate, and I said, "Real estate can't pay my rent." My father was telling me, "Maybe you want to be a shoe salesman." And I would tell him, "I don't have a foot fetish."
Spitz: Steve was the best host we had on the radio station.
Scozzare: The show is his life. He's always been that way.
Somers: My agent called me in '85 or '86 telling me that he heard about the idea for an all-sports radio station, the first of its kind, in New York, and would I be interested? And, of course, "Yes! By all means!" Plus, I needed to work. So I was their last hire.
Boyle: I'd go in there about 10:30. There was no management around, no suits, just a bunch of young guys like myself.
Murray: The routine never changed. Somers would walk in, he would wave, he would say hello, he'd go upstairs, and he would start writing.
Scozzare: You'd go upstairs to the little cafeteria area we had and he'd be sitting there with a yellow legal pad and just writing out longhand. On the nights when he wasn't feeling it, there would be crumpled papers all around. He would write out this whole script. Sometimes the evening host would say, "Hey, won't you come in for a second and we'll sort of do a little cross-promotion." And he goes, "Well, no, I have to go write my ad libs," which makes no sense. But that's what he was doing; he was writing his ad libs.
Somers (responding via e-mail to a request to read some of his old notes): I do have handwritten notes and monologues, with coffee and mustard stains, written on legal size, 8½-by-11 canary-colored paper all over the place — a page 1 from this monologue and a page 3 from that monologue, and somewhere, page 2, if you catch my drift here my apartment is decorated in legal-lined paper most of them have "cross-outs" and stuff written in the margins, but I can look for some you might be able to read because the writing is more for the ear than the eye with me, more than half of it is in the delivery of what's scribbled on the page
Scozzare: He was supposed to be on right at 12:05, but it became almost standard that he was late in coming down. And at 12:05, we would play the two-minute-long WFAN contest rules to give him time. And then he would come down, and we'd do the "Captain Midnight" open.
Murray: He doesn't have your traditional broadcaster's voice. A little high-pitched and a little singsong-y. It was a little bizarre, and yet there was something very attractive about it, something very soothing.
Somers: In the very beginning I wanted to call the show "Midnight Madness," and they didn't like that. And there was a producer at WFAN at the time who had given me an old Captain Midnight radio album. And he said, "Why don't you try this as the open to that show, make it the open to yours since you're going to be fooling around anyway." That's what we did.
Scozzare: It would start off, "Captain Midnight!" And then there was this sort of sound effect of a plane, and Somers goes, "Now boarding Flight 66, overnight journey till Imus in the morning at 5:30." And then the rest of the "Captain Midnight" intro would come on and we'd seg in our regular show open and he would do this whole routine of, you know, "Overnight, under the covers, schmoozing S-P-O-R-T-S with me here, you there." And also incorporating whoever he was working with, he would say, "The Eddie Scozzare on the other side of the glass."
Somers: I remember the very first night, July 1, 1987; I had Darryl Strawberry and Warner Wolf on that night, and Ken O'Brien, who was the quarterback of the Jets. We did the guests and we did the calls and all of these other bits. It was taking sports not so seriously, not as a matter of life and death. We didn't know if it was going to work or not. You just hoped that once the audience figured out what you're doing, they'd like it and come along for the ride.
Burns: Steve's monologues were really, really funny. A friend of mine almost drove off the road once because Steve had a monologue about Marge Schott having dinner with Himmler. It was "My Dinner With Himmler" or something like that.
Mason: If you've ever been driving along, you can't turn that thing off. Who wants to turn the car off in the middle of a Somers monologue?
Scozzare: If it was a night when there wasn't a topic that would sort of write its own story or if he was struggling with his ad libs or if he wasn't in the right mind-set, then it could be a long night. He was on like 85 percent of the time.
Murray: One of our first update guys was a guy named Mark Boyle, he's the longtime voice of the Indiana Pacers. Boyle had this uncanny ability to come in and do an update without a script. We were separated by the glass and we always thought it was like The Exorcist because he'd give this evil stare or grin as he's doing the update, going through detail after detail without a script. We would just sit there and crack up about it. It was so bizarre that at 1:45 in the morning, we were (a) doing live updates, and (b) he would do it without a script. It was incredible.
Somers: Yes, there were beer cans. I mean, we're not talking like a frat party, but you would occasionally see some beer cans there overnight.
Boyle: There were nights where [Somers] would get a little bit edgy. His behavior was a little bit erratic on occasion. He had it in a cup. I think there might have been coffee in there. It wasn't like he was sitting back there throwing shots.
Scozzare: It was bourbon.
Spitz: It was a much more innocent age, where you could call a hotel and ask for a player and they were going to answer the phone, so we played a lot of what we called "hotel room bingo." Brown would pitch a no-hitter for the Phillies in Atlanta and then you would wait a couple of hours and try to get that guy on in his hotel room. Or the Mets would be on the West Coast, let's say, and the game would end at eleven o'clock. We would wait a couple hours until one in the morning and you would try to get Darryl Strawberry.
Murray: I would go on-air, toward the wee hours of the morning, and we would make fun of a fishing segment we had called "Ken Kephart's Focus on Fishing." I'd pretend to be Kephart and mock how the surf was and what's biting. Sometimes he would set me up as a guest. I'd be Suzyn Waldman. Sometimes I'd be Wayne Gretzky. But I never changed my voice, I was just always me. And I would answer questions in that person's light. Just little ways to get us through the night. He would crack up and some of the callers would crack up.
Scozzare: Steve's relationship with the callers was paramount. He really loved that whole family atmosphere and just wanted to be loved by them. He was loved by them.
Burns: There is a famous caller named King George from the Bronx, who is a corrections officer. And Somers and him have been doing the same phone call now for 15 years. Somers says, "George, I'll never forget when I took you out to dinner and you inhaled a chicken." George answers, "I did not, Steve, I did not" — Oh this is a very sad talent I have. I can imitate some of the callers — "I did not, don't say it again, Steve, do not say it." Then Steve says, "You inhaled a chicken and then you were flirting with the 80-year-old cashier." To which George finally replies, "You swore you wouldn't say that again, Steve."
Murray: There was a uniquely loyal audience. They called at the same time every night. We'd think, Boy, it must be a bizarre audience out there, but they were our bizarre audience.
Somers: I always wanted to be a sports broadcaster. As a kid, I used to turn the sound down on the TV broadcast games and narrate into a light bulb. Sometimes if a light bulb wasn't handy, I would use a ruler, maybe a fork or a knife. It was something that I felt. You know, you aren't thinking about money. You're not thinking about the politics of the business. You are just thinking about doing it because you feel it.
Murray: The show was over at 5:30 a.m., when Don Imus would come in and always make fun of the fact that there was a fungus on the microphone
Somers: I would introduce Charles McCord and the "Imus in the Morning" show. Imus hated the fact that I was always late. I never got off on time. I'd always say, "I'm not through talking."
IX. "Is This the End?"
Eagle: The phenomenon of WFAN really hit in 1992. They made me the board operator for "Mike and the Mad Dog," and I can tell you from firsthand experience that they became rock stars. Everywhere that they showed up, it would elicit a reaction. To me that was the breakthrough year, when the station just exploded. As their success grew, their problems grew. They were both making great livings. Their Q ratings were high. But then the petty stuff started creeping in. Contract disputes. Who's getting more money? Who's gaining more popularity? It just brought a separate set of problems. They were on the air together five hours a day, five days a week.
Chernoff: There were times that they didn't talk to each other off the air because they got so mad about stuff. I would say to myself, "Oh my god, is this going to last? Is this the end?" And there were a couple almost breaking points.
Russo: Mike is a huge Yankees fan. I was born here, but I'm not.
Scozzare: One of the biggest things was Dog's hatred of the Yankees. Dog just hated the Yankees, which I think comes from some messed-up situation with his dad ages ago. The hatred was real. Dog would get extremely frustrated that the Yankees could get whatever they wanted. That whole argument was part of the underlying tension between the two. There were many times when it was playful and they got what was going on and it was fine. When they were fighting and mad at each other, those arguments got a little more heated. They could get ugly. Dog just hated teams because Mike liked them.
Russo: You mean when I picked the Bills to beat the Giants 49-3 in the Super Bowl?
Scozzare: Super Bowl XXV, when the Giants played the Bills in Tampa — Dog predicted that the Giants would lose 49-3 because Mike was very friendly with Coach Parcells. Dog needed to root against them because it was rooting against Mike. Whether or not he really believed that or was hoping for it or really just wanted to annoy Mike, take your pick.
Russo: I embellished a score, but I definitely loved the Bills to win the game. Loved them. And Pete King had 35-14, by the way. Loved them to win the game. Loved 'em. But I embellished it.
Hollander: When they first became no. 1, Mike went on vacation and Chris changed the jingle, taking out Mike's name.
Gelb: That almost led to blows.
Russo: That has always been a little overplayed. I did that more as a gag than anything else. I probably was half-serious. I think that Mike got the message from people at the station that I was more serious than I really was. It was really a gag situation that went haywire, and I probably should've not done that.
Scozzare: It always came down to Chris maybe wanting more respect from Mike. But they had many more days when they were on, and clicking. When they were totally in sync, both in good moods, and not fighting about anything, it was awesome.
Russo: The quarters were tight. It wasn't state-of-the-art. There was no room to escape when you had an issue, when you're not getting along. It wasn't like Mike had his little room and I had my little room. You're on top of each other on a day-in, day-out basis. It probably helped us deal with the fights that we had a little better because they probably didn't linger. We had no choice but to face up with each other. I only had three or four bad ones. But again, you're gonna have three or four bad ones in 19 years of a relationship.
Scozzare: They were not just a sports show. They were more than that. They would talk during breaks and laugh and flip through movie listings on-air, in a weird way, kind of like an old married couple. That's what made the show transcend. That's what brought in the non-sports fan. The wife who was in the car with her husband, rolling her eyes at these two idiots who were talking about whatever, just being engaging and funny.
Eagle: It's easier when you have all of these incredible story lines in New York happening at once. Turn on the mic, pop up the phone lines, and away we go. It's much more challenging when you have to create something out of nothing, and Mike and Chris were the best ever at doing that. I can tell you this from experience, from having seen them do it firsthand, it was something that would really just form on the air. It wasn't contrived, and usually that makes for the best television and radio. What seemed mundane, what seemed rudimentary, often became some of the more entertaining stuff.
Grande: One of my fondest memories was driving home to New York [from Boston] for Christmas in 1997, and their whole show was about how Chris was going to get to a movie theater. He lived in Westchester, but this was New York and there was the whole complication of navigating the route to and from the theater. They were so dynamic that they could get away with that kind of stuff. They could get away with talking about Titanic. "Sports radio" is really an acronym for "guy radio." Sports are comfort. When you go to a party and your wife introduces you to some guy you've never met, but he's married to one of her friends, it's like this sort of grown-man playdate that you're forced to be on: I don't know you, you don't know me. What do we do? We talk about sports. Eventually, once I know you better, we're going to talk about taking our wives to see Titanic. We're going to talk about Seinfeld. Women can talk about anything. Guys have to start with sports. It's the bond we have since the time we're 5.
Scozzare: They would talk to Jeffrey Lyons a few times a year about the big movies that were out and what movies they liked growing up and Mike would talk about when he used to watch The Rifleman and Errol Flynn. Dog was slightly younger, and that made the difference in what they were watching. Dog was more myopic. More focused on sports. He enjoyed movies and playing tennis. And it was comic when they'd try to talk about politics, but it was still entertaining. It wasn't what they were saying, it was them. People bought what they were selling for 20 years. There was nothing better, nothing better at all. It was magical.
Howie Rose: And, eventually, powerful.
Grande: Everybody was listening. Even players in the clubhouse. Gregg Jefferies was this huge prospect when he came up [with the Mets] in '88 and '89. He had some colossal struggles later on. His teammates were getting on him. He wrote an open letter9 pleading his case to his teammates and the media that he sent to FAN and had read over the air. I remember thinking at the time, Wow, FAN is that significant that a player would think to go there first.
Eagle: I remember very clearly the Jefferies open letter. That was a big moment in the station's history because of the reaction and the impact that the station had. The Jefferies letter was ahead of its time. It was long-form Twitter. We never really heard from athletes in that manner. That just wasn't done. He and the other athletes in New York were beginning to realize that this radio station had a lot of power. He and his people must have thought that this was a really good idea, but it completely backfired on him. The reaction was so completely lopsided. The call volume was huge. He was looking for understanding, support, maybe even some pity, and it went the other way and fast.
Spitz: That spring of '94 was a great spring for the radio station. Everybody played everybody. The Knicks played the Nets in the first round of the playoffs, the Rangers played the Islanders in the first round of the playoffs, and obviously played the Devils in the conference final to win the Cup. It was an incredible time — we were all over the place. Every night from April through June, you had a different game going on. I think the divorce rate among sports fans was probably pretty high after that spring. It was just an amazing run with the Rangers winning and the Knicks falling just a little short, and O.J. right in the middle of an NBA Final.
Gelb: In '94, these guys rode in the Rangers' parade after they won the Stanley Cup. These were two guys who really didn't even love hockey and they were riding in the parade. It was like, shit, what are we doing here? But they rode anyway, like heroes. They were huge that summer. They were everywhere.They rode in the parade and people went nuts.
Russo: In the spring of '94, we had unbelievable ratings. And when you have unbelievable ratings, you can't hate each other.
Howie Rose: Mike and Chris were godsends to the radio station because they were New York in every respect.
Vecsey: They truly were Martin and Lewis, Sonny and Cher. They were Simon and Garfunkel. Even if you can play a solo show in Central Park once a year, it'll never be the same as when the two of you were doing it together.
Scozzare: They broke up, finally, in 2008. Then, in 2009, during the playoffs, Dog was gonna be at the stadium doing his Sirius show and Mike was gonna be there doing his show. And they did one hour together, one o'clock to two o'clock. I was sitting in the studio listening to the whole thing. I'm even welling up right now. I almost cried, it was so special. It was like, damn, you guys, you fucked this up, how could you do that?
Howie Rose: I'm jumping ahead years now, but Mike and Chris had long since established themselves as the preeminent guys in the market, and they hit the Mets really hard. Steve Phillips, the GM, had gone on record saying the Mets were not interested in making a deal to get Mike Piazza because the Mets had Todd Hundley, who was rehabbing an injury, but whom they felt they owed that job to. But then fans called in and said, "Hey, the Mets really ought to make a play for Piazza, he's exactly what they need to take them to a different level." Mike and Chris both stayed on the subject of the Mets needing to make a deal for Piazza, and lo and behold they did it. They did it. If you don't think that was in part a reaction to their fans and to reading the emotions and the desires of their fans, you would be mistaken. It absolutely had something to do with it. That's the power of WFAN.
July 11, 2012: This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:
At publication, footnote 7 incorrectly stated that WEEI was the second station to switch to an all-sports format, and that it did so in 1994. The correct year was 1991.