WFAN sports talk radio is a staple in the Tri-State area and this year they celebrate their 20th anniversary!
They said it shouldn’t be done and was one of the craziest ideas ever tried on radio, but the critics were proven wrong soon after the launch of the nation’s first all-sports radio station, WFAN-AM in New York. With Suzyn Waldman’s historic welcome at 3:00PM on July 1, 1987, New Yorkers became witness to a major milestone in the radio industry – one that has gone on to spur hundreds of imitators across the country. But none can match the influence and prominence of The FAN, the most-listened to station of its kind bringing in an average 1.2 million listeners a week.
Twenty years later, the station marks its two decade long run at the top with a “WFAN REUNION WEEKEND” featuring a return to the air of former hosts and anchors, Howie Rose, Ian Eagle, Jim Lampley, Russ Salzberg, Bill Mazer and Spencer Ross, among others, on Saturday, June 30 and Sunday, July 1.
The station is also hosting an interactive poll on their website, www.wfan.com, where listeners can vote for their top sports moment from among more than 100 on the in-depth list, or submit their own. Audio clips of many of the events are archived on the site for play, download or podcast and are also being featured on the air. On Friday, June 28, Mike Francesca and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, the station’s longest running on-air team, will devote their show (1:00-6:30PM, ET) to revealing the results. First paired together in 1989 as host of afternoon drive, the duo will also welcome guests related to those Top 20 moments throughout the show.
Additionally, listeners can interact up-close and personally with Steve Somers and Joe Benigno, current WFAN hosts who had manned the overnight shift at the station for 18 of WFAN’s 20 year history, at a live remote broadcast on the evening of Saturday, June 30 (9:00PM-2:00AM).
Broadcasting from the legendary Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, N.Y., WFAN is the place where passionate and opinionated listeners tune to for the latest news and discussions on hirings, firings, signings, retirements, wins and losses. The FAN is currently the flagship station of four New York professional sports franchises, including the N.Y. Mets, N.Y. Giants, N.J. Nets and N.J. Devils, and provides sports headlines with the “WFAN 20/20 Sports Update” at the top of the hour, 20 minutes past the hour and 20 minutes before the hour.
Notable dates in WFAN’s history:
July 1, 1987: WFAN signs on at 3:00PM at 1050 AM as America’s first all-sports station. Suzyn Waldman is the first voice heard on the station and also serves as WFAN’s Yankee’s beat reporter. Some of WFAN’s original hosts were Greg Gumbel, Jim Lampley, Art Shamsky, Howie Rose, and Steve Somers. Pete Franklin was hired for afternoon drive but had a heart attack just before joining the station. He did not do his first show until Fall 1987. The format change does not effect the station’s previous agreement to serve as the flagship station for New York Mets baseball – a tradition which continues to be broadcast on the station till this day.
August 1987: Mike Francesa joins WFAN as part-time host.
October 1988: WFAN’s signal moves from 1050 to 660, the former home to WNBC on the AM dial. The switch was made to coincide with a Mets/Dodgers playoff game which was eventually rained out. At the same time, it was announced the new morning host on Sports Radio 66 would be Don Imus whose program was currently being broadcast in morning drive at WNBC. The FAN also acquires broadcast rights to the N.Y. Knicks and N.Y. Rangers with the switch.
December 1988: Christopher Russo joins WFAN as part-time host.
March 1989: Gary Cohen joins the station as Mets play-by-play announcer and calls games for the next 17 years before moving to the television side in 2005. He is replaced on-air by Tom McCarthy.
September 5, 1989: THE MIKE AND THE MAD DOG SHOW debuts in afternoon drive.
February 1990: WFAN presents its first annual Radiothon benefiting the Tomorrows Children’s Fund. Now in its 18th year, the Radiothon has raised more than $45 million for TCF, the CJ Foundation for SIDS and the Imus Ranch.
October 1993: Howie Rose becomes the main play-by-play announcer for the Rangers radio broadcasts on WFAN and phases out of his night-time hosting responsibilities. Howie is currently WFAN’s lead play-by-play announcer for the station’s coverage of Mets baseball.
March 1993: WFAN’s Ed Coleman moves from middays to Mets beat reporter position, a job he currently still holds. He also serves as a back-up Mets announcer for the station.
August 1993: WFAN begins first of six-year agreement to serve as flagship station for NY Jets football broadcasts.
June 1994: WFAN broadcasts the play by play of the Rangers Stanley Cup victory over the Vancouver Canucks. Howie Rose, Marv Albert and Sal “Redlight” Messina call the game-winning broadcast for the station.
March 1995: Less than a decade after its launch, WFAN is named the No. 1 revenue generating radio station in the country. It holds that position for the next four years.
June 1995: Joe Benigno joins WFAN as overnight host, and Steve Somers moves to middays joining co-host Russ Salzberg.
April 1996: Yankees Manager Joe Torre makes his first regularly scheduled appearance with Mike and the Mad Dog. The weekly Thursday segment at 5:05PM runs throughout the entire baseball season.
October 1996 – WFAN honored by with two National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Radio Awards, including Major Market Station of the Year, and News/Talk/Sports Station of the Year.
August 1999: Live play-by-play coverage of New York Giants football games debuts on WFAN. The station serves as the team’s flagship till this day.
March 2002: THE MIKE AND THE MAD DOG SHOW launches simulcast of their popular program on the YES Network. Sweeny Murti takes over beat reporter duties for WFAN’s Yankees coverage that same year.
February 2004: WFAN announces multi-year agreement to broadcast New Jersey Devil hockey games live beginning with the 2004-05 season.
May 2004: WFAN named as flagship radio station for New Jersey Nets basketball games beginning with the 2004-05 season.
October 2004: Bob Murphy retires as WFAN’s lead Mets play-by-play announcer following the 2004 season. Murphy was an original Mets announcer starting with the team’s inaugural season in 1962.
April 2006: WFAN begins online audio streaming at www.wfan.com