Joe McDonnell: 1956-2015

Joe-McDonnellJoe McDonnell, unapologetic in the way he created his  larger-than-life persona in the Los Angeles sports media for the greater part of the last four decades, died Friday afternoon at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. He was 58.

McDonnell may have worked at more than a dozen local radio stations in Southern California during his career –  most importantly as one of the first hosts in 1991 at the inaugural all-sports station in L.A. when KMPC-AM (710) began the format — but loyal followers always knew where to find him during his career that included a return to 710 in 2000 when KSPN launched, also working as an assistant program director.

The longtime San Fernando Valley resident who started at the local KGIL-AM (1260) doing sports updates for the Dick Whittington show, McDonnell hustled to become a correspondent for Mutual Radio Sports as well as AP Radio and UPI Radio. He got involved in sports talk when Chris Roberts, the longtime UCLA broadcaster who is retiring this year, hired him to produce and report for his show on KFI-AM (640), eventually becoming a replacement host in the late ‘80s.

His career also took him to hirings, suspensions and dismissals from XTRA-AM (690), KMAX-FM (107.1), KWNK-AM (670), KTLK-AM (1150), KABC-AM (790) and KXTA-AM (1150). He also recently wrote for and did podcasts for FoxSportsWest.com. During his career, he was most proud of breaking the story of Magic Johnson’s return in 1994 to coach the Lakers, as well as Wayne Gretzky’s trade to the Kings in 1988.

“When I was at KFI, shortly after I arrived in L.A. to stay in 1988, Joe had the scoop that Wayne Gretzky was coming two days before it was announced and as a result, I got two killer seats on the ice at the Forum before the onslaught of new season ticketholders — Joe made that possible,” said Tom Leykis, the legendary syndicated radio show host. “He literally knew everyone in L.A. sports. People trusted him. It’s hard to believe he’s gone.”

Joe20and20DougAffectionately known as “Big Joe” but dubbed “The Big Nasty” by longtime broadcast partner and former Long Beach Press-Telegram columnist Doug Krikorian, McDonnell was asked in a 2004 Daily News story if he considered himself to be irascible, irrepressible or irrational, or whether he was simply bullheaded and played the part of a radio bully.

“I’m all of it,” he said “At one time or another, I’m all those things.”

McDonnell told AllAccess.com that he wanted to be a newspaper reporter and columnist and never thought of getting into radio because “I had one of the world’s truly bad voices – nasal and scratchy.”

But after his first day as an intern at KGIL – the day Los Angeles police tracked down and arrested heiress Patrica Hearst – McDonnell arrived at 5 a.m. stayed long after 10 p.m. answering phones, cutting wire copy and falling in love with the radio world process.

Lon Rosen, the Dodgers executive vice president and chief marketing officer, worked as McDonnell’s agent at points in his career.

“Joe was all about sports and loved the Dodgers,” he said in a statement. “He was a fixture at Dodger Stadium and will be terribly missed by players, management and fans.”

gallery_1_4_28203851_zps0ffac01fIn a move that is somewhat extraordinary for someone who was not a staff employee, the Lakers sent out a statement that included reaction from team president Jeanie Buss: “For more than 35 years, Joe has been a regular at Lakers games and press events. Known for his quick wit and strong opinions, Joe’s love of and support of the Lakers has always been appreciated. Over all these years, our players, coaches and staff have enjoyed working with and knowing Joe. He will be sorely missed.”

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak added: “Although Joe was opinionated and brutally honest with his coverage, I always felt he was knowledgeable and fair. He … had a presence at every major sporting event. As both a player and executive I enjoyed working with Joe since I arrived in town in 1981. I will miss seeing him at our games, practices and press conferences.”

Mike Thompson, the current program director at 710-AM, once had to dismiss McDonnell from a job, but Friday he called him “an icon here in Southern California radio. This is very sad. Joe and Doug’s show was the show of record in the first sports incarnation on this frequency.  Although I at one time contributed to his troubles — we made amends — I could relate to Joe on many levels.  Forgotten was that Joe was not just confined to the sports pages – I thought some of his best moments were when he was doing talk on KFI.”

i-69576887b492b3dd2843a8ef246c8f48-0724klacThe cause of death was not officially given, although McDonnell’s wife, Elizabeth, said he had been hospitalized in the intensive care unit for the last two weeks.

mcdonnelljoeelizabethMcDonnell’s health had been an issue for years, some of it a direct result of his battle with obesity that began as a teenager at Alemany High in Mission Hills. McDonnell was born Aug. 30, 1956, in Upper Darby, Pa and also attended L.A. Valley College.

In 2004, McDonnell underwent gastric bypass surgery that eventually led to him losing about 400 pounds from his frame that at one time carried in excess of 700 pounds. He also had been in an out of hospitals in recent years to treat flesh-eating bacteria.

Funeral services are pending.

Our extended media column on McDonnell’s passing will be in Sunday’s editions of the LA News Group

ALSO:
== Please view or sign a memorial guest book
== Listen to Joe McDonnell during a 2013 podcast
== More Twitter reaction at LAObserved.com
== A remembrance from former Daily News columnist Steve Dilbeck

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Media column notes 03.13.15: Hate is a pretty strong word … but maybe more accurate than ‘I Rather Loathe Christian Laettner’

I kinda hate getting sucked into the publicity generated toward the latest ESPN documentary, “I Hate Christian Laettner.”
laettnerThere’s no question that the former Duke star may, 20-plus years after he’s left the building, still elicit a hate-hate relationship in the college basketball world for those who need something to get worked up about. And he was all over ESPN’s talking-head shows this week promoting it — the fact that ESPN is airing it on Sunday at 6 p.m. after all the initial NCAA Tournament bracket shows are over.
Then I watched the piece.  Then I read this NPR take on the doc. Then I saw a New York Times piece that wondered why he isn’t in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
laettnerstickerThen I understood. Semantics, be damned. Better “hate” than never?
That’s a great launching point into a discussion of why fans are so passionate about sports.
Hate to tell you, but I’m writing about more of the aspects of the piece for Sunday’s weekly media column. A link to it is here.
Maybe I’ll hate myself for doing it later, but I’d hate to miss an opportunity to examine why haters hate, and others don’t.
And, come to think of it, I hate it when people don’t remember this one shining moment from the 1992 NCAA Tournament:

 

What else is worth noting in the meantime:

org-slides-foxannouncement-1-27-15-v11-790x500== The Torrance-based American Youth Soccer Organization has more than 50,000 teams and 500,000 players participating, according to its website.
The same website this week put up an announcement on its home page — a link to a video where Alexi Lalas is help selling the fact that Fox Sports 1 will affix its logo onto kids’ jerseys for the next five years, starting this spring, making them a walking, running and sometimes lollygagging advertisements for its upcoming coverage of a variety of world-wide events, including this summer’s Women’s World Cup and the next three men’s World Cups.
The kids don’t have a say in whether they approve the TV logo on their right chest or not. Their parents have done this for them.
“Jersey sponsors are part of the global soccer sphere from the UEFA Champions League to Major League Soccer,” said Lynn Berling-Manuel, AYSO Chief Marketing Officer, in a statement. “Now the same way viewers can see sponsored jerseys when they watch the biggest teams in the world play on Fox Sports 1, we are excited about this sponsorship with Fox Sports 1 bringing an unparalleled level of sports and soccer credibility to AYSO and its nearly 900 community soccer programs.”
No, it’s not the same way. Not by a long cornerkick shot.
It reminds me of a time years ago when my daughter was playing AYSO, in Torrance, and I was in charge of bringing the game balls. The league told me we’d be using a new ball this year, just in the games — a bright orange one, not the traditional black-and-white. And it had a giant “76″ oil company logo on it.
This isn’t going to happen, I told them.
So some teams did as they were instructed, and their kids were knocking around what looked like a large 76 antenna ball logo around the field.
I don’t care how much the company may have sponsored the AYSO, I’d pay to not have that rolling advertisement used in a kids’ game.
Someone had to interject some ethics to this process.
To see kids now about to wear a Fox Sports 1 logo on their shirts … maybe the next thing is also have every kid wear “DirecTV” on the back across their shoulders, right above the number 219, so they also remember this is the new home of “Garbage Time with Katie Nolan,” debuting Sunday at 6:30 p.m., right after the Galaxy game in Portland.
How cute.

== The L.A. Marathon announcement this week that it has pushed the start of the men’s elite and general group launch from 7:25 a.m. to 6:55 should not affect KTLA-Channel 5′s coverage, since its “Countdown” show is already scheduled from 6-to-7 a.m. The women’s elite will go off at 6:45 a.m. The wheelchair division starts at 6:30 a.m.
Universal Sports Network has same-day delayed coverage on Sunday from noon to 2 p.m.

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Play It Forward March 9-15 on your sports calendar — Can Kentucky define perfection? Maybe the NCAA Tournament bracket announcement will determine that

Kentuck's Willie Cauley-Stein, third from left, address the crowd during a ceremony marking the teams undefeated season after a win over Florida on Saturday.  (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Kentuck’s Willie Cauley-Stein, third from left, address the crowd during a ceremony marking the teams undefeated season after a win over Florida on Saturday. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

COLLEGE BASKETBALL:
NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT SELECTION SHOW:
Details/TV: Sunday at 3 p.m., Channel 2:

Ashley Judd cheers for Kentucky during Saturday's win over Florida in the SEC regular-season finale. The SEC Tournament begins this week. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

Ashley Judd cheers for Kentucky during Saturday’s win over Florida in the SEC regular-season finale. The SEC Tournament begins this week. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

This could be the start of something perfect, even if perfection is a matter of interpretation. If the current 31-0 Kentucky squad goes wire-to-wire in this year’s 68 team win-or-done event, it would be the first to do it in nearly 40 years – since the ’76 Indiana squad. Look at the odds: In the 75-year history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, 18 teams finished the regular season undefeated heading into this thing, and just seven went on to win it all – including four UCLA teams (1964, ’67, ’72 and ’73). A year ago, Wichita State had the shock factor, coming in 34-0. But then the Shockers lost in the Round of 32 – the quickest exit of all those previous 18 unbeatens. And the team that the Shockers lost to … don’t even wait for it. It was Kentucky, a No. 8 seed in the Midwest, at-large from the SEC, and not even in the Top 25. From there, the Wildcats parlayed that 78-76 victory into a five-point win in the Sweet 16 against Louisville, a three-point win in the Elite Eight over Michigan, and, in the national semifinals, a one-point win over West Regional winner Wisconsin. Kentucky was a three-point favorite in the national title game against UConn, but it didn’t materialize in a 60-54 loss. How is this John Calipari team different from last year’s? Like the 2014 version, it was a pre-season No. 1 ranked program, but it kept that designation all season this time. Sophomore twins guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison have another year of experience. Junior 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein was a bench player last year but a key starter now. The deepest bench in the country fills out a roster with nine McDonald’s All-Americans. Even though this group dismantled UCLA in Chicago just days before Christmas, it has had some near misses — back-to-back OT wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M in early January. Even if it they get tripped in the SEC Tournament, a No. 1 seed is pretty much locked up. But no matter how the Wildcats enter the fray, we know Calipari has a 2012 title and three Final Four appearances in his six seasons at Kentucky. They’ll be there at the pay window. Whether or not UCLA or Big West post-season contender Long Beach State joins in remains to be determined.

Key games to watch going into the announcement:
= Pac-12 Tournament final: At MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Saturday at 8 p.m., ESPN.
No. 12 seed USC begins play Wednesday (2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network) against Arizona State, with the winner taking on fourth-seed UCLA in the quarterfinals (Thursday, 2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network)

= Big West Tournament final: At Honda Center: Saturday at 8:30 p.m., ESPN.
Eighth-seed Cal State Northridge starts Thursday (noon, Prime Ticket) against top-seed UC Davis, followed by fourth-seed Long Beach State (2:30 p.m., Prime Ticket) against fifth seed Hawaii.

= West Coast Conference Tournament final: At Orleans Hotel Arena in Las Vegas: Tuesday at 6 p.m., ESPN.
Pepperdine faces top-seed Gonzaga in the semifinals (Monday, 6 p.m., ESPN), with the winner taking on either BYU or Portland for the title.

= Big Ten Tournament final: Sunday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 2
= SEC Tournament final: Sunday at 10 a.m., ESPN
= ACC Tournament final: Saturday at 5:30 p.m., ESPN

Also, the ESPN “Bracketology” show is Sunday at 4 p.m. after the brackets are determined.

ALSO THIS WEEK:

The 30th L.A. Marathon (Sunday, 7 a.m., Channel 5), from Dodger Stadium-to-Santa Monica pier, includes this noble effort from an LAPD officer running in full uniform … The start of the BNP Paribas Tournament at Indian Wells finds Serena Williams back in as a wildcard entry. She explains ... The Clippers meeting against Houston (Staples Center, Sunday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 7) ends a rugged week that includes stops in Oklahoma City and Dallas … The Kings may be getting Nashville at the best time (Staples Center, Saturday at 7 p.m., FSW), considering the Predators start the week on a six-game losing streak … Look who’s in town to face the Lakers: Derek Fisher and the New York Knicks (Staples Center, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet). … More of the week ahead at this link.

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Final media column version 03.08.15: How Travis Rodgers answered the wake-up call for the pre-Starbucks shift at ESPN L.A., and how it fits into the station’s new strategy

By the time 4:30 in the morning staggers in, LA Live is more like LA Listless.
Travis Rodgers now has visual confirmation.

Travis Rodgers started last week as the co-host of the 5-9 a.m. sports talk show for KSPN-AM (710) at the LA Live studios near Staples Center. (Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)

Travis Rodgers started last week as the co-host of the 5-9 a.m. sports talk show for KSPN-AM (710) at the LA Live studios near Staples Center. (Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)

“There’s not a soul around,” the new KSPN-AM (710) early morning weekday drive co-host admitted about the neon-lit area across the street from Staples Center. “Maybe some guys cleaning, buffing, scooping …
“I did see someone in the Starbucks, and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I can hit that on the way up the elevator.’ Nope. It’s not open until 5.”
Which is the time when Rodgers and partner Kelvin Washington have agreed to be seated in the ESPN Radio studios in the office space right next door and must begin their zombie-like shift.
The intent is simple: Connect on a more local, intimate basis with whomever is out on the Southern California freeways heading to their jobs, or perhaps dragging themselves home from their previous endeavors. The success of this kind of venture may not be measured to be a success or failure for another 16 to 18 months, according to station program director Mike Thompson. That’s the nature of this beast.
Other stations have tried it, and currently do. Add Rodgers and Washington to this group who agree to take on for the team – in exchange, of course, for some financial compensation. Enough to purchase stock in a local coffee company, perhaps.

Go to this link to read more about how Rodgers, the former longtime producer for Jim Rome’s syndicated show, has adjusted to career change, as well as his time shift, and why KSPN feels now’s the time to try it.

 

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Media column notes version 03.08.15: More on the Ralph Lawler Night at Staples Center on Monday

Writers/Editors/Breaking News/Hold Your Horses Note of Minor Possible Interest:
Beginning this week, the sports media column will move from its usual Friday Page 3 print edition home to the Sunday print edition. It will, however, often post online on Friday afternoons or Saturday, depending on the topic.

Aside from this week’s media column on Travis Rodgers and KSPN-AM (710), what else we figure we should post now online as a continuation of our weekly blog notes:

== Settle down now, Mike Smith: Maybe you’ve seen the ads already that Prime Ticket is all over coverage of Ralph Lawler Night during the Clippers-Timberwolves game set for Monday at 7 p.m. at Staples Center.
ralph-lawler-nba-los-angeles-clippers-fan-festival1-850x560The voice of the Clippers on TV and radio since the franchise was in San Diego in 1978, and one of the most active broadcasters in L.A. on Twitter, hasn’t been hinting much that he may be ready to just call it a career and stop making the regular drive to Staples Center from his home in Palm Springs.
We’re not expecting any retirement speech for the man who turns 77 in April and has far more than 2,500 games under his properly fastened seat belt (a milestone he was honored for back in 2011, and we have since been informed his career mark is 2,838 as he is the third longest tenured broadcaster in the NBA.
All the recent panic-stricken tea leaf reading indicate he’s got more energy than ever. If anything, he’s got a new career emerging as a sports-talk radio guy on the Clippers’ flagship station, KFWB-AM (980), aka The Beast.
LawlerNight-01For this night, the plan is to have a halftime ceremony for Lawler and a L.A. City Council presentation declaring March 9 “Ralph Lawler Day.” Prime Ticket has taped video tributes to Lawler to show during the broadcast — including one from Vin Scully and Bob Miller — and has also produced give-away T-shirts with the phrase “Oh Me, Oh My!” emblazed on them.
“Ralph is a true legend in Los Angeles sports,” said Steve Simpson, senior vice president and general manager of Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket. “Monday’s celebration is a true reflection of his passion for the game and dedication to Clipper Nation and we are honored to join the Clippers, the city of Los Angeles and the fans in paying tribute to such an accomplished broadcaster.”
Next month, Lawler will be inducted into the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame, which  may not seem like much. But it is.
The 1957 Peoria High alum who started calling Bradley basketball games said “I never dreamed such a thing could happen” about this honor, he told the Peoria Star Journal. “It’s a great thrill.”
The story notes that L.A. has been a second home for Peoria sports voices. At one time, Chick Hearn (Lakers), Tom Kelly (USC football and basketball), Bob Starr (Angels and Rams), Bill King (Raiders) and Bob Steinbrinck (UCLA football and basketball) had gotten a start in Peoria.
Hearn has already preceded Lawler for this Hall. Kelly has to be coming up soon.
And if you care to hear what a state high school basketball tournament looked and sounded like 50 years ago, listen to Kelly introduce the 1965 Illinois High School Association title game between Collinsville and Quincy on WGN, and then do post-game interviews at the 1:27.00 mark:

== ABC has coverage of the Clippers’ game at Golden State on Sunday (Channel 7, 12:30 p.m.) with Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, recent Warriors coach Mark Jackson and Lisa Salters.

== This from LARadio.com on Chris Roberts, the retiring UCLA play-by-play man recognized at halftime of Wednesday’s UCLA-USC game at Pauley Pavilion, and all the local radio stations Roberts has worked for over the years — including covering Long Beach State sports.

cyber-internet== The latest dust-settling in the aftermath of Twitter exchanges/battles/debates that were mentioned some last week led to more apologizes, and things not to apologize for, as interestingly chronicled on our media radar.
Dan Patrick’s syndicated radio show (6-to-9 a.m., KLAC-AM 570) dove into the Curt Schilling situation and the Twit-iligante aspect how why athletes respond to tweets when things get personal.
“You pieces of garbage out there who are even starting to think “what’s the big deal?” or “I was just joking around” can stick it,” Schilling wrote. “The ignorance and pathetic lack of morals or of any integrity is astounding.”
Those who are in Schilling’s path of defending his daughter have come to lose their jobs or be expelled from college. He and his daughter made the rounds this week, here on CNN. And CBS News. And MSNBC.
But — Yahtzee — here’s the 10-minute interview Schilling did with Patrick:

That led to Boomer Esiason, the CBS NFL analyst and CBS Radio host, chiming on why he participates on Twitter.
Then there was more explanation — maybe — on why ESPN’s Robert Flores decided to have some fun with the Lakers’ Nick Young, if that’s how it was taken.
And columns like this, about how Twitter is great — until it isn’t.
And, of course, how was Keith Olbermann going to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere after he got knocked off his axis in the Penn State “batting practice” explanation, which led to him sitting in a corner for four days last week and have someone else host his “Olbermann” ESPN2 show.
Listen to Olbermann explain to us why “batting practice” is different from the Twitter “batting practice” he used to participate in — as if he needed to be giving us this lesson:

This clip reminds us of a description someone once used about Mitch Williams when he was working for the MLB Network: He talks to us in a tone you’d expect most people in authority actually talk to him. Meaning, in a methodical, explanatory demeanor that can come off as condescending. Eventually, begrudging, Olbermann made this thing about him really about him and, while he wasn’t asking for donations to be made to this Penn State pediatric cancer cause, at least viewers could contribute, maybe even in his name, to his own two personal causes.
I’d tweet something out here about this, but it wouldn’t come off sounding right in 140 characters.
Instead, maybe just read this piece, linked via the OC Register’s Mike Lev, about how a Tampa Bay Times reporter had to endure Twitter blowback in just doing his job.
Again: “You pieces of garbage out there who are even starting to think “what’s the big deal?” or “I was just joking around” can stick it,” Schilling wrote. “The ignorance and pathetic lack of morals or of any integrity is astounding.”

dodgers-blackout-1== Yes, we know SportsNet L.A., aka “The Dodgers Channel,” aka “That Damn Dodgers Channel,” still isn’t on your system unless you are a loyal Time Warner Cable customer or some other obscure services.
And God bless you for that.
And, yes, we know that at least a few local barkeeps remain “rankled” about this. It’s cutting into their business, as a Bloomberg News story deftly points out, and thank goodness a giant company like Bloomberg is always looking out for the little man in these capitalistic ventures.
In the “silliest carriage disputes in sports history,” the “Everybody vs. SportsNet L.A. (2014-Present)” qualifies.
Yes, as we got a tweet as well from @awkwardsport: “angels have more televised spring training games than the dodgers have regular season games.
The points are made. What else can we make of this?
At which point does the whining stop, because we know how far that’s gotten anyone this far.
As the Dodgers say in their latest press release about the SNLA launch of exhibition games, their hands are tied since “the network is available on Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Champion Broadband. For more information about SportsNet LA or to demand the network from your provider, visit www.ineedmydodgers.com or www.quieromisdodgers.com or call 1-844-I-NEED-MY (1-844-463-3369). Follow the network on Twitter at @SportsNetLA, Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SportsNetLA and Instagram at @SportsNetLA.”
The Dodgers, again, refuse to accept blame.
And, yes, please “demand.” Because look how far that’s gotten you so far.
Get a lawyer. And patience. And there’s always the option to drop your current provider and take Time Warner Cable in many instances. You just haven’t gotten that greedy yet.

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