On August 29, 1986, Mike Craven, general manager of WIP (610 AM), decided to move away a little more from the music traditionally broadcast by his station and to approach the talk format which augured for the future of the station.
He added an all-sports talk show to the mix of music and general talk he had established. For the first host of this 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 time. He has made a name for himself by offering strong and candid opinions. He argued with sports fans on an FM station and had recently made a television stint from Channel 3 to a fledgling show on Channel 29.
In 1988, WIP was sports talk all the time, with Eskin among a legion of moderators who would make IP one of the most powerful and listened-to radio stations in the world.
Cut to September 2, 2011. WIP, enjoying a huge following 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 nice home at 94.1, and, again, the host of the first WIP show on 94.1 FM was Howard Eskin.
Eskin moved to different parts of WIP’s rotation, sometimes taking daily shifts, most recently doing a Saturday afternoon show while being heard from frequently throughout the week. He worked alone. He worked with co-hosts.
The thing is, Eskin never stopped working for WIP. Yesterday marked his 35th anniversary at the station, a milestone in any industry but particularly commendable in the volatile realm of local radio.
In total, Eskin has been heard and seen in the Philadelphia market for 45 years, and using his trademark line, “I’ve never had a bad day in my life,” he says at age 70 he has intend to continue without thinking of relaxing, let alone retiring.
“Well, I went from 18 hours a day to 12.5 hours,” he says of his daily routine.
This routine includes walking 14 miles a day at varying intervals.
“I lost weight, 35 pounds, during the pandemic while walking,” Eskin says over the phone. “I go around a paved track and walk while watching TV, listening to the radio and reading the news. The exercise got me in great shape. Since April 2020, I have taken over 8 million steps and covered over 3,800 miles. If I did this in a straight line, I’d be somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between Los Angeles and Hawaii.
“I don’t let my age influence anything I do. I recognize it, but I don’t think about it.
“The important thing is that I’m active doing a job that I love in my hometown. I’ve been on air in other markets, but I’ve done my job here where I lived and grew up. WIP is a big part of that. I am proud of the 35 years I spent there.
Eskin says his willingness and ability to adapt to current events has helped him stay on top of his game for so long.
“Things are changing everywhere. You have to adapt to these 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 tendency to pair hosts to spark debate. I had a great time debating with my interlocutors, but if time says the debate should be with a co-host, so be it. I spoke before about keeping myself physically fit. Evolving with the times keeps me mentally fit.
Debate” is like Eskin’s sport. He was among the first sports chat moderators to give his opinion and confront 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 hadn’t told the truth as I know it, or if I hadn’t adapted as I mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t have been here to celebrate my 35th birthday.
“I never wanted there to be any confusion about what I think. People get upset when you disagree with them, but they appreciate you 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 these years I’ve been on the air I’ve had two goals, to inform and entertain, and a way to present what I had to say, being myself.
“The way I know people appreciate what I said is how many people I criticized but became friends and realized there was always a respect included in what I said. Charlie Manuel and I had a big meltdown but we laugh about it now and are friends Dick Vermeil is another one who didn’t always like to hear what I had to say but we are friends He calls me during my Saturday shows.TO (Terrell Owens) called one day just to talk.
“Then there are the people who have watched or listened to me over the years. I’m doing my Eagles reporting, and Bradley Cooper walks up to introduce himself, like I don’t know who he is. My question was how he knew who I was. He looked up to me when he was growing up. The same thing happened with Will Smith and others from Philadelphia. 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 met, those he interviewed and those he really knew. The highlight, he says, was the day he got to do a show with two of the greatest baseball players of all time, Steve Carlton and Ted Williams.
“Even though he didn’t want to do interviews – well one after a one-hitter, Steve Carlton and I became friends and built a relationship. Then one day I got to introduce him to maybe the best hitter in baseball history, Ted Williams. It was a great day.
“In my time, I was able to meet Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson and Larry Holmes, great boxing champions. Think of all the great sports personalities who have played in Philadelphia or played games here. Memories are piling up and I can’t wait to make more.
As his 35th WIP birthday approached, Howard began posting photos of himself with some of the all-time greats on his website, HowardEskin.com. The site is also filled with testimonials and supporters helping Howard mark his milestone.
Before he began making his own programs, Howard toured records for Jim O’Brien and did on-air spots with George Michael, on the syndicated show he appeared on for years. Like many others with long careers, Howard’s has been an ongoing journey, and if successful, it will continue for another 35 years.
Quick work at ‘Jeopardy!’
“Peril!” works quickly.
Perhaps it should be considered that he was recording when announced new host Mike Richards quit his job after finishing a show.
Immediately stepping in and announcing the host of “Jeopardy!” for the foreseeable future is Mayim Bialik, who made a successful guest stint and was previously announced to primetime host “Jeopardy!” programs.
Like Richards, Bialik is a good choice. She struck up a quick and friendly rapport with the contestants, moved the game along well, and seemed to have enough knowledge to pull off the late host Alex Trebek’s illusion of making it look like he knew the answers.
Of course, social media does not allow anyone to revel in success or good news for long. Already, news feeds and the woefully diminished Washington Post have featured stories about “Jeopardy!” fans criticizing Bialik’s selection.
Personally, I’d love to know exactly how many people have complained or signed petitions on behalf of contestants other than Richards or Bialik actually watching the show.
Meanwhile, “Jeopardy” producer Sony Pictures erred cautiously by elevating Bialik to the lead host role and keeping Richards as executive producer.
Hopefully these new decisions will prevail and that Sony doesn’t suddenly cave in to new, continued or additional pressure.
On television, the ratings tell the story. I say they have to do their job and govern the decisions.
David Murphy hanging up the card
When David Murphy began his tenure at Channel 6, he balanced reporting by placing magnetic numbers on the iconic, but later discontinued, ‘Action News’ weather card.
The map may have been updated, but Dave has been a Channel 6 staple for 31 years, most of whom, aged 17, devoted the weather to dawn shows ‘Action News’, which at the Murphy’s days started earlier and earlier until the current newscast which starts at 4 a.m.
Murphy was also Channel 6’s midday show meteorologist.
Few local TV stations are as steady and comforting as Murphy, who, though affable and able to take the ribs of anchor Matt O’Donnell, kept tabs on his main job and kept viewers updated on the temperatures, precipitation, the consequences of bad weather and what type of coat might be best for the day.
The morning Action News crew of O’Donnell, Murphy, Tamala Edwards, Karen Rogers and Matt Pellman have been a unit for some time now. It’s hard to imagine any of them leaving the others for the sequel.
All shows eventually change. Rogers has experience on the weather map and will likely take on 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 active life”, will make his final appearance on Channel 6 on September 7.
Edwards a star in the morning
Writing on Channel 6’s morning news, it seems like the time to say how great a job Tamala Edwards has done in sitting down for some of the evening presenters during their recent vacation.
On his morning shows, Edwards always struck me as company, earnestly doing his part at the anchor desk while Matt O’Donnell joked around with Karen Rogers and David Murphy. You could tell she had a sharp brain, a trait reinforced by her ‘Inside Story’ appearances and her pointed, pithy but calm comments on Channel 6’s recent PSAs, but you’ve rarely seen the big personality. that usually accompanies being an anchor.
During her parties, this personality and a more advanced sense of fashion came through.
Imagine that, 16 years at Channel 6, and Tamala is just beginning to emerge.
Neal Zoren’s TV column appears every Monday.