WDFN celebrates 20 years as Detroit's original sport talk

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
Headline Goes Here

Detroit has plenty of all-sports radio stations these days. Some good, some bad.

Some on powerful FM stations, some on low-wattage AMs.

But 20 years ago, it wasn't the case. In fact, Detroit didn't have a single station devoted to 24-hour sports chatter.

That all changed when WDFN-1130am hit the air on July 11, 1994 as Motown's first all-sports station. Sports-crazy fans flocked to it to rant and rave about the Lions, Tigers, Wings and Pistons and so much more.

And early on, most of the complaining was about Wayne Fontes, the Lions' coach.

What a shock. Fans weren't happy with the Lions.

On Saturday, almost 20 years to the day, former employers celebrated the 20th anniversary at 24 Seconds Bar and Grill in Berkley.

It was an incredible night as people - some who hadn't seen each other in years - relived those early moments of the fledgling radio station started by station manager Lorna Gladstone, a smart and fun person.

And the station - housed in an old garage off Jefferson downtown - reflected that early on. Gladstone put together a diverse mix of people, including former athletes and sports columnists to offer opinions on the radio.

And there were a ton of familiar faces and voices on the weekend crew, including Bob Wojnowski and Terry Foster.

I feel honored to be an original member of WDFN. I can remember when it all started. I was at Fenway Park in Boston for the Tigers' opening day against the Red Sox.

There was a call in the press box for me. It was Gladstone with the news that she was building this new station and wanted to talk to me about this exciting plan.

I had done a ton of radio and TV interviews as a columnist at the Detroit Free Press, at the time.

But I never had a radio show. I was definitely intrigued.

When I got back to Detroit, I met with Gladstone. And 20 minutes into our interview,

I was offered the job. I was the first on-air person hired, what an honor.
I thought it would be a midday slot.

But no, Gladstone wanted me to do afternoon drive. I suggested Mike Stone, who was a producer at WDIV back then, as my partner and The Odd Couple was born.

We had a fun show. It was basically a sports writer and a sports fan trying to share a radio show without driving each other crazy. So yes, we argued a lot the local teams.

When I thought Stoney was off-base, I'd yell, "C'mon, Stoney!" Just a few months into the show, there was someone at a Red Wings game holding up a sign that said just that. I was amazed.

To be honest, I still hear that from people when I'm walking around town. It always takes me back to those good old days.

I was fortunate to have two shows on DFN. In 1998, I came back to the station and teamed up with Mark Wilson to form Parker and The Man. We did a morning show.

Wilson and I have done radio together for more than 10 years on three different stations. Wilson is a pro's pro, one of the best in the business.

For sure, there are many options today when it comes to sports-talk radio in the city. You can listen to local or national.

But 20 years, there was just one. Yes, WDFN was the original, the trailblazer. Best of all, it was fun.

Original WDFN lineup on July 11, 1994

6-10am - The Morning Battery with Lary Sorensen and Butch Stearns. Greg Russell did the sports updates.

10-noon - The Fabulous Sports Babe

Noon to 2:30pm - Van Earl Wright, who also a WDIV sportscaster at the time. Jennifer Hammond did the sports updates and served as the sidekick.

2:30-6pm - The Odd Couple with Rob Parker and Mike Stone, better known as Stoney.

6-10pm - The Mega Mega Sports Man. Ike Griffin hosted the wild and crazy nighttime show. Jamie Samuelson was the update guy.

Copyright 2014 by ClickOnDetroit.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.