Talk Show Hosts

Adam Gold: Dean of Raleigh sports radio; talks Mets, their early voices and WFAN’s Steve Somers

NYC raised Gold: "Lindsey Nelson was the soundtrack of my youth.  He was my Red Barber. To me, the game didn't end until Kiner’s Korner was over."

Through their first seven years after entering the National League in 1962, the New York Mets didn’t produce one winning season.

The first year, they were 40-120.  In the best of those seven seasons, they won all of 73 games. The team was so bad that they were lovable. Fans joked that it would take a man landing on the moon before they win a World Series.

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface on July 21, 1969.  On October 16, 1969, the Amazin’s defied the baseball world with a miracle of their own, winning the Eastern Division, the first ever NLCS and the World Series.  New York was head over heels. Celebrations went on for days and the victory parade was unforgettable.

In 1969 and 70, the skies rained titles on the Big Apple. First, Joe Namath and the AFL’s Jets shocked the established Colts in the 1969 Super Bowl. The Mets, from birth, the laughing stock of baseball, gave New York an unimaginable championship. The following spring, the scrappy Knicks, albeit hobbled by an injury to their big man Willis Reed, won the NBA finals, beating the mighty Lakers led by Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West.

In some 18 months, the city was awash with three champions and a ton of pride. New York was the sports capital of the world.

Adam Gold – A North Carolina fixture and host on WRAL in Raleigh-Durham

Adam Gold was a little boy in New York when the Mets completed the Impossible Dream.  He later headed to Maryland for college and eventually found a home in Raleigh-Durham where he’s reigned over sports-talk radio for twenty years.

We talked about his upbringing, his early exposure to sports, the broadcasters he listened to as a youngster in New York and how he’s become popular in Carolina. You’ll see that Adam views games and athletes from a broader perspective. There’s no rush to judgment. Adam is  a heady guy who values sports for more than just its brawn. Gold examines deeper meanings, assimilating the role sports plays in society as a whole.

You grew up a Mets fan in New York City. What were some of your early memories of the team?

My mother was the real baseball fan in the family.  Her family was from Brooklyn and longtime Dodger fans. We adopted the Mets when Dem Bums went to Los Angeles.  I vividly remember sitting on the floor of our apartment in Kew Gardens and singing along to “Meet the Mets” as the broadcasts began on WOR (Channel 9).  I even had a record of the 1969 championship that I would listen to on my Victrola that began with old Dodgers and Giants highlights, “…Branca throws, and there’s a long drive….the Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant…and they’re going crazy!”

I probably listened to that record a thousand times.  The first game I clearly recall, however, was Game 3 of the NLCS in 1973 when Buddy Harrelson and Pete Rose fought on the infield. 

You loved the Mets trio of broadcasters in the early years. Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner presided over both the radio and television booths the first seventeen years of the franchise (1962-1978). What are your recollections of each?

They were all legends to me, but Nelson was the soundtrack of my youth.  He was my Red Barber.  I wanted one of his loud multi-colored sport coats.  The home run call of “….going, going, gone…” was simple. It might have lacked flair, but Nelson’s voice was all I needed. 

Murphy was maybe the best radio play-by-play man of his era.  And because Nelson left the Mets in 1979, Murph was synonymous with virtually everything good that happened to the team— which admittedly wasn’t a lot — from 1980 on. The entirety of the 1986 season was Bob Murphy’s greatest hits.  I do a little play by play for college baseball in Raleigh and I probably subconsciously steal from Murphy more than any other broadcaster.

No game was ever over until Kiner’s Korner was finished.  Ralph was a great storyteller and he would also botch a name or two from time to time (Gary Cooper, as opposed to Gary Carter), but he was just fun and you could feel how much others loved and respected him.  But, Kiner’s Korner will always be his legacy.  It stunk when they ended that post game show.  

I’m sure you listened to Yankee games too. Phil Rizzuto spent 40 years with the ballclub. In your formative years, Bill White and Frank Messer were also part of the broadcast team. Any recollections? 

The Scooter was hysterical and that was before his part in Meat Loaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light. I loved the fact that he called his partners only by their last names “White” or “Messer.”  To me, Messer was a professional baseball broadcaster.  Smooth and solid.  White was a former player who actually became a very good announcer and his call of the Chris Chambliss home run to end the ALCS in 1976 was spectacular. 

WFAN in New York was America’s first sports talk station. Did you experience it or had you left town at that point? If you have, what do you like and what don’t you like?

I’ll be honest, while I loved The Fan, and I was an avid listener, the only talent on the station I truly loved (and still do) was Steve Somers. I would listen to the Schmoozer overnights while I was driving to work in the early morning hours when I lived in Baltimore.  His irreverent style, his ability to joke with callers, his cadence, all of it captivated me.  I’m not sure I pattern myself after anyone in particular, but Somers was and is my all time favorite. 

“Somers here, you there.  Eddie Scozzare on the other side of the glass.”  

You went to the University of Maryland. At what point during your young adulthood, did you determine to pursue sports talk radio? 

It was never really my intent.  I just loved “pretending” at the campus radio station.  I did Maryland baseball for three years, and boy did they stink.  But, I didn’t care.  It was fun to do play by play for a sport I loved.  I did morning sports for a while and had a shift as a disc jockey and just enjoyed doing all of it.  Then, Larry Michael, who was a fellow Terrapin, from Mutual Broadcasting (now Westwood One) came to the student station, WMUC, to speak with the sports staff.  Only three of us bothered to show up, and he offered us weekend, part time jobs cutting tape and writing up scoreboards for the sportscasters.  I handed Bill Rosinski what amounted to a blank cart (wasn’t really blank, but the audio was recorded so low that it might as well have been) from a stock car race in Michigan on my first day.  I loved that vibe and the energy of working in sports, so I kept showing up.  Then they started a sports phone service called Scores Plus and hired me.  I learned SO MUCH from that experience.

The transition to sports talk was an accident. WTEM in Norfolk needed a weekend overnight host, in a pinch — like, I got a call one Friday afternoon from a guy named Tod Castleberry who I worked with at Mutual. He asked me whether I was available to host from midnight to 6 am THAT night.  I said sure and essentially talked to myself for 6 hours.  Then I did it the next night. The following Monday they asked if I would keep doing it.  That lasted for about 10 months until they flipped to syndicated programming, but those nights gave me the opportunity to figure out how I wanted a show to sound.  When I got to Raleigh, I wasn’t looking for a hosting job, but the first Program Director I worked for, Craig Schwalb, gave me a chance and it’s been more than 20 years on the radio in the Triangle.

JT the Brick is somewhat of a protégé of Jim Rome. Was there a sports talkie who inspired you? If so who would it be and why?

I don’t think “inspire” is the right term.  I love people who don’t take themselves too seriously — I certainly don’t.  And, I’m drawn to those who understand that what we’re doing is just sports and we’re supposed to be entertainers.  I like making fun of us and what we do.  I was thrilled to find out that Dan Le Batard’s show is very similar to ours in the Triangle in that they don’t take the sports too seriously.  I LOVE what they do. 

I also prefer, issues of social importance. They are WAY MORE INTERESTING to me.  I won’t talk politics on the show, but if there’s an intersection of the two, i.e. anthem protest, the embarrassing HB2 transgender bathroom debacle that cost North Carolina the NBA All Star Game and ACC events, etc., I’m all for that discussion.  That’s Dan.  I like taking people out of their comfort zone and making them think about things in ways that might make them uncomfortable.  Hopefully, they’ll gain a different perspective. 

Ok, Dan Le Batard is your guy. But if I said, pick one. Who would it be and why; Jim Rome, Colin Cowherd or Dan Patrick?

If you’re asking me specifically about those three, I’ll take Patrick because he’s just having fun and it’s a smooth listen.

Are there things that sports talk hosts do that turn you off? If so, what are they?

Know-it-alls annoy me.  Being rude annoys me.  I’ve been rude before and it ate at me.  There are times to be serious, but ultimately, I’m just trying to get to the next joke. I despise frat boy sports talk.  Demeaning women in our industry is a turn off; the way some attacked Erin Andrews or how some have gone after Katie Nolan.  I’ve got no time for that attitude because it displays an extreme lack of intelligence and I want to surround myself with smart people. 

With the advent of the internet and explosion of social media, how has sports talk radio changed?

I only use Twitter.  I’m not on Facebook or Instagram or another app.  I tweet and I use it in two ways only.  It’s an extension of the show for me because we do not take phone calls. I communicate with listeners through twitter.  And, I use it as a news source.  Twitter helps me aggregate topics for the show.  I’ve become friends with many media members through twitter.  Oh, I also use it to workshop jokes for the show.  The first time I hosted, back in Washington, I used wire copy to prep for the show and check box scores.  Now, everything is in front of me and I can’t remember the last time I opened a newspaper.  I really can’t.

Has it created a shortage of callers and an increase of texts?

We stopped taking calls three years ago.  I’m not sure why, it just sort of happened.  I stopped giving out the phone number and we just started talking more and the ratings went up and we have more fun.  Reliance on phone calls is easier for the hosts, but I think less enjoyable for the listener.  I’m not sure there’s one way to do this job, but for our show, just me and my co-host (Joe Ovies) and producer (Alec Campbell) goofing off has worked incredibly well in ratings and with industry honors.

You’re now well established in the Raleigh/Durham area. You’re the dean. You arrived roughly the same time as the Whalers did from Hartford. What’s your take on the epochal decision by the Hurricanes to go to a simulcast and push out the iconic Chuck Kaiton?

I love Chuck Kaiton.  Hockey on the radio is similar to baseball on the radio (only much faster!!!) because an entire picture needs to be painted. Chuck is an artist.  I hate that the Hurricanes didn’t want to continue the broadcast.  I know they offered him the chance to come back for one more year, but they really didn’t want him to accept the offer.  But, with streaming and the ability to have games on your phone and how most of us just plug our phones into our cars anyway, I can see the economic challenges of radio in the minds of people that were never invested in the medium as I was.  I hate it, though, because I think radio connects with people better than TV and I hope Chuck finds another team in the league to call games.  As for the simulcast which the Hurricanes will do going forward, just as Chuck was the best in the biz as far as I’m concerned, John Forslund is a super star on television.  Best hockey broadcast after Doc Emrick and it is not close.  Carolina’s radio audience will still be well served by John’s call — though it won’t be the same as Chuck.

 Has there been any public backlash?

The answer is some, but there will be more when the season rolls around.  It will never be the same on the 5th floor at PNC Arena.  I miss him already.

 

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David J. Halberstam
David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History.

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