WFAN Celebrates 25th Anniversary With Mike Francesa – Hour 5
NEW YORK (WFAN) – Ex-Giants running back Tiki Barber was the next ex-athlete to join the program. Barber and Mike Francesa discussed Barber’s last regular-season game against the Redskins when he had a career day. Francesa asked Barber if he regrets retiring during his prime and costing himself a chance at the Hall of Fame, and Barber quickly said that he does not.
“[I don’t regret] missing the Hall of Fame, but I missed a championship,” Barber said. “But I lost my desire. If I played one or two more seasons I probably would have been a detriment to the team.”
The duo also discussed the brief time when Barber hosted an overnight show on the station during the offseason.
Following Barber was current Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig. Francesa told Selig how WFAN took a huge hit during the 1994 baseball strike, and stressed his belief that there is a great marriage between radio and baseball.
Selig wholeheartedly agreed, and went on to analyze the state of baseball. In addition to Selig stating that attendance numbers at big league stadiums are through the roof this season, there is a phenomenal contingent of young players that are infusing energy into the game. However, the commissioner said that above all, he still gets the most pleasure from watching Derek Jeter play.
Former WFAN general managers Joel Hollander and Lee Davis were the next ones to join Francesa in the studio. Hollander, who was with the station starting in 1987, recalled that he thought an all-sports talk radio station was the greatest idea since sliced bread, but admitted that it was a miserable failure at first. He thought that the plug would be pulled on the station. Instead of covering the entire sports landscape, Hollander remembered, the idea for WFAN was altered to be centered around the notion of two guys discussing sports at a bar. Both men also explained that WFAN was the first station to cover and produce five different sports franchises.
And then came what everybody was waiting for — the return of Don Imus!
Imus was with WFAN from 1988 until 2007, and he was asked by Francesa if he still thinks about his days at WFAN.
Imus responded cheerfully, saying, “When [WFAN Operations Manager Mark] Chernoff called me and asked me to come in, I said ‘Of course!'”
Francesa recalled that when he first met Imus, the veteran host was terrible to a young Mike. Francesa claimed that Imus used to flip gum at him, but then he “learned to love me.”
The duo exchanged old stories, such as when Imus did his show from a hospital for an entire summer after his lung collapsed during a broadcast. However, when the tone of the conversation turned serious, Imus sincerely thanked Francesa for his loyalty following his controversial exit from the station.
“I’ll always appreciate the loyalty of you, Chernoff and Mad Dog,” Imus said affectionately. “You guys put your jobs on the line to save mine.”
Francesa responded with a heartfelt response, stating, “There wouldn’t be a “Mike and the Mad Dog” without you. You carried us for a very long time before we figured it out.”
Following Imus was Mike Breen, who worked with the Knicks as a radio announcer with WFAN from 1992-1997. Breen is currently the play-by-play broadcaster for NBA on ABC, and is the lead announcer for Knicks games on the MSG Network.
Rounding out the hour was Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman. Waldman is famous for being the first voice ever heard on WFAN when the station signed on in 1987, and was quite influential in that very few women worked in sports in the 1980s. Waldman remarked that WFAN changed the way that sports was reported, because all of a sudden major stories were being broken on the radio in the middle of the night.
“WFAN taught me a lot,” Waldman concluded. “It taught me how to deal with adversity.”