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Hitzges Celebrates 40 Years On-Air

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Norm Hitzges was an out-of-work TV sportscaster when KERA-FM (90.1) offered him $15 for an hour of Saturday morning radio airtime back in August 1975. Hitzges grabbed the money and on Aug. 9 was off and running on what has become an unparalleled sports-talk run along the Dallas-Fort Worth radio dial. As if anyone needs to be told, at 71, he’s still going strong as the mid-morning host on SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket.

In honor of Norm’s upcoming 40th anniversary on radio, here’s our first “40 for 40.”

Best guest:

Don Nelson. He always tried to be entertaining and funny. And, if you listened closely, he told you important things. One day I was pressing him about who the Mavericks might draft that night. He was very coy but as we said goodbye he said, “Auf Wiedershehen.” That night German teenager Dirk Nowitzki became a Maverick.

Worst guest:

Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller. Just a few minutes before he was to go on the air he suggested he should get paid. I was stunned, politely declined and went to “open lines.”

Busiest year:

In 1990, I was an ESPN baseball game analyst every Tuesday and Friday night and doing the morning show every day on KLIF from 5:30-9 a.m. I believe I worked in 23 parks that season.

Weirdest thing that ever happened during a show:

While doing an early morning show at Fenway Park, I accidentally set off the fire alarm. Within minutes, lots of guys in fire suits arrived and looked at me, certain I was a knucklehead.

Best talk show host ever:

Johnny Carson on TV. On radio, probably Larry King – great brain.

Guest I’ve never been able to book:

Either of the Rangers owners – Ray Davis or Bob Simpson. And, yes, we have asked.

Favorite caller:

Leon Simon, the barber. He became my friend and then co-host for a while.

Worst-ever remote location:

Outside a Texaco Mini-Mart at Northwest Highway and Abrams during rush hour with the traffic zooming past. And then the skies opened and poured down rain.

Best Norm Hitzges imitation:

Toss up between George Dunham and Gordon Keith. But Gordon has me saying much weirder things.

Twitter or Cyber Dust:

Yellow pad and flip phone.

If I could attend only one more sporting event it would be:

Game 7 of a Rangers World Series win.

Favorite play-by-play voice:

Four aces – Pat Summerall, Brad Sham, Eric Nadel and Mark Holtz. And I already miss Ralph Strangis.

Favorite analyst:

Howard Cosell, who broke ground for so many of us. Right now it’s Troy Aikman. I learn something every time I listen to him. Vin Scully is truly one of a kind.

Greatest career influence:

Former local CBS news anchor and news director Eddie Barker who took a raw kid with a big nose, unusual voice and less-than-ideal hair and gave him his first TV reporting job in January 1972.

Ever offered a network radio job:

No, thank heavens. I might have actually taken it and left an area I’ve come to love very much.

Last job before getting into TV-radio:

Teaching journalism at San Antonio MacArthur High School.

Best DFW athlete ever watched:

Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson.

Favorite sport:

To announce it would be baseball. To watch on TV it’s the NFL. To attend it’s horse racing.

Least favorite sport:

That’s easy — boxing.

Favorite racehorse:

A cheap claimer named Steal Me Blind who won at huge odds at New Orleans Fairgrounds one day. He paid a huge price creating a very nice payday for my father Edgar and myself. It may have been the first time he’d smiled in the weeks and months since the death of my mom, Lillian, who’d been his wife and racing partner for decades.

Sporting event never attended but would like to:

Il Palio, a horse race held twice a year around the city square in Siena, Italy. It’s a huge spectacle.

Did you think you would ever see another Triple Crown winner in your lifetime:

No. Then I saw American Pharoah run with his hooves barely touching the racing surface.

Sport most proficient in:

Amateur, impromptu hot dog eating contests in ballparks.

First time ever on radio:

Did play-by-play of a Sul Ross State football games while I worked there as a teacher during the 1967-68 school year.

Self-review of first radio talk show:

It remains a blur. I was very nervous. I know I talked too fast, which makes my voice get even an octave higher and makes me sound squeakier. It must have been a joy to listen to.

Number of times called into a talk show:

Not once.

Usual work attire:

Sweat pants or shorts, a sometimes-color-coordinated T-shirt and sandals. When you dress in the dark in the early morning it’s not always pretty.

Most unusual idiosyncrasy:

I’m anal about always trying to use a few minutes of time to do something, no matter how small that something might be.

Initial reaction in 2000 when management informed I was moving to the Ticket:

I didn’t want to go. I was happy at KLIF.

Last book read:

God As He Longs For You To See Him by Chip Ingram.

Best series on home DVR:

House of Cards.

The perfect Saturday night:

The 3 M’s — Merlot, movie and (wife) Mary.

For my last wedding anniversary:

We planned our next journey to some place she’d always wanted to go –Tuscany.

Best movie of 1939, Wizard of Oz, Mister Smith Goes to Washington or Gone With The Wind:

Gone With The Wind.

John Wayne, Jack Nicholson or Tom Hanks:

Hanks by a nostril hair over Nicholson.

Favorite all-time pro wrestler:

The late Angel of Death, who was my friend.

Next birthday wish:

Another birthday.

How many more years I have remaining on the air:

How many more years do I have left?

Message to listeners:

I hope I always deserve you.

To read the rest of this article visit the Dallas News where it was originally published

Sports Radio News

Peter Schrager: ‘Next Good Morning Football Host Has Massive Shoes To Fill’

“I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it.”

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This week, Good Morning Football ended up winning a Sports Emmy for the best daily studio show. It is a show that has turned into part most football fans’ morning routines. However, there will be new people on the panel eventually with the departures of Nate Burleson and Kay Adams

This week, one of those left, Peter Schrager, was on The Pat McAfee Show. He did not have a name for McAfee that would fill the role Adams leaves behind and he isn’t going to interfere in the process of the executives picking the next host. 

“I would think that there is going to be a long line of people who will want that,” he said. “Those are massive shoes to fill. I don’t know where they are going for that and I don’t play coach or GM. I’m just going to sit back and if they ask my opinion, I’ll give it. But, for now, I trust the executives to hire someone who is going to take care of that hosting job.” 

As for Burleson’s seat, the show has used a number of ex-players to fill-in. Schrager likes it that way because he can learn many different stories each week: 

“Nate and I can finish each other’s sentences. Now, you have a guy I don’t know the story this player is going to tell. I don’t know where he’s going to take it and I think it’s kind of cool for us.” 

Last summer, Schrager hosted The Flying Coach podcast on The Ringer with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay. Unfortunately, there will be no season 2 of that show this summer. That doesn’t mean there won’t be another season of the podcast in the future though. 

“I won’t do it without McVay. I begged him. He’s just out….He’s getting married this offseason. He’s got his honeymoon. He’s like, we’ll pick it up another offseason. I’m upset. I love doing it. All these new coaches, Sean and I would have had a good time with it and we talked about it, but it’s his decision and he’s saying no and I totally get it. He’s really good at it and he liked it. He’ll have opportunities and you see some of these numbers that these guys are getting. Trust me, he’s aware.”

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Sports Radio News

Shan & RJ: ‘Inside The NBA Was Trying To Prevent A Riot Last Night’

“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?”

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Things were very far from normal on Thursday night on the set of Inside the NBA. During the postgame show, Warriors fans threw objects at Charles Barkley as TNT was broadcasting live outside of the Chase Center in San Francisco.

Friday morning on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Shan and RJ discussed the scene and said things felt out of the ordinary long before anything was even thrown.

“You know that moment? Everyone’s joking around. Everyone’s having fun, then someone doesn’t take the joke as a joke anymore and all the fun is sucked out of the room and things are awkward and serious?” Shan Shariff said. “That’s what happened yesterday on Inside the NBA both in the pregame and the postgame.”

Barkley had been picking on Warriors fans calling them annoying and describing San Francisco as having “dirty ass streets full of homeless people” throughout the series.

Shariff said even in the pregame show, it seemed that the Inside the NBA crew was wary of the crowd gathered behind them.

“It felt like yesterday instead of having fun and cutting loose, it felt like they were trying to prevent a riot.”

After a rolled-up t-shirt struck Barkley, he got up and acted as if he was going to throw a ceramic coffee mug into the crowd. Shariff said it was clear that Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith thought Barkley was about to be involved in an altercation of some sort.

RJ Choppy disagreed though. His immediate thought in seeing the video was that Barkley was just taking his ribbing of the crowd to the next level like a WWE superstar might.

“I think he knew the wrestling role, but I don’t think the other guys did,” Choppy said.

Sean and RJ expounded on the wrestling comparison, saying that he had a specific event in mind. He compared the way the crowd treated Barkley on Thursday night to how the crowd at ECW’s One Night Stand in 2006 treated John Cena. Cena and security may have thought they knew what was coming, but it was clear when fans started throwing chairs at the WWE champ that their ire was more serious than anticipated.

There can be peace for the time being. TNT’s NBA season ends at the conclusion of the Western Conference Finals. It will be interesting to see if this animosity returns in the 2022-23 season.

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Sports Radio News

Don La Greca: ‘Howie Rose Was The Only Sports Talk Host As Passionate About Hockey As Me’

“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose.”

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Don LaGreca has been working on Rangers radio broadcasts since 2005, and has served as the backup play-by-play announcer for the last few seasons, filling in for Kenny Albert when he is unable to be on the call. Because of Albert’s responsibilities in calling national playoff games on television amid the new media rights agreement between the league and its partners (ESPN and Turner Sports), La Greca has called more Rangers games of late, and received positive reviews.

Yesterday on The Michael Kay Show on 98.7 ESPN New York, Kay mentioned the compliments callers have been giving La Greca for his ability to call hockey games, some of whom credit him for introducing them to the sport.

“The one thing hockey is is underexposed,” said La Greca. “Because you hear a lot of people say, ‘Boy, I didn’t realize how much fun this sport is; how great it is to go to a game,’ because a lot of us don’t grow up around it.”

La Greca realizes that he is in a unique position being the co-host of a sports radio show and an NHL play-by-play announcer, giving him a responsibility to communicate and opine on the game of hockey to his listening audience at large. He considers himself the second person to have such a distinction – the pioneer of which, while he may no longer be calling hockey games, still frequently discusses the sport on Twitter.

“When you look at the history of sports radio, the only person that I can think of that called games and was [as] passionate about hockey as I am that had a regular radio show was Howie Rose,” said La Greca. “And Howie Rose has been out of the sports radio game for 25 years.”

Rose was with WFAN from its launch on July 1, 1987 as its weekday nighttime host. Additionally, he served in the same role as La Greca, backing up Kenny Albert’s father Marv on Rangers radio broadcasts – where, in 1994, he delivered the illustrious call of Stephane Matteau’s game-winning, double-overtime goal in game 7 that sent the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. One year later, Rose left WFAN to begin calling games for the NHL’s New York Islanders on Sportschannel, and did not host a sports radio show during his time as a lead hockey play-by-play announcer.

While there are other sports radio hosts in the New York marketplace that exhibit a passion for hockey such as Boomer Esiason and Gregg Giannotti, La Greca is the only one who actively calls the games – akin to how Michael Kay is the only active New York sports radio host who regularly calls professional baseball.

“You don’t have somebody who is as close to the sport as I am to have this kind of forum, so maybe there are a few people like, ‘Hey, I’m a fan of Don. I really don’t like hockey, but he calls a few games so let me listen,’ and it kind of opened a door that otherwise wouldn’t have been opened” said La Greca. “….I don’t think it’s anything that I’m doing. It’s just an opportunity that I have, and it is humbling and it’s pretty cool to hear and I hope those people stick with the sport.”

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