On August 29, 1986, Mike Craven, general manager of WIP (610 AM), decided to go one step further away from the music his station traditionally played and one step closer to the talk format that would augur the station’s future.
He added an all-sports talk show to the mix of music and general talk he’d established. For the first host of that show, Craven tapped one of the biggest names in local on-air sports journalism, Howard Eskin.
Eskin had been on Philadelphia radio and television for 10 years at that point. He made a name by offering strong, candid opinions. He wrangled with sports fans on an FM station and had recently made a television move from Channel 3 to a fledgling broadcast at Channel 29.By 1988, WIP was all sports talk all the time, with Eskin among a legion of moderators who would build ‘IP into one of the strongest and most loyally listened to of any radio station in the world.
Cut to September 2, 2011. WIP, boasting a huge audience but lacking the exposure it could receive from being on the FM dial, takes over the 94.1 slot held since the ‘60s by rock station WYSP.
WIP and all-sports would find a congenial home at 94.1, and, once again, the host of the first WIP show on 94.1 FM was Howard Eskin.Eskin would move to different parts of WIP’s rotation, at times taking daily shifts, lately doing a Saturday afternoon show while being heard frequently throughout the week. He worked solo. He worked with co-hosts.
The point is Eskin never stopped working for WIP. Yesterday marked his 35th anniversary at the station, a milestone in any industry but particularly laudable in the volatile field of local radio.
All totaled, Eskin has been heard and seen in the Philadelphia market for 45 years, and using his trademark line, “I never had a bad day in my life,” he at age 70 says he intends to keep on going little thought of relaxing, let alone retiring.
“Well, I have gone from 18 hour days to 12 ½ hour days,” he says in talking about his daily routine.
That routine includes walking 14 miles a day at various intervals.
“I lost weight, 35 pounds, during the pandemic by walking,” Eskin says by telephone. “I go around a paved track and walk while watching TV, listening to the radio, and reading newsfeeds. The exercise put me in great shape. Since April 2020, I have walked more than 8 million steps and covered more than 3,800 miles. If I did that in a straight line, I’d be somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between L.A. and Hawaii.
“I don’t let my age influence anything I do. I acknowledge it, but I don’t think about it.
“The important thing is I’m active doing a job I love in my hometown. I’ve been on the air in other markets, but I’ve done my work here where I’ve lived and grew up. WIP is a great part of that. I am proud of the 35 years I’ve been on the air there.”
Eskin says a willingness and ability to adapt to the news has helped him stay on top of his game for so long.
“Things change everywhere. You have to adjust to those changes. I don’t use terms I used in 1986. I use terms that my current audience can relate to. For years, I worked solo. Then there was a trend to pair hosts to spark debate. I had a great time debating with my callers, but if the times say the debate should be with a co-host, so be it. I talked before of keeping myself physically in shape. Moving with the times keeps me mentally in shape.”
Debate” is like Eskin’s sport. He was among the first sports talk moderators to offer opinions and take on callers or colleagues who challenged them.
“I told the story as I saw it. I relayed information as I received it,” he said. “If I didn’t speak the truth as I know it, or didn’t adjust in the ways I mentioned earlier, I would not have been around to have a 35th anniversary.
“I never wanted there to be any confusion about what I think. People get rankled when you disagree with them, but they appreciate when you’re being honest.
“They know it if you’re not. The best advice I ever received was “be yourself.” A broadcast coach told me that when I started at Channel 3. In all of the years I’ve been the air, I’ve had two objectives, to inform and entertain, and one way of presenting what I had to say, by being myself.
“The way I know people appreciate what I’ve said is the number of people I criticized but who have become friends and realize there was always a respect included in what I was saying. Charlie Manuel and I had a big blowout, but we laugh about it now and are friends. Dick Vermeil is another who didn’t always like hearing what I had to say, but we’re friends. He calls in during my Saturday shows. T.O. (Terrell Owens) called one day just to talk.
“Then there’s the people who have watched or listened to me over the years. I’m doing my Eagles sideline report, and Bradley Cooper walks over to introduce himself, as if I didn’t know who he was. My question was how he knew who I was. He watched me when he was growing up. The same thing happened with Will Smith and others from Philly. I’m in awe of them, but they want to meet me.”
Eskin says the memories of 45 years, 35 at WIP, are too many to catalog. He talks about the people he’s met, those he interviewed and those he genuinely got to know. The highlight, he says, is the day he was able to do a broadcast with two of the greatest baseball players of all-time Steve Carlton and Ted Williams.
“Even though he wouldn’t do interviews – well one after a one-hitter, Steve Carlton and I became friends and built a rapport. Then one day, I got to introduce him to maybe the best hitter in baseball history, Ted Williams. That was a great day.
“In my time, I was able to meet Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, and Larry Holmes, great boxing champs. Think of all the great sports figures who played in Philadelphia or were in games here. The memories pile up, and I look forward to making more of them.”
As his 35th WIP anniversary approached, Howard began posting pictures of him with some of the all-time greats on his web site, HowardEskin.com. The site is also filled with testimonials and well-wishers who are helping Howard mark his milestone.
Before he started doing his own programs, Howard spun records for Jim O’Brien and did on-air spots with George Michael, on whose syndicated show he appeared for years. Like many with long careers, Howard’s has been one continuous ride, and if he has his way, it will go on for another 35 years.
Fast work at ‘Jeopardy!’
“Jeopardy!” works fast.
Perhaps, it had to considering it was taping when announced new host Mike Richards stepped down from the job after completing one show.Stepping in immediately and announced as the host of “Jeopardy!” for the foreseeable future is Mayim Bialik, who did a successful guest stint and was announced previously at the host of primetime “Jeopardy!” programs.
Like Richards, Bialik is a good choice. She established a quick and friendly rapport with contestants, moves the game well, and seems to have enough knowledge of her own to pull off the late host Alex Trebek’s illusion of making it appear he knew the answers.
Of course, social media allows no one to revel long in success or good news. Already, news feeds and the woefully diminished Washington Post have featured pieces about “Jeopardy!” fans criticizing Bialik’s selection.
Personally, I’d love to know by exact count how many of the people allegedly complaining or signing petitions on behalf of candidates other than Richards or Bialik actually watch the show.
Meanwhile, “Jeopardy’s” producer, Sony Pictures, has been prudent in elevating Bialik to the main host role and keeping Richards at his post as executive producer.
Let’s hope these new decisions prevail, and Sony doesn’t suddenly cave under new, continued, or added pressure.In television, ratings tell the story. I say let them do their job and govern decisions.
David Murphy hanging up the map
When David Murphy started his tenure at Channel 6, he balanced reporting with placing magnetic numerals on the iconic, but later discarded, “Action News” weather map.
The map may have been updated, but Dave has been a staple at Channel 6 for 31 years, the greater bulk of that, 17 years, spent reporting the weather on “Action News’s” dawn shows, which during Murphy’s times started earlier and earlier until the current newscast which begins at 4 a.m.
Murphy was also the meteorologist on Channel 6’s noon show.
Few on local television are as steady and comforting as Murphy, who though affable and able to take ribbing from anchor Matt O’Donnell, kept his eye on his main job and kept viewers informed about temperatures, precipitation, consequences of severe weather, and what kind of coat might be best for the day.
The morning Action News” team of O’Donnell, Murphy, Tamala Edwards, Karen Rogers, and Matt Pellman have been a unit for a while now. It’s difficult to think of one of them leaving the others for what comes next.
All shows eventually change. Rogers is experienced at the weather map and will probably take over most of Murphy’s duties there.Murphy, who said in announcing his departure, “After 37 years in broadcasting, I have decided I am an excellent candidate to retire from working life,” will make his last Channel 6 appearance September 7.
Edwards a star in the morning
While writing about Channel 6’s morning news, it seems a good time to say what a great job Tamala Edwards did while sitting in for some of the evening anchors during their recent vacations.
On her morning shows, Edwards always struck me as all business, seriously doing her part at the anchor desk while Matt O’Donnell kidded around with Karen Rogers and David Murphy. You could tell she had a sharp brain, a trait reinforced by her “Inside Story” appearances and sharp, concise, yet calm comments on recent Channel 6 public service announcements, but you rarely saw the large personality that usually accompanies being an anchor.
During her evening stints, that personality and a more advanced fashion sense, came through.Fancy that, 16 years at Channel 6, and Tamala has just begun to emerge.
Neal Zoren’s television column appears every Monday.
Source: Berkshire mont