For the most part since 1993, sports fans across our region have been able to count on hearing Dale Duff’s voice coming out of their radio speakers each and every weekday morning. But apparently no longer.
“The Duffer” was the Program Director and morning show host at WZON AM 620-The Sports Zone from August 1993 to June 2012.
He had been the host of the Morning Pitch on 92.9FM, The Ticket since January 2013.
But according to Wayne Harvey’s Facebook page, Wayne is in and the Duff era is over.
“After talking it over with my wife I decided to become the new host of the morning sports talk radio show on 92.9 The Ticket. The show debuts Thursday August 15th 6am - 8am, and the promoted start date will be Monday the 19th."
Wayne goes on to write a little bit about his new show while never mentioning if Dale Duff is part of the show or not. Duff is still visible on the 92.9FM website, but I think it’s safe to assume he and Wayne won’t be co-hosting the new show.
“For the past two weeks I have been working on creating a guest list, and finding in studio hosts to work with me. I am really excited about the lineup we have put together. We will talk a lot about the 4 major Boston teams, UMaine sports, and other local events and teams of interest. It won't be just sports either, I have other things planned, we are going to have a lot of fun. I still have a lot of work left to get it all ready to go, but it looks great right now."
Before I write another word, full disclosure.
Pretty much most of what I have been able to accomplish in my sports career has roots leading back to Dale Duff. After working at WCSH TV 6 in Portland, in November of 1992 Duffer hired me to work as a Sports Reporter and Anchor with him at WLBZ 2 in Bangor.
In 1998 he hired me to become the voice of U Maine Women’s basketball during the end of the Cindy Blodgett years in Orono. And in the summer of 2004 he brought me back from Oklahoma to host the afternoon show until 2010 on WZON. I can’t thank him enough. I highly doubt I would be sitting here writing this blog without him.
And while I wish every sports legend could leave the game on top like David Ortiz or have a farewell tour like players do in the NBA these days, real life often isn’t played that way.
And make no mistake, Dale is a legend. This is a piece Larry Mahoney did on Dale’s 40th anniversary of covering sports in eastern Maine.
There is not another Dale Duff. There won’t be. His work ethic is unequalled and the media gods broke the mold after giving him his often imitated broadcasting style.
But unlike many who will criticize secretly, I’ll confess I have said for awhile that the Morning Pitch was not great radio. Look, you can’t do the same thing for nearly 30 years in any industry and make it work. And I don’t think Dale’s approach changed much over the years. But thanks to the internet, streaming, satellite radio and podcasts, media has changed dramatically in just the last five years or so.
Nobody can talk local sports like Dale but it felt to me like he approached the morning show as if he was doing a sports report, with a solid journalistic approach. But that’s not how the biz works any longer.
If you have paid attention to most sports talk radio shows in the the country these days, or what ESPN and FOX sports put on TV, it is clear the programming that draws ratings features high energy debate, passionate opinions, and even arguments. You may lament this, but it is a fact.
And the Morning Pitch, just like the afternoon show The Drive also on 92.9FM, of which I used to co-host, has none of those. This vanilla, don’t make anyone mad or even uncomfortable formula, has led to poor ratings for both shows for quite some time, as I explain in this blog from a few months ago.
While I have only heard a little about the latest 92.9FM ratings, I’m told they are weak.
No General Manager wants to be the person to pull the plug on an icon. But media is a highly competitive business. Just like a player in one of the thousands of games Dale Duff has announced, when a player isn’t getting it done, they head to the sidelines.
I do think Wayne Harvey is a solid choice to handle this assignment. He worked at WZON for a bit under Dale about 20 years ago. He was the sports actor at WLBZ 2 and of course has been on the morning news on WABI TV 5 for years. Waking up early will be piece of cake for him and he won’t even have to fix his hair or put on makeup now.
I have seen or been part of some spirited sports debates in social media groups with Wayne through the years and I doubt he will have much fear sharing his thoughts on the radio. That’s a good thing. Of course he is a Yankees fan which is a sin, but actually might play well with listeners when the good guys whoop up on his team.
There will be more said and written about this in the coming days. Who knows what the future holds for Dale. I’m told he is on vacation this week and still employed at Townsquare Media. I do know that he is on his way to a coupe of Hall of Fames in this state. And I hope I am there to witness his inductions, and to say thanks one more time.