NEW YORK (WFAN) — “You’re sharing a part of radio history with us today, this is the beginning of the first 24-hour-a-day sports station; I’m Suzyn Waldman.
The message board outside Yankee Stadium today reads ‘Vintage Guidry,’ and last night was indeed a classic Gator performance…”
— Suzyn Waldman
3:00 p.m., July 1, 1987
History indeed. WFAN is still leading the way a quarter-century after pioneering the sports talk radio format.
While Sunday marks the station’s 25th anniversary, Friday on the FAN was must-listen-to radio. Longtime host Mike Francesa kicked things off shortly after 8 a.m. with morning show partners Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton, who rang the closing bell today at the New York Stock Exchange.
“I never thought of going into anything else,” Francesa told Boomer & Carton. “My mother always wanted me to be a lawyer … but you know what, I never thought of doing something other than sports my whole life.”
A bevy of guests — former staff, celebrities and some surprises — appeared during Francesa’s special silver anniversary show, which got underway with a classic montage at 1 p.m. and ran until 7 p.m.
It’s only fitting that Francesa’s first guest was the founder of WFAN, Jeff Smulyan of Emmis Communications.
“This format changed the conversation between teams and athletes and fans,” said Smulyan.
Rangers legend Mark Messier, Mets Hall of Fame member John Franco, Yankees great Bernie Williams and Tom Coughlin, coach of the Super Bowl champion Giants, all joined Francesa in the first hour.
Later on, Mike Francesa was reunited with his former partner Chris “Mad Dog” Russo.
The biggest names in sports have all had their fare share of time on WFAN, be it in an interview or just under the microscope. To Francesa, there was no bigger personality than The Boss.
“I would think, if you’re talking personalities, you’re talking the people who created the greatest heat, the greatest buzz on the air,” he said in a video for CBSNewYork. “That list would clearly include George Steinbrenner, who was a major part of it for all the years, from FAN until his death. He would clearly be at the top of the list.”
Steinbrenner finished third in WFAN’s top 25 personalities poll, astonishingly high for a team owner. Would George have it any other way?
“He was larger than life, Mike. We all know that,” Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner said of his late father. “It’s an honor. It’s absolutely an honor. I think out there, people realize how much passion he had for New York City, how much passion he had for the fans and for the game.”
BOOMER & CARTON: Top moments from the morning extravaganza
Audio from all of Friday’s interviews are posted below.
Also, enjoy these reflections from an “original,” Ann Liguori, and another long-timer, Yankees beat reporter Sweeny Murti.
LIGUORI: Memories from 25 years at WFAN radio
What’s your favorite memory from the FAN’s first 25 years? We’d love to hear it in the comments below!