By Sweeny Murti
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In March 1996, Scott Ferrall came to New York. He was on the air at WFAN for a little over six months with his syndicated show “Ferrall on the Bench,” which originated out of Los Angeles. As the WFAN evening producer at the time, I was the point man for Ferrall and his LA crew. That meant I was in charge of helping make his show more local, from sound bites to guest ideas. The Final Four was here (games at the Meadowlands, media events in NYC), so Ferrall brought his show into town.
At the time—almost 20 years ago now—Ferrall was a bit of a curiosity. His show moved at a different pace than most others on our station, or anywhere else for that matter. Ferrall sounded a bit like a chainsaw let loose in a nursery. He “poured” beers for callers on demand and had a heavy metal soundtrack playing under his whole show. His mind moved at a thousand miles per hour and his mouth almost as fast. His show was unique to say the least.
So it was the week of the Final Four, and on Thursday and Friday nights Ferrall was broadcasting live from Maxwell’s, the bar under Rosie O’Grady’s on 7th Avenue. The bar was packed for the show, which started at 10 p.m. The crowd was rowdy. I went through with a wireless mic and took questions for Ferrall, and no matter how insane the question, Ferrall rolled with ease. One reveler asked him—as a gag—to list his top 10 divers of all-time and Ferrall riffed on Greg Louganis, rolled the topic into something else and just kept going. Ferrall was a maniac, sweating profusely and toweling off during commercial breaks.
I tried to get a few local guests to stop by the show and the Rangers sent over Marty McSorley. When his friend Dan Patrick–then with ESPN–stopped by, I introduced myself to Dan and asked if he wouldn’t mind chatting with Ferrall on the air for a few minutes. Dan was kind enough to do it, and then he and McSorley sat down and watched some of the show. Watching Ferrall do a radio show was a real thing.
Probably sometime around midnight Friday, I found out just how big of a curiosity it was.
To get to Maxwell’s you had to walk in the main entrance at Rosie O’Grady’s and take a staircase down to the basement-level bar. At one point my friend Jeff Hughes, also a producer at WFAN who was just out enjoying the night, tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the staircase. I stared at a man in a leather jacket, jeans and baseball cap standing halfway up the stairs.
I looked at Jeff as if to say, “Yea, so? Who’s that?”
“Letterman,” Jeff said.
Sure enough, that was him. I suddenly remembered that we were right around the corner from the Ed Sullivan Theater.
I knew it was my job to go over and try to get him to sit down with Ferrall. I mean, my golden ticket just walked in and was standing there just watching. I assumed the curiosity I described about Ferrall extended to Letterman. And if I could convince Dan Patrick to do it, this shouldn’t be so hard either.
I waited for a few seconds. Dave just stood there, watching. So I finally made my way over and introduced myself. Dave mumbled something resembling a hello and kept staring at Ferrall. He said something about wanting to see what Ferrall looked like, so I took that as my cue to ask him to be a guest on the show.
“Nah,” he said, eyes not moving off the hurricane in motion named Ferrall.
I was taught not to take the first “no” for an answer, so I tried to nudge him a little. He said no again, but I thought I could still convince him.
I then reached up and grabbed his arm and said, “Why don’t you just come on down, I’m sure Scott would love to talk to you.”
Dave looked down at his arm, finally looked me in the eye and said, “Let go of me!”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said as I let go, not realizing I was latched onto the man.
Time to think fast.
In one last-ditch effort I said, “He’s going to commercial in two minutes. Would you like to meet him?”
He shot a glance back at me. “Two minutes?”
“Yes sir,” I said. “Two minutes to the next break and I’ll bring him right over to say hi.”
Dave thought about it, and then said, “Alright.”
Two minutes later at the commercial break I sprinted over to Ferrall and told him very quietly that Letterman was here, on the stairway, and wanted to meet him. Scotty toweled off—again, just dripping sweat and smelling like a hockey player in double OT.
Letterman took a few steps down and shook hands with Scotty. I don’t think I heard what they said, but it was clear that Dave was a fan. We all knew that Dave was a sports fan. He had Chris Russo on his show numerous times; Mike Francesa, too. But this was pretty cool to see Letterman go out of his way—OK, only two blocks, but still—and come see Ferrall live and in person.
After a minute Ferrall said goodbye and walked back toward the stage, at which point everyone in the crowd had seen what just happened. Dave was still standing there, probably hoping to watch a little bit more of the show. But the crowd started to chant “Dave! Dave! Dave!” And that’s all it took for Letterman — who will host his final show on Wednesday — to wave his hand, turn around and bolt back up the stairs.
As he came back from break, Ferrall got everyone riled. “Well that was pretty cool!!” he screamed. “MY FRIEND DAVE LETTERMAN JUST STOPPED BY TO SAY HI!!!!”
I never saw Dave in person again. Ferrall, on the other hand, became a frequent guest on the “Late Show.”
Scotty, you probably didn’t need my help because he was already a fan. But … you’re welcome.
Follow Sweeny Murti on Twitter: @YankeesWFAN