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Frank Beckmann, Longtime Voice of Michigan and Detroit Sports, Passes Away

“Frank was a vital, energetic, driven, and larger-than-life personality, and having him be struck down like this is very difficult for everybody that knew him.”

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WJR

Detroit radio — and listeners throughout the state of Michigan — lost a legendary voice on Saturday.

Frank Beckmann was an institution at WJR (760 AM) for 48 years (and worked in broadcasting for 52 years), known to many as the radio voice of Michigan football, which he called for 32 years from 1981 through 2013. He also called play-by-play for the Detroit Lions from 1979 through 1988 and the Detroit Tigers from 1995 through 2003.

A longtime sports director at “The Great Voice of the Great Lakes” and its 50,000-watt signal, Beckmann hosted a sports talk show before sports radio as we know it became a nationally viable format. He launched Sportswrap in 1981 after eight years at WJR as a reporter, providing a ravenous Detroit sports fandom with news, commentary, analysis, and interviews that couldn’t be heard elsewhere on the dial. (All-sports WDFN didn’t launch in the market until 1994.)

How highly regarded was Beckmann as the voice of Michigan football? When WJR lost the broadcast rights in 2005, the station allowed Beckmann to continue calling Michigan football games for rival WWJ-AM and the Michigan Gameday Radio Network.

“It’s just so sad losing Frank,” Beckmann’s longtime broadcast partner Jim Brandstatter told the Detroit News. “Frank was a vital, energetic, driven, and larger-than-life personality, and having him be struck down like this is very difficult for everybody that knew him.”

Beckmann’s wife of 49 years, Karen, informed local media outlets that he suffered from vascular dementia and had several strokes since retiring. He was in hospice care when he passed away.

Called “the Swiss Army Knife of broadcasters” by WJR host and former TV anchor Guy Gordon, Beckmann called Detroit Pistons and Detroit Red Wings broadcasts early in his career. (Generations of Pistons fans are surely grateful to Beckmann for hiring the Pistons’ longtime radio and TV play-by-play broadcaster George Blaha.) And he demonstrated his versatility to listeners by taking over as the radio voice for the Detroit Tigers in 1995.

Beckmann brought familiarity and comfort to Tigers fans unsettled by WJR not renewing Ernie Harwell’s contract and bringing in Rick Rizzs and Bob Rathbun, out-of-towners who never connected with the audience. Two years after that experiment ended, Beckmann took the play-by-play mic and made the Tigers broadcasts feel like home again. When Harwell returned to the team’s radio booth in 1999, Beckmann called Tigers broadcasts on WKBD-TV.

After his Tigers broadcasting days were finished, Beckmann hosted a daily morning talk show on WJR and surprised some fans and media observers with a conservative viewpoint and sometimes cranky disposition. But even those who didn’t agree with his views (he considered running for U.S. Senate in 2011) still enjoyed Beckmann for his strong interview skills with public figures and local politicians, kindness with people promoting events and charities, and his rapport with callers.

Beckmann retired from WJR nearly a year ago in March 2021. During his career, he was a three-time winner of the Michigan Sportscaster of the Year award, and is a member of both the Michigan Sports and Michigan Broadcasting Halls of Fame.

He is survived by wife Karen, son Jonathan, daughter Tori Kughn, and three grandchildren.

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Sports Radio News

Dan Dakich: Craig Carton is ‘The Way Talk Radio Should Be’

“If you’re being critical because you want to be the guy that’s always critical I don’t think you can do that either. I think you gotta be honest. And criticism comes with it.”

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Craig Carton has prided himself on being one of those hosts who tells it like it is, especially when talking about New York’s pro sports teams.

That willingness to call a spade a spade and levy criticism on teams like the Jets and Giants, especially when things are not going well on the field, is something Dan Dakich has always seen as a recipe for success in the industry.

Interviewing Carton on Thursday on his Outkick show Don’t @ Me, Dakich praised the WFAN afternoon host for essentially creating a blueprint for how sports talk should be done.

“In Indianapolis I’m the bad guy right, because I say look the Colts stink, this regime is 46-49-1 – why are you telling me the GM is the best in the country – why are you telling me Frank Reich can really coach?” Dakich said. “New York’s different, though, right? I mean, New York they expect you to say look if you ain’t any good then you ain’t any good. Yu don’t sugarcoat nothing, and I think that’s the way talk radio should be.”

Carton noted that what’s key in how you critique a team or a front office, executive or owner is finding a balance. He said you can’t as a host be the ultimate homer and blow smoke up everyone’s behind.

“You have to be able to be critical when it’s warranted,” Carton said. “If you’re being critical because you want to be the guy that’s always critical I don’t think you can do that either. I think you gotta be honest. And criticism comes with it.”

Carton pointed out that the fan bases in both New York and in Indianapolis are ultimately the same, because at the end of the day it’s all about making sure you have competent people calling the right shots. He added that the organizations are the same too because of how sensitive they can be to criticism, which he said if they don’t like it, “too bad.”

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Nick Ashooh Joins BetMGM Tonight

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The talent lineup for the BetQL show BetMGM Tonight is expanding, and Nick Ashooh is joining the team.

The news became official on Thursday when BetQL announced the addition of Ashooh on Twitter.

Ashooh has worked mainly in the D.C. market up to this point in his career, hosting for Audacy and NBC Sports Washington. He had been contributing sports betting content for the BetQL network for the latter part of the last year.

Ashooh joins co-hosts Trysta Krick and Ryan Horvat on BetMGM Tonight. The show can be heard weeknights from 7-11 p.m.

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Sports Radio News

1010XL Jay Fund Radiothon Raises Nearly $250,000 For Pediatric Cancer Research

“In the 15 year history of the radiothon, the station has raised just under $1.5 billion for the Jay Fund.”

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Jacksonville’s 1010XL used its airwaves to raise money for the Jay Fund for the fifteenth year earlier this week. The radiothon was a smashing success, raising $249,784 to fight pediatric cancer.

This year’s total is a new record for the event. In the 15 year history of the radiothon, the station has raised just under $1.6 million for the Jay Fund.

“I’m truly amazed at the generosity of the 1010 XL listeners in times when a carton of eggs cost six dollars,” said General Manager Steven Griffin, “and equally amazed how the hosts, producers, radio staff and volunteers come together with a singular focus to year-after-year produce these results in one broadcast day.”

Former Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin started the Jay Fund in memory of  Jay McGillis, who developed leukemia while playing for Coughlin at Boston College. The organization has helped over 5,000 families and given away over $16 million in grants in Northeast Florida and the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan Area.

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