This is the tale of a defunct sports radio station, one that didn’t survive long, earned only a fleeting flicker in the Arbitron ratings and the consciousness of Boston sports fans, was plagued by a misdirected signal and chronically decreasing corporate support, spent recklessly, and then spent hardly at all.
It never really had a chance. Yet because of so many talented people who were part of it — many unknown then and well-known now — the station has had a profound and lasting effect on the sports media landscape.
This is the tale of a station that in 2001 set out to challenge Boston sports radio powerhouse WEEI, never had the resources to do so, but ultimately produced the blueprint that 98.5 The Sports Hub would follow years later in overtaking WEEI in their enduring Boston sports radio showdown.
This is the tale of 1510 The Zone — the most talent-rich sports radio station you couldn’t hear — as told by those who were there.
The would-be challenger
In December 2000, billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, whose Vulcan Ventures owned Sporting News Radio and its 435 affiliates nationwide, purchased One-on-One Sports, which owned WNRB 1510 in Woburn.
Three months later, the station was rebranded as 1510 The Zone and moved to Burlington, officially positioning itself as a challenger to WEEI.
Bill Simmons, sportswriter and frequent The Zone afternoon drive cohost: People just hated WEEI at that point. People really wanted an alternative. And this was pretty early Internet. So the Internet was rounding into form, but there were not a lot of options to consume content about your favorite team.
When I was living in Boston in the ’90s, EEI just had this enormous influence. People listened to it despite not liking it because there was nothing else to listen to.
Twelve days after the name change, The Zone landed its first big fish, pilfering Celtics broadcast rights away from WEEI with an exorbitant five-year contract.
Jason Wolfe, WEEI program director: At the time, I was negotiating with the Celtics before they left to go over there and I remember someone told me they were getting around $2 million [per year] in a rights fee. And I said, “Good luck to you; you’re going to have to take this because there’s no way we’re matching that.”
The Zone, led by general manager Mike Kellogg, continued to build toward a September 2001 launch, adding Timberwolves television voice and former WEEI personality Sean Grande as its Celtics play-by-play host and executive producer at the station.
Kellogg: We already had Max [Cedric Maxwell] in place as the color analyst. I knew Sean and I begged him, begged him, and begged him and finally got him to do it. I thought they’d be great together.
Simmons: Grande gave up a TV job, which nobody did at that point. If you got one, one of 30, you never gave it up. You become Mike Gorman.
Grande, the de facto program director, was crucial in hiring young voices like Simmons. But he also hired established talent. In August, The Zone chose its first local host, and it was a big name: Sean McDonough, who had been the television voice of the Red Sox in some capacity since 1988 and had a national profile as a superb big-event play-by-play voice.
“The McDonough Group” would go head-to-head in the afternoon with WEEI’s Glenn Ordway-helmed “The Big Show,” a ratings powerhouse.
Mike Winn, sales manager: In the beginning, Mike Kellogg had the dream and started to put this thing together. He was full-bore, you know, like, “Hey, let’s go get McDonough, let’s go get Grande, and let’s go right at WEEI.” He went all-in to say the least.
McDonough didn’t start his show until October, but the station set its launch date a month sooner — ominously, as it turned out. It was one of the most tragic days in American history.
Anthony Pepe, marketing director: You know what happened there. The launch date was 9/11, which was horrific in itself. You start launching a station with that historic, tragic event and it’s very challenging. I mean, that was Day 1.
Raising the bar
“The McDonough Group” promised to be different than WEEI’s successful but often obnoxious “guy radio” approach. McDonough pledged to “raise the bar,” which became the show’s slogan.
Dave Jageler, host/update personality: It was intended to be intelligent sports talk radio. Not boring, but you could have a debate and discussion and talk about players and issues without the vitriol and anger. I thought that was a really good concept.
According to Grande, popular longtime Channel 4 sports anchor Bob Lobel would have been the choice had McDonough said no.
Grande: The idea was that you could do sports talk in complete sentences. He didn’t want to do a low-rent show. But it needed humor. Sean off the air — and this is the guy we wanted on the air — is the funniest guy in the room.
McDonough: Glenn Ordway always used to say that if I’d do it with my true personality, I’d be good at it. You know, opinionated, and I guess he thinks I’m funny.
In its first year, the show had significant reasons for optimism. The same day in March 2001 that the station rebranded as 1510 The Zone, WEEI banned sportswriters from the Globe from appearing on its shows that weren’t already declared off-limits by Globe management.
That opened up collaboration between Globe writers and The Zone. At least one prominent Globe sportswriter was part of the McDonough Group almost every day.
Michael Holley, Globe columnist and cohost: It was so much fun. It was like the ABA in the early days taking on the NBA.
Jerry Remy, McDonough’s broadcast partner on Red Sox games, was a regular. Young ascending talents such as Simmons, Mike Giardi, Tim Hasselbeck, and Michael Smith were regular cohosts. Actor Matt Damon was an early guest. The show even broke occasional news, such as the Red Sox’ signing of that other Damon, Johnny.
But McDonough’s show took the raise-the-bar approach at a time when perhaps the most contentious debate topic in Boston sports radio history was emerging: Who should be the Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady or Drew Bledsoe?
Simmons: Obviously they went all in on Sean, and he’s a really talented guy, but it became clear he didn’t really understand what it took to have a radio show. The problem was he didn’t have the instincts on what to talk about. I remember we would have some shows where he was interviewing some college coach for 25 minutes. I mean, 25 minutes, “Coach, you have to be proud of your kids.” It was just [expletive] terrible.
Much of the appeal for McDonough in doing the show was the chance to work with his father, legendary Globe football writer and columnist Will McDonough. McDonough, the ultimate NFL insider, was signed to host a weekly hour-long football program with former Patriots coach Bill Parcells that was syndicated across all of Sporting News Radio’s stations.
Simmons: [Will] McDonough and Parcells was awesome. I thought that was the best radio show I’d heard in my life to that point.
The Zone also plucked the coveted and valuable “Patriots Monday” content away from WEEI, which included the weekly interview with Bill Belichick and Brady (after he took over for the injured Bledsoe in Week 2).
Howie Sylvester, producer: My favorite thing about working there: Will McDonough would come in once a week as a guest on Sean’s show. He’d show up about an hour before he was supposed to go on. My studio was right across the hall from the talk studio, so he’d hang out in my room waiting to go on.
I learned more about what was really going on in sports during those sessions than in any other time in my career.
Tim Hasselbeck, cohost, former Boston College quarterback: Will McDonough was Adam Schefter before Adam Schefter. Heck, Will McDonough told my father [former Patriots tight end Don Hasselbeck] that he was traded from the Patriots to the Raiders [in 1983] before anyone on the Patriots told him.
McDonough: That was the best part of it for me, by far the best part. When he was on, you knew he knew exactly what he was talking about. He brought all kinds of credibility, great information, obviously was not afraid to offer an opinion, strongly.
The Zone added a second well-known name to its daily roster in early 2002 when Eddie Andelman, the godfather of Boston sports radio, left his midday role at WEEI when his contract expired and joined the Zone.
Andelman, an accomplished businessman and expert marketer (he founded the Hot-Dog Safari and never missed a chance to plug it on his show), first entered the Boston sports radio scene in 1969 when he, Jim McCarthy, and Mark Witkin formed the legendary “Sports Huddle.”
Grande: Eddie was counter in so many ways to the concept of the station. But it was Eddie Andelman. There was no choice, no discussion to have. Of course you want Eddie Andelman.
Jageler, Andelman’s cohost: I never worked with anyone like Eddie before. If he said something outlandish, I was going to be the guy who had to bring him back and say, “Eddie, you’re crazy, that’s not what’s going on here.”
Winn: Eddie was great at creating revenue out of nothing. One day a guy from some hot dog company would be on the air with him, and you’d be like, “What’s going on?” And he’d say, “Oh, don’t worry about it, he’s getting us money.”
Bill Dempsey, ad salesman: I remember one day I was coming back from a sales call and I pull into my spot in Burlington and this guy’s getting a sledgehammer out of the trunk of his car. I’m like “Holy [expletive], that’s Gallagher.” You know, the guy who smashed watermelon in his comedy act? Of course, he was there to go on with Eddie. I literally got to carry the Sledge-O-Matic.
Good signs, bad signal
In the first year-plus of The Zone, there was reason for hope. They weren’t expecting to make a blip, but “The McDonough Group” earned a 1.7 share in the Nielsen ratings in its first book despite having come on a third of the way through the ratings period. That was a fraction of WEEI’s ratings, which reached double figures in afternoon drive in those days, but it was progress. And there was a methodical plan in place to continue to challenge WEEI — including by pursuing established WEEI talent.
Grande: WEEI had three game-changing properties, in my view: The Red Sox, Ordway, and Gerry Callahan. The Red Sox and Ordway were under long-term contracts. Callahan was up. We went hard after him in the summer of 2002. Greg Dickerson [another WEEI personality] would have been his cohost. But WEEI paid up for Gerry. We went after the Red Sox in Spanish, too. That would have gotten us signage in the ballpark, on what was WEEI turf [as the flagship station].
Not everything was a cause for hope. There were real problems The Zone was struggling to overcome. Foremost was the signal, which was reported to be 50,000 watts during the day, but dropped to 10,000 at night. It also was directional, and not in a way that served Boston commuters, at least by car.
Ross Carey, producer: We’d get calls coming in, “I’m five minutes away. I can’t hear the station.” So much of the signal was blowing out to the ocean.
McDonough: The best line — I never had it tacitly confirmed — but the signal apparently had an easterly signal, and I remember Bob Lobel told me one time, he was on a boat and it came in great, and it’s a great station if you’re a fish.
Dempsey: Yeah, we were No. 1 with boaters 10 miles off the coast.
McDonough: They had made a lot of promises that they were going to up the power, which clearly they were going to have to do to compete. There was a lot of stuff about how, “Well, Paul Allen is committed to this.” That’s kind of what I heard when they were recruiting me to come there. “He’s going to fix the signal, and he’s going to put the money into this to compete,” and on and on. And the doors opened and none of that happened.”
The signal issues were particularly problematic during nighttime Celtics games.
Sylvester: It’s too bad, because listeners missed some good stuff when Max and Grande were finding their way. My favorite story: Celts are playing Detroit; I forget if it’s here or out there, and we’re in a commercial break. Max sometimes has a habit of wandering away from the broadcast position during breaks; usually he’s back on time.
This time, however, he’s a bit late, because some security guard asked to see his credential as he was heading back. He throws on the headset, and mutters something about “that [expletive-expletive] security guard.” There’s a long pause, then Grande says, “You know you’re on the air, right?”
Across the dial, WEEI would mock The Zone’s Celtics broadcasts by playing static in the background during highlights.
Grande: At first, WEEI’s nature was to ridicule and whatever, but they couldn’t do that because that would have called attention to us. It was like the beginning of the Drago-Apollo Creed fight [in “Rocky IV”] when neither was hitting each other and it was really bizarre. They couldn’t hit us because it would acknowledge our existence, and we couldn’t hit them because we were raising the bar.
Simmons: I remember being there at Pat O’Brien’s [in New Orleans before Super Bowl XXXVI], and the WEEI crew was there at the same time. The Zone guys were there. They were actually pretty OK; it wasn’t like we were going to have the “Anchorman” brawl or something. I couldn’t tell if [then-WEEI host] Pete Sheppard wanted to take a swing at me, but he probably did. I’d taken some shots at him in the past, at Ordway and those guys.
In the first year, The Zone wasn’t just eager to challenge WEEI in the market. It had, if all too briefly, the budget to back it up.
Pepe: I came aboard in February 2002, and we had a million-dollar marketing budget, which was fun. My first role was to build a studio on Yawkey Way, right in Twins Souvenir Shop, where McDonough broadcast every afternoon when there was a Sox game. It was a pretty big coup.
Dempsey: We really had a blank canvas on things to do. I remember we brought a dunk tank to the Snow Bowl game against the Raiders. Crazy as it was, we came up with the idea of — I don’t know how I agreed to this — getting dressed in a Rich Gannon Raiders jersey and sitting in the dunk tank when it was 32 degrees and having Patriots fans throw balls at a dunk tank when it’s freezing out.
Despite the yeoman marketing efforts, skepticism soon grew about Sporting News’s competence and commitment. The skepticism proved well-founded.
Jageler: If you were going to compete with the WEEIs of the world, you had to go in there with a full slate, from basically morning drive to afternoon drive with local programming. And Sporting News Radio looked at us as a vehicle to get their national programming cleared in the Boston market.
Boston fans are not going to want to hear about Alabama college football or the Denver Broncos. They want to talk about the Celtics, the Patriots, the Bruins, and the Red Sox. And they want to talk about it from sunup to sundown.
Grande: Ego-wise, Mike Kellogg and I thought, “You know what? They have no idea what they’re doing, but we’re going to do such a good job putting this together that they’ll leave us alone.” And they wouldn’t. They pulled the money.
Kellogg: The cash flow was fine at the beginning. The problem is that the Sporting News company was having a difficult time, and it affected us. Resources really began to dry up, and when it was really time when we needed, you know, another bucket of water on the fire, it wasn’t there.
Even with the financial limitations, The Zone continued to look to add personalities and programming into 2002. Simmons, whose Boston Sports Guy column on Digital Cities Boston had become a phenomenon, was rumored to be paired with several potential cohosts, including Steve Burton (in a midday show) and Holley. Names such as Nick Cafardo, Ron Borges, and Gene Lavanchy were mentioned as other potential hosts.
Holley: I was riding with Mike Kellogg one day, and he said, “As a matter of fact, I’d like to do some things with you and Simmons.” And I’m like, “Yeah, that would be interesting.” He was driving me somewhere, I don’t know. And then a couple of days later, I hear that Bill Simmons is getting a gig with Page 2 at ESPN. I said, “So, Mike, about that thing with Simmons. I think that just changed . . .”
In October 2002, The Zone found its morning guy, and it was another familiar name. Mike Adams, an irreverent, quick-witted, and sometimes unreliable radio veteran who had hosted his own show on New England Cable News, was the choice. He was working part-time for WEEI while also working at a car dealership.
Grande: I went for talent. If you’re going to pay talented dudes without much money, you’re going to get baggage.
Mike Adams, host: I worked at WEEI for many years. Big stations, WNEW in New York, a lot of places. And I walk into this station, look around, and they’ve got 20 to 25 sales cubicles in the sales office, and like four of them are occupied. The empty desks were like walking into a ghost town. It was creepy.
The producer who had the morning show was a recent Connecticut School of Broadcasting graduate. And I was like, “I taught at that school. This kid can’t be ready.” He was a moron.
Adams’s show, which began on Halloween 2002, lasted 3½ months.
Adams: I got fired, the day before my birthday. Quarter of six, we’re getting ready to go on the air, and [a fellow host] opens the Herald, and Jim Baker’s headline, stripped across the page, is “Adams Off The Air.”
No one had told us anything; we’re getting ready to start the show in 15 minutes, and we’re reading in the Herald that the show has been canceled. With quotes from Mike Kellogg and everything.
We start the show and we’re reading the article by Baker. And we’re like, “Hey, guess who’s getting fired today? This is interesting. Never had this happen before.” And we’re kind of laughing, but in a morbid way, like this is ridiculous.
Adams and the show remained on the air until 7:20 a.m., when Adams saw Kellogg walk through the door.
Adams: So in a commercial break, I go into his office and say, “What the [expletive] is going on?” And he says, “I’m sorry you found out this way.” And I say, “Well, do you want me to go on the air, or do you want me to go to network,” which was Sporting News Radio. And he says, “Oh, just go to network.” And we walked out, all of us.
Adams had planned to be married in an on-air ceremony in April. Globe sports media reporter Bill Griffith quipped that it was the first time a “honeymoon ended before the wedding.”
With Adams out, Grande, Kellogg, and The Zone again faced the growing problem of the shrinking budget. How could it populate its programming with its finances slashed, so much money tied up in McDonough, Andelman, and Celtics rights, and rumors percolating that The Sporting News, whose flagship magazine was struggling, was itching to sell.
Grande: That Celtics deal weighed on them so much. Sporting News was based in Chicago. They knew the Bulls games went for something like $3 million a year, so they made a big offer. The Celtics hadn’t been to the playoffs in six years. They weren’t the Michael Jordan Bulls. They were offering millions of dollars for the Milt Palacio Celtics.
McDonough: They overpaid for Celtics rights. In hindsight, they probably feel like they overpaid me and overpaid Eddie Andelman, too.
In April 2003, The Zone did about the only thing it could do: It went young in filling its morning show, moving relatively unknown twentysomethings Ryen Russillo, Kevin Winter, and Holden Kushner from a Saturday program to the morning drive spot.
Winter: We’re, like, going head to head with “Mustard and Johnson” [on WEEI] on Saturdays and just trying to catch a break or something. Next thing you know, we’re doing morning drive.
The show was christened “The Morning Press Box.” For Russillo, a Martha’s Vineyard native whose main experience had been one season as the radio voice of the Double A Trenton Thunder and who was working construction while trying to finagle a break, it was a whirlwind that didn’t quite seem real at the beginning.
Ryen Russillo, host: I had a hell of a time getting in the door. After four [scheduled] meetings when Kellogg didn’t meet with me, we ran into each other randomly one day at The Harp. At that point, I didn’t care, and so I said, “Hey, dude, I showed up to visit with you a couple of times and you just left me in the lobby.” And he was like, “Monday morning, 5 a.m., meet me and we’ll talk.” That was the whole interview. I filled in, and that was that.
Russillo’s talent, bolstered by dedicated preparation that included charting each night’s Red Sox game pitch by pitch, soon became apparent to his peers.
Grande: Remember the time period. Bill Simmons obviously had a very unique voice at that time. I always said this about Russillo, too. You knew Russillo was going to be something, be somebody. But what he was going to be hadn’t been invented yet.
Holley: I remember one time Michael Smith was doing a show I wasn’t, and he gave me a call and he said, “Oh, you’ve got to get to the station. There’s this new guy at the station. He’s unbelievable. His voice is so good it’s kind of intimidating.”
This is coming from Michael Smith! He’s got like the Barry White thing going anyway himself. “This guy, he’s smart, he’s got a great voice, he’s going to be something.” He was talking about Russillo.
I said, “Nah, he can’t be that good. I want to hear this guy.”
And then I heard him and I was like, “OK, I see what you’re talking about.”
The talent was there. The price was right, too. Russillo said he made $26,000 that year.
Russillo: When they offered the contract, they said it’s a thousand bucks a paycheck. I was so stupid, I was like, “Holy [expletive], 52 grand a year!” I can pay some bills, maybe go away for a week in the summer. I’ll be able to make adult money here. I was thrilled. And then I found out you got paychecks every two weeks.
Soon, even more would be asked of the young hosts. When Sporting News’s support dwindled further and it was clearer than ever that the signal and budgetary issues would never allow The Zone to compete with WEEI, McDonough decided it was time to go.
It was not a surprise by then — he’d frequently missed shows because of his broadcasting obligations for the Red Sox and ESPN — but it felt like the surest sign that the end was near when he left in May 2003.
McDonough: It’s the only thing I’ve done in this business for the money, just because the money was too enticing to turn down.
Not everyone was sad to see McDonough go, despite his talent and what he meant to the station’s birth. He could be difficult to work with in those days. His first producer, Chris Passamano, did not click with McDonough and was fired a few months into the show’s existence.
Simmons: You’d have Eddie in one office, just not talking to anybody. You’d have McDonough, who everyone was afraid of, and you have Grande, who was probably rethinking every decision he’d made over the previous months. And then a whole bunch of junior people trying to keep the station afloat. It was still a very strange place to work.
Mike Giardi, cohost: There were a couple of times with big names that they couldn’t have been less interested. They’d be doing other work that had nothing to do with the show. I’d be looking at [producer] Ross Carey behind the glass like, “I can’t keep talking to myself here.”
And then we’d do the next show where it was Simmons and Michael Smith, and we’d do four hours in what felt like four minutes, and we’d be like, “Hey, can we keep going?”
Two months after McDonough left, rumors circulated that The Sporting News was considering shuttering the station. Instead, they gutted it.
In a hastily arranged meeting on July 18, the Sporting News announced it was letting 20 staffers go, leaving only 12 full-timers across all departments. Among those who lost their jobs were Carey, Kushner, and Winter. The relationship with the Globe also ended.
Andelman remained, as did the inexpensive Russillo, who was moved into afternoon drive with marketing and sales guys Pepe and Winn on a show called “The Diehards.”
The morning show was a syndicated Sporting News program, one that would not resonate in parochial Boston. The Celtics deal, still with three years left to go, remained the dangling anvil over everything. The Sporting News put the remnants of the station for sale.
Russillo: Even after all that, everybody that was left was still trying to do whatever we possibly could to keep the thing going. So in October, they were like, “Hey, you know this Red Sox playoff run is incredible. Is there any way you guys will come in and do the morning show and do the afternoon shows the same day?” We did it for a few weeks and it was brutal. Guys slept in their cars in between shifts.
In the aftermath of the chaos, “The Diehards” found another future sports media star, a former intern and quasi-office manager named Jon Anik.
Winn: I called my corporate people and I said, “Hey, can he be our secretary and also do afternoon drive?” And they were like, “Yeah, as long as we don’t pay him any more money, that’s fine.” So, you know, he’d come in, there wasn’t a hell of a lot to do as being like our office manager, and we put him on the air.
Anik became a cohost with Russillo and Pepe after Winn took over as general manager.
Jon Anik, host: Anthony Pepe pushed for me to be a third host and not just the update guy because he thought I had value. Ryen, rightfully so, had a little bit of trepidation early on. So I had to break down that wall and work through that.
Russillo: Anthony Pepe made Anik a cohost without telling me. I come in one day and Anik is just sitting there with his headset on getting ready to go. And I’m like, “What the hell is going on?” It’s not that I was mad, it’s that Pepe wouldn’t say anything to me about it.
Anik was smart enough to take an interest in a rapidly growing sport. He became, and remains to this day, the main play-by-play voice of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Russillo: My father listened religiously; it was such a joy for him to hear me doing this. And he goes one day, “You know who’s really good? That Anik guy.” He always said Pepe was the heart of the show, but he goes, “Anik likes you, he thinks you’re really good, but he’s smarter than you are. You should pay attention to him.” And he was right.
The Zone trudged along in 2004 and into 2005, scarcely resembling the station it once aimed to be despite the efforts of the few that remained. Winn briefly took over as general manager, but moved to a new Boston sports radio venture, the ESPN Radio-backed WAMG 890, in October 2005. Howie Sylvester, a glue guy as a producer, was laid off. Rumors percolated that Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell might be let go.
The Celtics deal, an albatross from the beginning, was finally resolved when WRKO bought the rights in June 2005, with one year left on the deal.
The end, for all intents and purposes, came on Oct. 28, 2005, when Clancy Woods, president of Sporting News Radio, had the 1510 staff gather for the dreaded announcement: The company was pulling the plug on all local programming.
Andelman and “The Diehards” ended, with Russillo, Pepe, and Anik having a farewell show, their 583rd, to say goodbye to the listeners. Anik wore a placard reading “We Believed.”
Anik: There were a lot of frustrating days, for sure. You know, we weren’t paid a lot of money. It was trying at times. It’s amazing just to think that all of a sudden one day it was gone. We probably should’ve seen that coming, but it still hit us hard.
The Zone carried on as a sports station for a little while longer, but with a major difference: The hosts paid to be on the air, something that had begun even before Sporting News dropped all local programming.
Dave Portnoy, founder, Barstool Sports: Myself, [Todd] McShay and [third host] Elio [Imbornone] had a weekly hour show. We called it “Barstool Power Hour.” We paid for the airtime. We were eventually kicked off for making fun of Polar Cola, which was a sponsor, I guess, of the station. It wasn’t beneficial at all. Nobody listened except our existing fans at the time.
The station as originally conceived no longer existed. It was a tribute to the talent and determination of those that remained — so many of whom went on to bigger things — that it survived as long as it did.
Giardi: It’s pretty, pretty cool to be on the ground floors of some of these guys’ careers. I look now at Russillo or Jon Anik; I don’t want to sound like the old man here, but there’s a lot of pride for me. I used to have those guys come on my show on NECN, and people were like, who is Jon Anik, who is Ryen Russillo, and I’m like, why don’t you pay attention, because if you pay attention, you’ll realize these guys are more prepared than the guys appearing on [Channels] 4 and 7.
Russillo: Without 1510, I wouldn’t be on the air. All of it, looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
Simmons: Some really good people came out of it. That was the first place I ever talked into a microphone regularly. Michael Smith, Russillo, Mike Giardi. The station was able to find some talent and put people in the position that would not have had the reps normally. That’s probably the legacy, weirdly.
As a sports radio station, 1510 didn’t succeed, at least in its mission to challenge WEEI. But it did show that a challenge could be mounted, with the proper resources. ESPN 890 did not last long, but it was where Michael Felger got his reps as a host.
In 2009, CBS Radio launched a sports station on a powerful FM signal called 98.5 The Sports Hub, which featured local programming all day, including Felger in afternoon drive. It surpassed WEEI in the Arbitron (now Nielsen) ratings within its first year.
Holley: The one thing we learned was that there was an appetite for another sports radio station. Maybe it wasn’t us. But the appetite was there. It’s like the lost tapes, from ’01 to 2008, and then The Sports Hub comes in in 2009.
From ’01 to ’08, including ESPN 890, there were some very good shows that very few people know about. We were like the warmup act or the B-sides that very few people got to sample.
In 2007, Blackstrap Broadcasting purchased 1510 and moved the studios to Marina Bay in Quincy. It has gone through various incarnations since, including Herald Radio, an outlet for Howie Carr’s show, something called Renegade Radio, and even sports again, with Yahoo! and NBC Sports Radio taking a brief turn.
Since November 2018, the 1510 signal has been silent. The days of trying to raise the bar are almost 20 years past. Those who were there, so many of whom were on a fleeting stop en route to a bigger career and a better place, have never forgotten it.
Holley: I wouldn’t say it was the right station at the wrong time. It was the right station with the wrong resources.
Grande: Right idea. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong signal, wrong band, wrong corporate ownership. Right idea, man. Right idea.
Graphics by Tommy Piatchek and Katie McInerney. Courtesy art.