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Hitzges Celebrates 40 Years On-Air

Jason Barrett

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Norm Hitzges was an out-of-work TV sportscaster when KERA-FM (90.1) offered him $15 for an hour of Saturday morning radio airtime back in August 1975. Hitzges grabbed the money and on Aug. 9 was off and running on what has become an unparalleled sports-talk run along the Dallas-Fort Worth radio dial. As if anyone needs to be told, at 71, he’s still going strong as the mid-morning host on SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket.

In honor of Norm’s upcoming 40th anniversary on radio, here’s our first “40 for 40.”

Best guest:

Don Nelson. He always tried to be entertaining and funny. And, if you listened closely, he told you important things. One day I was pressing him about who the Mavericks might draft that night. He was very coy but as we said goodbye he said, “Auf Wiedershehen.” That night German teenager Dirk Nowitzki became a Maverick.

Worst guest:

Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller. Just a few minutes before he was to go on the air he suggested he should get paid. I was stunned, politely declined and went to “open lines.”

Busiest year:

In 1990, I was an ESPN baseball game analyst every Tuesday and Friday night and doing the morning show every day on KLIF from 5:30-9 a.m. I believe I worked in 23 parks that season.

Weirdest thing that ever happened during a show:

While doing an early morning show at Fenway Park, I accidentally set off the fire alarm. Within minutes, lots of guys in fire suits arrived and looked at me, certain I was a knucklehead.

Best talk show host ever:

Johnny Carson on TV. On radio, probably Larry King – great brain.

Guest I’ve never been able to book:

Either of the Rangers owners – Ray Davis or Bob Simpson. And, yes, we have asked.

Favorite caller:

Leon Simon, the barber. He became my friend and then co-host for a while.

Worst-ever remote location:

Outside a Texaco Mini-Mart at Northwest Highway and Abrams during rush hour with the traffic zooming past. And then the skies opened and poured down rain.

Best Norm Hitzges imitation:

Toss up between George Dunham and Gordon Keith. But Gordon has me saying much weirder things.

Twitter or Cyber Dust:

Yellow pad and flip phone.

If I could attend only one more sporting event it would be:

Game 7 of a Rangers World Series win.

Favorite play-by-play voice:

Four aces – Pat Summerall, Brad Sham, Eric Nadel and Mark Holtz. And I already miss Ralph Strangis.

Favorite analyst:

Howard Cosell, who broke ground for so many of us. Right now it’s Troy Aikman. I learn something every time I listen to him. Vin Scully is truly one of a kind.

Greatest career influence:

Former local CBS news anchor and news director Eddie Barker who took a raw kid with a big nose, unusual voice and less-than-ideal hair and gave him his first TV reporting job in January 1972.

Ever offered a network radio job:

No, thank heavens. I might have actually taken it and left an area I’ve come to love very much.

Last job before getting into TV-radio:

Teaching journalism at San Antonio MacArthur High School.

Best DFW athlete ever watched:

Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson.

Favorite sport:

To announce it would be baseball. To watch on TV it’s the NFL. To attend it’s horse racing.

Least favorite sport:

That’s easy — boxing.

Favorite racehorse:

A cheap claimer named Steal Me Blind who won at huge odds at New Orleans Fairgrounds one day. He paid a huge price creating a very nice payday for my father Edgar and myself. It may have been the first time he’d smiled in the weeks and months since the death of my mom, Lillian, who’d been his wife and racing partner for decades.

Sporting event never attended but would like to:

Il Palio, a horse race held twice a year around the city square in Siena, Italy. It’s a huge spectacle.

Did you think you would ever see another Triple Crown winner in your lifetime:

No. Then I saw American Pharoah run with his hooves barely touching the racing surface.

Sport most proficient in:

Amateur, impromptu hot dog eating contests in ballparks.

First time ever on radio:

Did play-by-play of a Sul Ross State football games while I worked there as a teacher during the 1967-68 school year.

Self-review of first radio talk show:

It remains a blur. I was very nervous. I know I talked too fast, which makes my voice get even an octave higher and makes me sound squeakier. It must have been a joy to listen to.

Number of times called into a talk show:

Not once.

Usual work attire:

Sweat pants or shorts, a sometimes-color-coordinated T-shirt and sandals. When you dress in the dark in the early morning it’s not always pretty.

Most unusual idiosyncrasy:

I’m anal about always trying to use a few minutes of time to do something, no matter how small that something might be.

Initial reaction in 2000 when management informed I was moving to the Ticket:

I didn’t want to go. I was happy at KLIF.

Last book read:

God As He Longs For You To See Him by Chip Ingram.

Best series on home DVR:

House of Cards.

The perfect Saturday night:

The 3 M’s — Merlot, movie and (wife) Mary.

For my last wedding anniversary:

We planned our next journey to some place she’d always wanted to go –Tuscany.

Best movie of 1939, Wizard of Oz, Mister Smith Goes to Washington or Gone With The Wind:

Gone With The Wind.

John Wayne, Jack Nicholson or Tom Hanks:

Hanks by a nostril hair over Nicholson.

Favorite all-time pro wrestler:

The late Angel of Death, who was my friend.

Next birthday wish:

Another birthday.

How many more years I have remaining on the air:

How many more years do I have left?

Message to listeners:

I hope I always deserve you.

To read the rest of this article visit the Dallas News where it was originally published

Sports Radio News

Joe DeCamara & Jon Ritchie Reveal Contributors To New WIP Morning Show

“Angelo for many, many years has had a wonderful team. And obviously we’re indebted to what he did for all the years putting everything together.”

Jordan Bondurant

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The Philadelphia Eagles postseason run will determine how much longer Angelo Cataldi hosts his morning show on 94 WIP. While hosts Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie wait in the wings to take the reins from Angelo, they took time on Wednesday to reveal the rest of the cast of contributors and fill-in hosts for the new WIP morning show.

“Angelo for many, many years has had a wonderful team. And obviously we’re indebted to what he did for all the years putting everything together,” DeCamara said. “We want to just sort of duplicate it at a similar level of success and longevity. And to do that you want to put together a group that you really believe in and want to have a great shot with and entertain people for years.”

DeCamara and Ritchie revealed that longtime morning contributors Rhea Hughes and Joe Weachter will continue to serve in their capacities. DeCamara said he’s excited to work with such a tenured producer and have him and producer James Seltzer collaborate.

“Everybody cares about Joe, because he’s been such a huge part of Angelo’s show for so many years behind the scenes as the producer,” DeCamara said. “He’s gonna be producing this show in addition to helping James out. And we got ambitious plans for social media and ways we can get Joe involved in all sorts of ways to help present our show to the public. So that’ll be a big part of it.”

WIP newcomer Devan Kaney will also be a regular on the morning show. DeCamara also announced Philly sports media legend Ray Didinger will also be heard at certain points.

As for insiders and contributors to discussions on the Philly sports teams, it was announced former Phillies TV analyst Ruben Amaro, former Phils announcer Ben Davis, former Eagles linebacker Seth Joyner and Ron Jaworski will be in the lineup.

Ritchie said having someone like Amaro on to talk baseball is going to be a great chance to soak up as much knowledge as possible.

“You know so much, and I feel like I’m gonna learn so much from you,” he said. “And I think we’re all so fortunate.”

Additionally, comedian Joe Conklin will be added to keep things lively and fun.

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Sports Radio News

Steak Shapiro Apologizes, Says He Didn’t Think Stetson Bennett Criticism Was ‘That Inflamatory’

“You were just trying to play music and not ignore the fans. Still don’t think it was a great speech, but again, you’re the biggest football hero in Georgia football history.”

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Wednesday’s edition of The Steakhouse was one Atlanta sports fans were waiting for. Late Tuesday night, Steak Shapiro took to Twitter to promise that he would address Stetson Bennett IV’s reaction to his criticism of the way the quarterback behaved at Georgia’s National Championship parade on Saturday.

“The notion is that Steak was basically roasted,” he said of the coverage the social media spat received. “He was put on the grill and taken to task.”

Shapiro had tweeted that he did not think it was a good look for Bennett to be on his phone during the championship parade and that his speech seemed more about settling old grudges than it was about celebrating the team or the fans. In a message on Twitter, which began by addressing Shapiro as “Mr. Med Rare”, Bennett explained that he was using his phone to play music in the car he was riding in. He was not ignoring the moment or the fans.

After giving Bennett credit for coming up with a funny nickname, Steak Shapiro said that he was surprised that the quarterback took the criticism so personally.

“My job is to give an opinion. I didn’t think it was that inflammatory. I didn’t think it was that dramatic.”

He added that has no problem with Stetson’s disdain for the media. He just thought the parade should have been about the fans and the accomplishment rather than Stetson Bennett IV trying to settle old grudges. Still, Shapiro wanted to make it clear that he does not hate the Georgia quarterback. He remains one of Bennett’s most vocal fans.

“On three or four occasions, I was lambasted because I said I thought he was the greatest player in Georgia history, and I said that before he won the national title,” Shapiro said. “I said that when they had the undefeated regular season, and then people started saying ‘stop saying that about Stetson’ or ‘Stetson’s overrated’. I just kinda had his back the entire year and probably had his back the last two years. I just didn’t think Saturday was a great day. That is what I have been saying, and I stand by it. I just didn’t think it was a great-looking day.”

Steak Shapiro did offer an apology to Bennett. He said that if the quarterback was just trying to play music on his phone, that isn’t that big of a deal, and if he had known that is what was happening, his reaction may have been different.

“My bad,” he concluded. “You were just trying to play music and not ignore the fans. Still don’t think it was a great speech, but again, you’re the biggest football hero in Georgia football history. You’re one of the iconic sports figures — maybe number one — in a town of Hank Aaron, and Chipper Jones, and Domonique Wilkins, and Matt Ryan, and Deion Sanders. You’re probably number one all time.”

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Sports Radio News

Brian Gebhardt to Serve as Program Director of Sactown Sports 1140

“Learning under skilled leaders such as Terry Foxx, Sean Thompson, Reggie Rouse, and Mike Conti helped prepare Gebhardt for the next step.”

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Sactown Sports 1140 has found their next program director. After an extensive search, GM Steve Cottingim and Bonneville Sacramento’s Group Director of Programming Chad Rufer have found their next leader in Atlanta, GA, tabbing Brian Gebhardt to guide the brand’s programming department.

Gebhardt heads west to join Bonneville Sacramento after enjoying over seven years of success at 92.9 The Game. He has served recently as the Executive Producer of the ‘Andy & Randy’ show featuring Randy McMichael and Andy Bunker. During his time with the Atlanta sports station, Gebhardt has learned under skilled leaders such as Terry Foxx, Sean Thompson, Reggie Rouse, and Mike Conti. Those experiences prepared Gebhardt for the next step, as did working with numerous on-air talents who have helped The Game become a model of consistency in Georgia.

“Brian’s experience working with both premiere talent and professional sports franchises will help us help the Sactown Sports brand grow both on-air and on-line ,” said Cottingim.

“Brian demonstrated to us a real passion for leading extraordinary talent,” shared Rufer. “We are very confident that he will help us grow Sactown Sports into Sacramento’s premiere sports brand.”

“I can’t wait to get started and I am beyond excited to be working with Bonneville,” added Gebhardt.  

The hiring of the Georgia native as new PD allows Nick Cattles to focus exclusively on hosting the station’s afternoon show, a role he’s wanted to invest more time. Cattles joined Sactown Sports in November 2021 and has pulled double duty since arriving in Northern California. He hired Ramie Makhlouf as his afternoon drive co-host and the duo have built a solid foundation in afternoons. Having the ability now to focus solely on the show should allow Cattles and Ramie to elevate their program even more.

The first day on the job for Gebhardt will be Monday February 3rd. Depending on what develops with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC playoffs, there’s a possibility he could be walking into two straight weeks of Super Bowl planning. Regardless, Gebhardt has a new market to learn, a new team to meet, a new company to deliver results for, and an opportunity to take a big step in his radio career.

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