By Ann Liguori
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And thanks to all of you who listen – day in and day out – and have contributed to the station’s success all these years. I’m honored to have been the first woman to host a show on the station, which I enjoyed doing every weekend from that first show on July 4th weekend of 1987, to 2008 — 21 years!
I am on my way to Pebble Beach this weekend to play in a celebrity golf tournament OR I would have loved to have hosted an anniversary show on Sunday – live and in-person.
Back in 1987, the news of an all-sports radio station was a huge story. If I had a penny for everyone who said it wouldn’t work… but the station has set the standard and continues to raise the bar.
My very first show on that July 4th weekend featured an ‘exclusive’ with Dwight Gooden, who was one of the biggest stories in sports at that time. He had just left Smithers Alcoholism and Treatment Center. I approached him in the Mets’ locker room upon his return appearance, and he agreed to become my first guest on that very first show, 25 years ago.
Other memorable shows included an interview with Jim Brown, who nearly hung up on me after the first caller asked him about the woman he allegedly threw off a balcony. Bill Parcells wasn’t happy when I asked him about his future, after he left the Giants in 1990. After the show, he called the news room and let me have it on the phone. I told him it was a harmless question, one that needed to be asked and that he could have just responded that he ‘couldn’t discuss his future’ at that point.
From Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle to Ted Williams and Wilt Chamberlain, my guests were honest, open and insightful. I’ll never forget when boxing trainer Kevin Rooney was on with me, live, in 1990, as we watched Mike Tyson get knocked out for the first time in his career by underdog Buster Douglas. The fight took place in Japan, and it was happening during the same time as my show. Rooney, who had recently been fired by Tyson, went ballistic. I had to remind him that he was on live radio and to watch his language.
Finding the reclusive Jean Shepherd, ‘the voice’ and co-writer of the popular film, ‘A Christmas Story,’ was difficult. After his years at WOR Radio, Shepherd became somewhat of a recluse on Sanibel Island in Florida. But once we found him, he was more than happy to come back on live radio for the first time since his WOR days and talk to me about his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers.
Throughout the years, I’ve enjoyed hearing from my listeners. One fan, Peter Simon, the brother of Carly Simon, said his wife thought he was having a heart attack, he was laughing so hard, that he fell out of bed, listening to a caller who was referring to the ‘four-three’ defense but was saying ‘four-tree’ because, as the caller later explained, he didn’t have his dentures in! I laughed so hard, I couldn’t speak! Short Al from Brooklyn; Doris from Rego Park; Marion; George from the Bronx and Paul from Astoria were some of the ‘regulars’ who helped make those long over-night shows, and Sunday evenings, a lot of fun.
I’ll never forget the excellent programming the station committed to after the tragedy of 9/11. We all devoted our shows to updating our listeners about the latest news, and with the variety of callers – volunteers, fire-fighters, police officers, those who lost loved ones, those who were frightened and grieving, as we all were, the station became a vehicle for healing and unity amidst such a frightening and sad period in our country’s history.
I enjoy covering the Masters, US Open golf and tennis, the Ryder Cup, etc. One of my most memorable calls on WFAN during the Masters was Tiger’s infamous chip shot in 2005 from the rough on the par three, 16th. The anchor threw it to me just in time to describe Tiger’s shot rolling perfectly on-line to the hole, with the NIKE ball resting for a few seconds on the lip of the cup, before dropping in!
As a woman, I felt a keen responsibility and still do, to talk about women in sports and give women athletes the attention they deserve. Covering the 1996 Olympics for Westwood One Radio Network, and talking about the women’s basketball team and their gold-medal run on WFAN, was particularly satisfying because we knew that if the women did well there, there would be a better chance that a women’s professional basketball league would be formed and be successful. The WNBA was founded in 1996 and the success of TEAM USA in the 1996 Summer Games was key.
My congratulations to Suzyn Waldman, the first voice on the station; ‘originals’ John Minko, Ed Coleman and Steve Somers, who are still going strong on the WFAN air-waves; producer Dov Kramer, executive Eric Spitz, Bob Gelb — all ‘originals’ on WFAN, and to all the talent, on and off the air, who continue to make WFAN the best all-sports radio station ever!
What’s your favorite memory from the past 25 years? Let us know in the comments below!