Full Circle: The Day We Lost The Eagles
A broadcast to be remembered

It was a Sunday like any other Sunday. I ate a day-old raisin bagel, put on my Kelly green socks and shook hands with the mayor of Philadelphia.

I was already going to school fulltime and producing “Jack McKinney’s Night Talk,” the top-rated radio show in the market. But here was a chance to make a few extra bucks by producing the Eagles’ games on Sundays on WCAU.

It was a straight shot up the Boulevard to the Expressway to Bala Cynwyd. Richardson Dilworth, Philly’s most elegant mayor, was always waiting in the studio in his best double-breasted pinstripe suit, finishing the show that preceded the Eagles.

I said hello and went straight to my desk in Control Room A and put on my headset, ready for war. The one-hour pregame show was easy. McKinney, with a grin on his face and gravel in his throat, made a few salient points, then opened up the phones to the moiling rabble. All I had to do was screen those calls and put them in the right order.

The most important thing was making contact with the field producer at the game site, this week St. Louis, to make sure everyone was ready to roll. It was never really a problem. Andy Musser and Charley Gauer were pros at this. They called a good game, at a time when not every game was on TV, and radio was king.

I say “Hello” into my headset. There’s no one there. OK, it’s still early. We have a good 10 minutes. So, every 30 seconds or so, I say “Hello.” Nothing.

The big game broadcast started at 1 pm. It was now 12:59:30. McKinney had left the studio, and I was all alone in the booth. By now, I am yelling into my headset. “HELLO? HELLO?! HELLO!!” Crickets.

I get the phone number of the broadcasting booth in St. Louis. I can hear the phone ringing in my headset. I hear Musser and Gauer and the producer joking around in the background. No one answers my call. And it is now 1:00.

The worst thing that can happen on radio is dead air. No one talking. “PLAY THE THEME!” I tell the engineer. He pushes a button and “Fly Eagles, Fly” starts to play. And play and play. I continue yelling into the headset. Nobody. After a never-ending three minutes of the theme song, I tell him to run a couple of commercials.

I call the front desk at the station and tell the operator to page McKinney. All I had to do was get him back in the studio and he could ad lib for a few minutes while I fixed this mess. But McKinney never hears the page, and no one knows where he is.

At this point, I do the only thing I can do. I walk into the studio, my legs trembling, and tell them to turn on the mic. I am 19 years old and have never been on the radio. I summon up my best Ted Baxter and sit down and say, “We are experiencing technical difficulties in St. Louis. We hope to have them fixed momentarily. Now, we’ll pause for these messages. This is the Eagles football network.”

When the commercials end, I start ad libbing my own pregame show. I pick up the morning Inquirer and start reading from the sports section. All the while, I’m yelling into the headphone. I can hear the national anthem ending. The teams are ready for kickoff.
Finally, a timid voice answers. It’s the field producer. “Where the hell have you been?” I yell. “We’re on the air.”

“Oh,” he says. “We were just sharing a pizza. I lost track of time.”

“Lost track of time?! You had one job — to not lose track of time.”

“Don’t get so excited,” he said. “It’s no big deal.”

The next day, the station manager would congratulate me and fire him. It was a big deal.

November 2019
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