Rick Radzik oozes Boston. You can feel his authenticity when you talk to him. Rick is from Quincy, or as the locals call it Quinzy, which is just outside of downtown.
Before working his way up to become the program director at 98.5 The Sports Hub, Rick’s career began at WEEI. He interned at the all-news station back in 1986. After graduating from Emerson College and completing his internship, Rick landed a gig at EEI in the tape operations department. He made around $11,000 at the time.
Although the money wasn’t great, the benefits were really cool. Rick routinely got to watch the ‘80s Celtics practice for two hours and then grab sound from Bird and McHale. It led to bigger opportunities, like being an assistant associate producer for the Celtics broadcast. He then transitioned to being the executive producer of the Boston Bruins broadcast on WEEI. Rick left that station in ’94 to remain with the Bruins at WBZ. A decade and a half later, he took a leap of faith and joined The Sports Hub.
In our conversation, Rick talked about Mike Thomas being back in town as Audacy’s SVP and market manager. There is a Brady/Belichick dynamic between the two; a lot of success together and a lot of respect, but they now find themselves on opposite sidelines. He also was gracious enough to discuss his wife, Liesl, who passed away three years ago and had a huge impact on his life and career. Rick also gave his thoughts on Tony Massarotti joining the Red Sox broadcast, and wondered if he could ever do what many in the sports radio industry have done. Enjoy the column!
Brian Noe: When the Hub was first launched, would you have ever thought it would reach the level it’s at right now?
Rick Radzik: No, I thought I’d be in a different profession by 2011. I’m kind of joking. We just all felt we could do okay. I think being on the FM signal was what a lot of people may have underestimated at the time. There weren’t a lot of sports talk stations around the country on the FM signal. That really helped us. I think the way we presented it was a little bit different at the beginning. At the time a little bit younger, a little more music, different sound.
We had the Patriots, which obviously having one of the franchises helped. And we got the Bruins. We were in a good spot to launch. But EEI became such a monster; those 2003, 2004 Red Sox-Yankees, Patriots Super Bowls. A couple of stations tried to take them on; they were all AM stations with smaller signals. This was the first time that an established FM signal with some established talent was going to give it a shot.
I didn’t think we’d do as well as quickly as we did is really what I mean when I say I didn’t think it would last. We elevated more quickly than we thought. We were fortunate to have some championships thrown in there and some awesome storylines that continue today with guys like Brady and Belichick and the personalities of the teams and the passion that the fan base has. It all just kind of fell into place. I think we just came at the right time when people were looking for a little bit of a change. I think we were able to provide it for them.
BN: You guys have monster ratings. When you gauge success — is it being number one, is it getting a certain share in the market — what is your idea of success?
RR: Yeah, I think it’s all those things obviously because I think that’s what sells the station. I think what we do is important because it’s entertainment and I think people look for entertainment. We try not to take ourselves too seriously. We’re very appreciative of the ratings and that people listen.
I think what I’m most proud of though honestly, Brian, is a lot of our guys have really been here since the launch. We haven’t had much turnover with the on-air talent. A couple of people moved around like Bertrand started with Felger & Mazz. The nights changed, middays changed a little bit. But other than that, guys still really, really want to put on a good product every day.
We’re going to be coming up on year 13 of our launch in August, and guys I don’t think really get satisfied. They might look at the ratings and I’m sure the easy thing to do is be like well, we really don’t have to do much, but it’s not that way. I think that’s a testament to them. Doing a show four hours a day, five days a week, you’re in there with the same guys and the same crew, it can get a little tedious. [Laughs] You can get sick of each other. But they overcome all of those things by wanting to put out good content.
I think that one of the things that I try to stress is being humble. Look, it can change at any time. You never know, the audience could always go somewhere else, or something else comes along like we did and they just go to another avenue. A lot of these things weren’t around when we started; there wasn’t podcasting and different platforms that people can put their content out on. It was the radio and you’d read the paper. There are many more people doing it today. Within that, you find those pockets of creativity and people that break out. We deal with that too. We just try to keep up with everything that’s going on around us.
BN: Mike Thomas, Mark Hannon and yourself played key roles in building the Hub into what it is today. Mike left for Chicago, but has since returned to lead Audacy Boston, which owns and operates WEEI. What’s your reaction to him being back in Boston except working across the street this time?
RR: I think the position was attractive to Mike. He didn’t come back as the program director. I think the title of being the market manager was appealing. I think he really enjoyed his time in Boston when he was here. I know Mike has moved around a lot coming up through the industry. He did have a long stay here in Boston. I wasn’t shocked.
I think I would’ve been a little more surprised if he came back as the PD. But I think the title and overseeing the cluster for Boston, he’s so connected to here and the competition with WEEI. He’s a competitive guy so he’s going to want to do what he can to make things a little more difficult for us. I’m sure he’ll enjoy that. Let’s say the competition is good.
I had a great relationship with him. He was very supportive when Liesl was sick and all those things. I don’t really focus on it too much about him being there. I know some things probably will end up impacting us. I’m not surprised he’s back. I think that being a market manager is something he’s always wanted to do and to get a higher elevation with the management position. So, good luck to him.
BN: You mentioned your wife at the BSM Summit and you mentioned her just now. What was the impact that she had on your life and also your professional career?
RR: In this industry with the ups and the downs and the hours; when I was working with the Celtics at WEEI or WBZ, I was also doing some side work. I was a remote engineer for a lot of the visiting teams that would come in. It was just a part-time, extra money gig. I worked with all the great play-by-play people of the NBA, MLB and hockey for 25+ years. In this industry, there are no set hours. There are Saturdays, Sundays, nights. She was always, always supportive of just do what you gotta do and we’ll make it work here.
Then we got married and had the girls. The girls were younger so you try to manage all those things. She was never one to say don’t go for this, it was always just that’s important. And she heard all the complaints too, I can tell you that. [Laughs] That sounding board of just telling you when you want to bitch about something whether you work there or whatever. That was a great thing.
She was always very encouraging and in some cases, probably had more confidence in my ability to do something maybe at times than I did. It might have given that extra boost to say no, you should go for this, or you should maybe consider that APD job at The Sports Hub even though you’re in a really good spot at WBZ-AM. I don’t think I would’ve taken the job if she didn’t encourage it.
A friend of mine refurbished an old hotel down in Falmouth, Massachusetts, which is part of Cape Cod. He’s transformed it into a massive vacation home for kids with cancer. It’s got about 12 bedrooms and 20 rooms total. It’s got all these awesome things where once a week a kid with cancer and their family stay for a one-week, free vacation. It’s called Tommy’s Place. One of the bedrooms is dedicated to Liesl.
Part of her giving spirit that she had when she was here was recognized. Me and the girls and friends of mine and people here at The Sports Hub have a cornhole tournament for Liesl every year to raise money for Tommy’s Place. I’m running the Falmouth Road Race this year for Tommy’s Place. I’m going to be regretting that for about six months out.
You try to channel some of those things into things that help others, which is what Liesl was really all about. She spent her career as a social worker and doing meaningful things, unlike us in radio, who just do things to try to entertain people. It’s complicated, it’s different, it’s challenging, it’s all those things. But at the end of the day, if you can do some things in life to help others, she’s now connected with this place, so we’re connected to it. We try to keep the legacy going for the girls mainly to let them know their mother was a good person, which they know. That’s pretty important stuff to me.
BN: What did it mean to you to win the Mark Chernoff Award?
RR: It meant a lot and it probably meant more when I talked with Mark at the event. I hadn’t seen Mark in a long time. I think I realized when I went into this position, I really got an appreciation. I think I mentioned this; Mark working with Imus, Francesa, Mad Dog, the managing of the personalities is a lot of the position. He had a lot of high-level talent there with big egos and he was able to navigate through that. I probably didn’t appreciate that 10 years ago. It’s not until you actually do get into a position like that and you deal with them daily with talent and on-air and all that stuff, so I really appreciated that.
FAN really started it all. If it wasn’t for Mark and WFAN and the way they did it, who else is launching? If it didn’t work there it wasn’t going to work anywhere. He was the person behind the scenes who was kind of keeping the ship afloat when they got started and then managing all of that talent and putting all of that together into what they became. Yet you hear more about the guys that do it than someone like Mark, which I appreciate.
I think Mark is very, very respected within the industry obviously and he’s got a great legacy. I think that’s probably good enough for him. That’s more important to me. I never wanted to be on the air. I never had a desire to do it or anything like that. I think that’s what I appreciate about that award, just the appreciation I have for him and his legacy, and what he did at FAN was something I was really able to think about when I received it and thought about it more.
BN: What led to Tony Massarotti being on the Red Sox broadcast this year and how much do you think it will benefit The Sports Hub?
RR: Well, Toucher & Rich will find a lot of content in it. I know that.
BN: [Laughing] That’s right.
RR: There will be a lot of Mazz sound on there. If you go back and listen to T&R’s show from last Monday or Tuesday, it was kind of funny. I’m not totally sure who got the ball rolling on NESN for this, whether it came from the Red Sox ownership. Trust me, we were very surprised and Mazz was surprised because we haven’t really been the Red Sox’s best friend over the last 10, 11 years. We’re pretty tough on them, tough on ownership. I don’t know. I think that maybe when Jerry Remy passed, maybe they were looking for different ways to do it.
I think the ManningCast thing has maybe changed the way people might look at play-by-play going forward in the future. I know the women’s national championship, they had Taurasi and Bird doing that. Again, I think it’s just a different way to do it and thinking out of the box. It’s always easier to just go to the ex-player. Mazz is on one of the most popular shows. He’s very recognizable. He covered the Red Sox. Baseball is his thing. He has his baseball show here. He’s a very credible baseball voice and always has been.
I’ll tell you this, Bri, there was more interest in if Mazz was going to go to NESN or not, than there was with any of the other names that were thrown out there. Whether it was this player or that player might do it; everybody had an opinion on whether Mazz would be any good at this or not. That’s content. It was just interesting to me.
No one’s even commented on the other guys, it’s only about him. It’s great because half think he’ll be good and the other half think he’s going to be horrible. We’ll see how it goes for him. He’s done a couple already. He’s doing pretty good.
BN: For your future professionally, what would you want it to look like?
RR: I think when I started this job, two months later in March of 2020 the world shut down. Immediately this job didn’t become programming the station, it really became how do we even do this? And how do we create content? We can’t have people in the building and we have to set up remotes. Everything got reinvented.
For me, I think I’m finally feeling like this is a normal position of the job. I was here, but our hosts were broadcasting from home. Our play-by-play people were doing the road game in Seattle from the Gillette Stadium booth and our Celtics broadcasters are in Studio B and our Bruins broadcasters are watching monitors. It was crazy. It was just really figuring out how to get things on the air, never mind program the station.
I think for me it’s just really settling into the position and trying to maintain what we have. Keep the people that we have and continuing to evolve on various platforms. I think that’s where I’m at right now. I don’t think I ever thought I would be a PD. I’ve got to be honest. I worked with some real good ones at WEEI and at WBZ-AM and obviously here with Mike. I remember I used to kind of be like ugh, that looks like a lot of headaches. And it is. I think it’s more kind of seeing where it takes me. I have to tell you, did you interview Kevin Graham?
BN: I did. Yeah.
RR: I will say this — I don’t want to say the word is envious — I’m always impressed by these guys who’ve been in five or six or seven different cities. And they’ve really grinded, and they’re here and then they go there. I’ve pretty much just been where I’ve lived. It’s kind of fallen that way for me.
When I was APD at The Sports Hub I wasn’t really looking to say oh, I want to get to Cincinnati to be a PD. That’s why I never thought being a PD was probably in my future because I looked at all of these guys like man, these guys go all over the place.
It’s a funny thing; I’ve just been here. My family was rooted here. But I have so much appreciation for those guys that have done it in various cities and adding what they think would make for good programming in San Francisco and then being in Dallas two, three years later. In an odd way I guess what I’m saying is — not that I would leave Boston for anything — I always wondered like could I do that? Could I go to San Francisco where I know absolutely nobody and say no, this is how you have to do it? You have to do it like Felger. You’ve got to completely kick the shit out of these teams. [Laughs] You know? It’s just kind of interesting. I do wonder if that would ever work.
Kevin was here. I never met him, so I don’t know Kevin. But I read that article and I’m like oh wow, that’s amazing. Mike’s the same way. Mike was in San Diego. He was in Wisconsin, he was in Illinois, he’s in Boston, he’s in Chicago. Wow. And I’ve pretty much been in a 20-mile radius to where I grew up ever since I got in the business 34 years ago. [Laughs]
BN: [Laughs] The business is crazy like that. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten during your career?
RR: I got to say, Jim Pansullo, who was a guy that was a longtime newscaster here in the Boston area. He was very well-known back in the day. He was a neighbor of mine. He used to do the Celtics games with Johnny Most back in the ‘60s. He got me my first internship.
I’ll never forget what he said to me and I still use his line to this day. He said to me in this business it’s who you know to get in, and what you know to stay. I still remember that.
That piece of advice probably made the most sense to me as far as yes, I can help you get this ground-level job, but if you stink at it, I’m not going to be able to do anything for you. That still resonates with me today. That’s why when I try to talk to college kids or interns, I always want to try to be honest with them because somebody who said that to me in 1987 that I still remember, that means it really stuck with me. And I think it really does sum up this industry in a lot of ways.
Tony Bruno Relives Favorite Moments With Angelo Cataldi on 94 WIP
“I loved every day. We did stuff that put Sports Radio in Philly on the map and I’m proud of that.”
Tony Bruno has been a staple of the sports radio business for decades. Bruno is from Philadelphia and was teamed up in the early nineties with a duo still dominating the local airwaves there today, Angelo Cataldi and Al Morganti. The three reunited Thursday morning on 94 WIP to remember the glory days of their partnership and friendship.
One of the first moments Cataldi asked Bruno if he remembered was the update he did from a tree outside of their studio and the answer was an emphatic yes.
“Absolutely, it’s one of the highlights of my life – other than interviewing four Presidents and every sports athlete in history – there’s no bigger moment than me climbing up in the tree, which was obstructing our view of William Penn and the city skyline. That’s what I do, I was a man of action. I’m not one of these guys that talks the talk, I climb the tree to do whatever is necessary.”
More frivolity followed when Cataldi harkened back to a segment of ‘Damsels in Distress’ and a time in which Bruno was sent on the street during a snowstorm to help shovel people out of their driveways. Bruno quickly recalled, “Man of the people. I should run for – I should of run for Governor of Pennsylvania or Senate or something.”
Bruno added that his favorite rant (and one that Cataldi loved too) wasn’t about the Cowboys or sports at all. “My favorite was my Infinity Broadcasting rant where I went on one day and even ripped our bosses, all the way up to the top of Infinity Broadcasting.” Cataldi cackled and praised Bruno’s rants more before being interrupted by Bruno saying, “yeah, my only regret is I never really ripped Al (Morganti) the way I should have ripped him. I let him of the hook so many times.”
An insightful moment came at the end of the call when Cataldi asked rhetorically if Bruno ever thought they (Cataldi & Morganti) would still be doing this thirty years later and then asked if Tony ever regretted leaving.
“It was a tough decision, Ang,” Bruno answered. “I was given an ultimatum. When I came to work with you guys, I loved every day. Every day we had fun. We did stuff that put Sports Radio in Philly on the map and I’m proud of that. It wasn’t one of those, ‘oh I got to go; I’m too big for these guys’. I even turned the ESPN job down a couple of times.
“My kids were still younger then, I didn’t want to move. I didn’t have to move. They said just come up here on weekends and that’s how ESPN Radio started. So I was doing weekends and Tom Bigby (Program Director) didn’t like that either, told me it wasn’t going to work. It was a philosophical thing. When he told me, ‘you should go because we are not going to pay you what they’re paying you,’ I said ok.
Cataldi began to sign off with Bruno with genuine thanks: “I got to tell you something Tone, we are indebted to you for the rest of our lives because we both learned so much from you and you are one of the great talents that radio has ever had.”
Dodgers Temporarily Pull Broadcasters Off Road
“If the broadcasters’ are not dealing with severe cases of Covid and they have cleared health and safety protocols, it appears the team is open to sending them back out on the road.”
When the Los Angeles Dodgers visit the East Coast later this week, the men that call the action on TV and radio will not be with them. The games will instead be broadcast on AM570 LA Sports and SportsNet LA from their respective studios.
“Due to a few members of the Dodgers’ broadcast team having recently tested positive for COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution, the Dodgers have decided to not travel their broadcasters to upcoming games in Philadelphia and Washington,” the Dodgers announced in a statement. Similar to the 2020 and 2021 MLB seasons, the games will be broadcast from Los Angeles,” reads a statement on the team’s Twitter account.
No further details are available, so the severity and the number of cases remain unknown.
Last September, both members of the Dodgers’ television play-by-play crew were forced into quarantine. Joe Davis was the first to test positive, followed later that month by Orel Hershiser.
On Wednesday, manager Dave Roberts told the media that the Dodgers’ roster and coaching staff are not effected.
“There’s there’s no symptoms in the clubhouse. I think that as far as the upstairs, as an organization, we’re all just trying to be very cautious. But as far as in the clubhouse, coaches, training staff, nothing like that.”
If the broadcasters’ are not dealing with severe cases of Covid and they have cleared health and safety protocols, it appears the team is open to sending them back out on the road. 2022 was supposed to be a return to normal for the Dodgers and many other teams after not letting broadcasters travel in 2020 and 2021.
Pat McAfee: ‘No One Will Disrespect Jim Rome On My Show’
“That’s because you need to respect the f–king jungle.”
Jim Rome is a sports radio icon and Pat McAfee recognizes that.
On The Pat McAfee Show on Wednesday, McAfee was talking to co-host A.J. Hawk about how Rome trended recently on Twitter.
This happened after news of Tom Brady’s FOX Sports deal surfaced, and a list of the top paid sports media personalities was compiled. Rome came in behind Brady at number two making a reported $30 million a year, and many were surprised by that number. McAfee wasn’t.
“That’s because you need to respect the f–king jungle,” he said. “I have nothing but respect for Jim Rome.”
McAfee gave props to Rome, 57, saying he’s been doing sports talk probably longer than anyone. He’s one of the most widely distributed hosts in the country. Pat said he won’t tolerate anyone talking smack about the Smack-Off King.
“No disrespect will be said on this show of Jim Rome, ever,” he said. “Love that man.”