Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pete Franklin Interview – September 1975 Part 1

Yesterday I mentioned how TV used to be a largely shared viewing experience. That is, everyone was watching the same programs on network TV and would talk about them the next day at work.

Well, here’s an example of the days when radio was a shared listening experience. Back when WTAM in Cleveland was known as WWWE, Pete Franklin ruled the airwaves with his nightly “Sportsline" radio show. Although I’ve never been a big sports fan, I tuned in to the show every so often and was always entertained (although I often cringed at how he treated little kids that called in).

Here’s a great article about Pete Franklin that ran in the Lorain Journal on Sunday, September 28, 1975. It was written by Staff Writer Bob Cotleur, whose work I seem to post a lot on this blog.

It’s a long article, so I’ll bust it into two parts.

WWWE Host Once Rescued by George Foreman
Radio’s Pete Franklin: The Fearless Critic of Sports
Staff Writer

PETE FRANKLIN flicked a switch and cut another “dummy with a Mickey Mouse question” off the air.

Franklin, of course, is the reason many area car and home radios are tuned in to WWWE-Radio nightly before and after Indian ball games. He’s the host of the talk show “Sportsline” and with 50,000 watts of clear channel power sending his New England accent to 39 states and half of Canada, somebody’s listening.

He has five lighted buttons before him in the broadcast booth. One is long distance and calls are stacked up. As soon as he flicks one off it relights, but he goes on the next in symmetrical rotation. As least twice a night the long distance button glows and he hears from listeners in Dallas, Oklahoma City (“however far that is”) and many from New England.

He talks of the Indians, Browns, Crusaders and Cavaliers in depth, mostly in season, answers questions or statements in a range from “you’re right,” to “get off the air, you dummy.”

HE’S A FEARLESS CRITIC of management and managers, of players and fans and sportswriters. He’s been in a zillion verbal arguments with all of them but only Duke Sims, one time Indian catcher, wanted to do it with dukes.

What saved Franklin that lovely day was that he brought a friend to the Indians dressing room, Pro Boxer George Foreman, former heavyweight champion, and when Foreman stepped in front of a charging Sims to raise the palm of his hand and say, “now hold on, Brother, don’t go after my friend...” Sims changed his mind.

What had Sims up tight to begin with was that it happened a day or two after he tossed a cocktail glass at a girl in a tavern. The glass hit the table first, broke and a piece bounced up to cut her.

“I had her on the air in an interview,” Franklin said, “and Sims didn’t like that. He said so. I only said that I was proving what I said all along, he couldn’t throw straight even in a cocktail lounge.

“He threatened to change my face. I said I wasn’t worried, all he ever fought were girls.

“So he charged... and George Foreman, a guest of mine, stepped in between us...”

Franklin’s show is a symphonic blend of angry – pleasant – incensed – elated voices. Make no mistake.  According to Pete, he creates, directs and produces it. He wants the one-in-four caller who is a “kook” but he doesn’t want him “for a solid hour straight. That’s as bad as a dissertation on the intricacies and psychologies of trap blocking, which I could talk on but wouldn’t. I don’t want to bore my listeners either way.”

If the show begins to slow or grow boring – sometimes several callers in a row offer the same question (“dummies”) and the question is less than important (“Mickey Mouse”) – Pete will get angry and appear to blow up.

But it ain’t true.

He considers himself extremely professional and, by Old Vic, he is. “I am detached and in control. I can tell people that over and over and 100 times out of 100 they won’t believe me unless they actually watch me do a show...”

Pete Franklin is the John Barrymore - Richard Burton of Cleveland radio. He’s had years of experience and now is the longest - lasting talk show host in America. In fact, his record in Cleveland began in 1967 on WERE, switched to WWWE in 1972 and is still going on.

Meanwhile Cleveland’s “number one” a few months ago, Gary Dee, is back to playing records and things between talking calls from listeners and Count John Manolesco is likely interviewing mediums in Port - au - Prince, Haiti or somewhere.

Franklin sticks to sports. He’s considered an expert by those who like him and those who don’t.

He seems to know everyone personally from Pele, the soccer star, to Rod Carew of the Twins and boy wonder Rick Manning of the Indians. For a change of pace you can throw in Milt Morin, Jack Nicklaus, Olga Corbett... and Vincent Price. Price is only “in” when it comes to the psychology of acting.

Although the baseball season is about to hibernate, it’s a good time to ask some of the Cleveland Indians what they think of the guy who says “there’s nothing humble about me professionally,” and chews them out from the batboy to Frank Robinson and Phil Seghi.

Here’s what some of them think.

JACK BROHAMER: “He’s one of the most knowledgable people on sports past and present. That means all sports. He amazes me. He’s got the freedom to do what he wants on his show, like cutting off dumb people who call in. I think he buried us prematurely this season... and he says he hates the Yankees, but that may be a put-on. Oh yes, he must be the worst dresser I’ve ever seen...”

JOHN LOWENSTEIN: “He may be a substitute for other bad programming they (WWWE) might put on the air. I think he entertains himself more than the people who listen to him...”

BUDDY BELL: “He’s good for the people, enjoyable to listen to. He’s very knowledgable...”

FRITZ PETERSEN: “Before I came to Cleveland (from the Yankees) I was warned by the Yankees not to talk to him. I didn’t know he was a Yankee-hater then. He’s a real Indians fan, though. If he nips at us at least he’s objective. He buried us this season, but resurrected us too. I enjoy listening to him. I like him when he buries the Yankees...”

FRED BEENE: “I didn’t like it when he got on us and buried us. He told the fan to come to the stadium to see us. He doesn’t have any right to say that...”

(Note: Beene must have meant it in the sense of attending a solemn requiem mass for the dead.)

One area fan is Jerry Doyle of 5055 Oberlin Rd., Amherst, who calls Franklin from time to time to make a point “but not to argue, at least not on the telephone. It’s too expensive.

“But he is sharp, knows a lot about sports and is popular. Sometimes he gets so arrogant... like if he’s got somebody over a barrel, he’ll pour it on. He’s brassy. I consider myself knowledgable, too, and I’d like to argue with him someday, one on one...”

But not for the profit of Lorain Telephone and/or Ohio Bell.

Tomorrow: Part Two

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I called him once when I was a kid. I asked him what his thoughts were about Pro Basketball players playing in the Olympics. He was pretty nice to me. Then a friend of mine called about baseball. My friend had a kind of high-pitched voice and Pete got on him!!! Imitating him with his answer. We tape recorded the whole call and cracked up many times listening to it!

Jeff Rash