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Frank Beckmann, Longtime Voice of Michigan and Detroit Sports, Passes Away

“Frank was a vital, energetic, driven, and larger-than-life personality, and having him be struck down like this is very difficult for everybody that knew him.”

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WJR

Detroit radio — and listeners throughout the state of Michigan — lost a legendary voice on Saturday.

Frank Beckmann was an institution at WJR (760 AM) for 48 years (and worked in broadcasting for 52 years), known to many as the radio voice of Michigan football, which he called for 32 years from 1981 through 2013. He also called play-by-play for the Detroit Lions from 1979 through 1988 and the Detroit Tigers from 1995 through 2003.

A longtime sports director at “The Great Voice of the Great Lakes” and its 50,000-watt signal, Beckmann hosted a sports talk show before sports radio as we know it became a nationally viable format. He launched Sportswrap in 1981 after eight years at WJR as a reporter, providing a ravenous Detroit sports fandom with news, commentary, analysis, and interviews that couldn’t be heard elsewhere on the dial. (All-sports WDFN didn’t launch in the market until 1994.)

How highly regarded was Beckmann as the voice of Michigan football? When WJR lost the broadcast rights in 2005, the station allowed Beckmann to continue calling Michigan football games for rival WWJ-AM and the Michigan Gameday Radio Network.

“It’s just so sad losing Frank,” Beckmann’s longtime broadcast partner Jim Brandstatter told the Detroit News. “Frank was a vital, energetic, driven, and larger-than-life personality, and having him be struck down like this is very difficult for everybody that knew him.”

Beckmann’s wife of 49 years, Karen, informed local media outlets that he suffered from vascular dementia and had several strokes since retiring. He was in hospice care when he passed away.

Called “the Swiss Army Knife of broadcasters” by WJR host and former TV anchor Guy Gordon, Beckmann called Detroit Pistons and Detroit Red Wings broadcasts early in his career. (Generations of Pistons fans are surely grateful to Beckmann for hiring the Pistons’ longtime radio and TV play-by-play broadcaster George Blaha.) And he demonstrated his versatility to listeners by taking over as the radio voice for the Detroit Tigers in 1995.

Beckmann brought familiarity and comfort to Tigers fans unsettled by WJR not renewing Ernie Harwell’s contract and bringing in Rick Rizzs and Bob Rathbun, out-of-towners who never connected with the audience. Two years after that experiment ended, Beckmann took the play-by-play mic and made the Tigers broadcasts feel like home again. When Harwell returned to the team’s radio booth in 1999, Beckmann called Tigers broadcasts on WKBD-TV.

After his Tigers broadcasting days were finished, Beckmann hosted a daily morning talk show on WJR and surprised some fans and media observers with a conservative viewpoint and sometimes cranky disposition. But even those who didn’t agree with his views (he considered running for U.S. Senate in 2011) still enjoyed Beckmann for his strong interview skills with public figures and local politicians, kindness with people promoting events and charities, and his rapport with callers.

Beckmann retired from WJR nearly a year ago in March 2021. During his career, he was a three-time winner of the Michigan Sportscaster of the Year award, and is a member of both the Michigan Sports and Michigan Broadcasting Halls of Fame.

He is survived by wife Karen, son Jonathan, daughter Tori Kughn, and three grandchildren.

Sports Radio News

Jonathan Zaslow No Longer With WQAM

An attempt to reach out to Zaslow for comment went unanswered.

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WQAM midday host Jonathan Zaslow is no longer with WQAM in Miami.

The radio station has removed his show from the website and references to him and his normal 10a-2p ET midday timeslot program have been scrubbed from the station website.

Zaslow tweeted at 5:19p ET confirming the news.

Whether or not this has any effect on his involvement with the Miami Heat broadcasts is unknown as of now.

Zaslow had been with 790 the Ticket since 2004. He was transitioned from Audacy-owned 790 to sister station AM 560 Sports WQAM last October. During his tenure he has worked with a number of established local voices including Joy Taylor, Amber Wilson, Brett Romberg, and Brendan Tobin amongst others.

WQAM has gone thru a number of changes, including a rebranding effort to call the station “560 The Joe”. That ended last year with the station returning to the AM 560 Sports WQAM brand listeners were more familiar with. What they have planned next in Zaslow’s timeslot is unclear but local listeners will likely get some answers next week.

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Sports Radio News

Vanessa Richardson Named Houston Rockets Sideline Reporter, Paul Gallant to Host Solo on ESPN 97.5

Vanessa Richardson will be on the sidelines for the Houston Rockets and Paul Gallant will host solo show on ESPN 97.5.

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Vanessa and Gallant

Changes are taking place in Houston sports media. First, the Houston Rockets will have a new television sideline reporter this season, and she’s a familiar name to Houston sports fans.

Vanessa Richardson, the now former co-host of ESPN 97.5’s Vanessa and Gallant, revealed that she will be on the sidelines for the NBA franchise covering the team for AT&T SportsNet Southwest.

She tweeted the news saying, “Elated to be the new Houston Rockets sideline reporter! I can’t wait to travel the country & share the stories of this dynamic team during 80+ games on AT&T SportsNet Southwest. I’ll continue to fill-in as a host/reporter for Astros broadcasts as well.”

Richardson’s co-host, Paul Gallant, tweeted that with Richardson leaving the show for the Rockets sideline gig, Vanessa and Gallant will become the Paul Gallant Show. The solo show led by Gallant begins Monday September 26th.

“We’re excited to have Paul host his own show”, said Todd Farquharson, General Manager of ESPN 97.5 & 92.5.  “He’s super creative, energetic, and likeable.  He’ll get the audience involved and have fun.”

Paul commented, “You know what I’ve always loved about sports talk radio?  That it’s interactive.  Whether through a phone call, text message, tweet or on Twitch, it’s the best place for sports fans to come together and celebrate…or vent.  And that’s what The Paul Gallant Show is going to be…Houston’s platform to talk about its teams. THE most interactive sports talk show in Houston.”

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Sports Radio News

Ken Carman: Al Michaels ‘Feels Untethered’ On Amazon Prime Video

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

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The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers during Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video. 92.3 The Fan morning host Ken Carman applauded Al Michaels for his performance during the presentation.

“Al Michaels feels untethered for the first time. He’s not network television anymore and he can say whatever he wants. We interviewed him on the pregame show and I was nervous,” Carman said.

“He’s a legend,” co-host Anthony Lima added.

During the final play of the game, the Steelers fumbled a lateral into the endzone which the Browns recovered to make the final score 29-17. Michaels said “that may be meaningful to some of you. And you know who I mean”, alluding to people who had placed wagers on the game.

Carman, who hosts two-hours of pre-game coverage on the Browns Radio Network, continued to discuss how nervous he was interviewing Michaels. He also discussed how impressive Amazon’s behind-the-scenes production was, pointing out the only football broadcast with more cameras is the Super Bowl. More than 400 people work behind the scenes for Amazon Prime Video.

“The thing that stuck out was Kirk Herbstreit ripping the elf,” said Carman. “Don’t be ripping Brownie the Elf, man.”

Carman later said people angry that Michaels misspoke by saying the Pro Football Hall of Fame is “down I-71” instead of I-77 were unreasonable, and joked “Al Michaels hasn’t been on a highway in 20 years”.

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