Tue. Sep 25th, 2018

The Game Makes a Comeback in Chicago

Remember “The Game”—the Chicago sports radio station? Well I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. The Tribune broadcasting sports effort lasted less than a year on the air at 87.7 FM. It may actually be best known for midday host Ben Finfer finding out about the shutdown of the station while hosting his show on the air!

As a quick refresher course, here was the station’s weekday lineup:

6-9a: The Johnny B Show with Jonathon Brandmeier & Buzz Killman (Non Sports)

9a-12p: Kap & Haugh (David Kaplan and David Haugh)

12-3p: Quigs and Finfer (Alex Quigley and Ben Finfer)

3-7p: Jarrett, Harry & Spike (Jarrett Payton, Harry Teinowitz and Spike Manton)

7p-10p: The Night Game with Carms and Connor (Mark Carman and Connor McKnight)

The man behind the start-up and shut down of the “The Game” is Jim deCastro. “Jimmy” to those who know him, made a name for himself in Chicago radio in the 1980s and 1990s with a powerhouse, talent-laden station—the AM Loop and the broadcast company AMFM. 

More recently you may know him as the President and GM of WGN Radio. During his tenure, WGN lost the Cubs. WGN Radio and the Cubs had been synonymous since 1925. Not only that, but the Cubs produce huge ratings and with more day games than any other team in baseball—those ratings are happening in midday and afternoon drive. WGN loses the Cubs in 2014; the Cubs win the World Series in 2016 with play by play on The Score/Chicago-A CBS (now Entercom) radio station. 

So follow the bouncing ball. The man who started a failed sports station and lost a key asset at a heritage radio station—WGN– leaves Tribune Broadcasting in October of 2016. A little over one year later deCastro is picked by Entercom as the Chicago Market Manager in charge of six radio stations, including The Score. This is where The Game comes back into play. 

In less than a year after taking over The Score, deCastro replaced Score Midday mainstay Matt Spiegel with Connor McKnight. Earlier this week, it was announced that morning host Brian Hanley will not be returning to the “Mully and Hanley” show which has anchored mornings at The Score since 2008 and produced exceptional ratings. In May “Mully & Hanley” rated No. 2 in Chicago with a 6.8 share among men 25-54. 

Who is most likely to replace Hanley at The Score? The consensus is David Haugh, Sports Columnist at the Chicago Tribune. Yep, he was a host on The Game.

So in less than a year on the job, deCastro has replaced three long-time Score personalities (Hanley, Spiegel, Goff) with two hosts from The Game and one he really wanted at The Game (McNeil). I was scratching my head.

I talked to a sports radio insider to try and make some sense of this: “It’s seriously crazy. I understood the McNeil for Goff move. If he (deCastro) wanted someone who fit his style better that’s fine. It’s not like Dan (McNeil) hadn’t produced before. Spiegel for McKnight though made little sense and dropping Hanley when all he’s done is produce (ratings) for them is stunning!”

So I thought about it a lot today. Then it came to me. I realized what is happening at The Score. DeCastro is using The Score to try and prove a point—likely something only he cares about. 

The point?–the failure of The Game wasn’t his. To prove that, deCastro is hiring former hosts from The Game to replace hosts at The Score. That’s it. That’s the whole reason. This version of The Game has a strong signal, the Cubs, and 26 years on the air. 

PS–I found someone who is even happier than DeCastro with these moves—his name is Adam Delevitt. He’s the Program Director of cross-town rival ESPN 1000. 

Editor’s Note: Matt Fishman worked at The Score in Chicago from 1994-2003

2 thoughts on “The Game Makes a Comeback in Chicago

  1. I not listen to L Holmes now. With all the changes the station has gone down. Danny Mac was good at one point and time but now not so. My advice is go back to the way it was. It wasn’t broken.

  2. DeCastro didn’t “lose the Cubs.” He was smart enough not to overpay as the now fired Rod Zimmerman did. If you look at 670’s revenue growth vs. what their expenses are for the Cubs, that deal has put them in the red, which is exactly why Zimmerman was fired. It really ruins your credibility when you refuse to mention such facts re the Cubs going to 670.

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