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Steve Springer / ON THE MEDIA

McDonnell takes unwanted break from the action

September 26, 2008|Steve Springer

To those who have heard him on L.A. radio for more than three decades, he is The Big Nasty. To those who have seen him at local sports venues, he is simply Mr. Big, his body ballooning to nearly 700 pounds at his worst. To those who depend on him for information, he has long been among the most plugged-in sports personalities in town with solid sources and an always loud, often controversial, sometimes bitter opinion on everything from Dodger blue to Showtime.

For now, however, that voice has been silenced. Joe McDonnell is out of work.

After nearly three years at AM 570, McDonnell is being replaced by Tony Bruno, another veteran of more than 30 years on the airwaves. The "Joe McDonnell Experience," which ran from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, will become "Into The Night," with Bruno. Joe Grande, McDonnell's co-host, will remain on his weekend show. McDonnell's producer, Tim Cates, will also serve in that capacity for Bruno, who starts Monday.

McDonnell's contract was not renewed, ending his show on AM 1150 as well, a broadcast outlet on which McDonnell roamed far afield from sports to topics ranging from politics to social issues.

"I've been at 15 or 16 stations in my 33 years in the business," said the 52-year-old McDonnell. "I guess that means I'm good enough to keep getting work. I hope that continues. I think I still have a lot to offer. I don't think anybody has the combination of the contacts and knowledge that I have."

McDonnell says he's also disappointed by the course AM 570 program director Don Martin has chosen.

"The Bruno show is a syndicated show, which is unfortunate because I don't think that serves the listeners," McDonnell said. "I don't think anybody in L.A. gives a darn on a regular basis about what's going on in St. Louis or New Orleans."

Martin disputes McDonnell's point.

"This is not your typical syndicated show that is picked up from another market and plugged in here," Martin said.

The Bruno show will be co-owned by Clear Channel, the parent company of AM 570, and the Content Factory, a show provider. The program will originate locally with, according to Martin, the hope it will be syndicated in other markets.

"Tony Bruno lives here," Martin said, "and he will do the show live from our studio. We have a unique situation. We will have a local host who has been one of the top national guys in this format for years."

For loyal McDonnell followers, however, it won't be the same.

"He's the passionate conscience of L.A. sports, the quintessential L.A. guy," said McDonnell's former broadcasting partner, Doug Krikorian. "Love him or hate him, no one was ever indifferent to Joe McDonnell. He had the guys he loved, like Magic [Johnson], Wilt [Chamberlain], Jerry West and Reggie Smith, and the guys he hated, like Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], John Robinson and Rod Carew. . . . This is a real loss for L.A. sports fans."

McDonnell and Krikorian were together, on and off, for 13 years on several stations in the McDonnell-Douglas Show.

While McDonnell faces an uncertain future professionally, his personal life couldn't be better. Married 18 months ago to the former Elizabeth Cahn, McDonnell has lost 340 pounds through gastric bypass surgery, and hopes to lose 100 via a skin removal procedure.

"I look like a normal person now," he said. "I weighed about 275 in high school and then I gained hundreds of additional pounds because of my food addiction. It got so hard for me to get around that I just stayed in the house at one point for five or six months. I came pretty close to dropping dead. I am a lucky son of a gun because I now have a new lease on life."

And, he hopes, a new job in his future.

Even Yogi had to admit

it was over

It was enough to soften even the most hardened of New York Yankees haters.

Last weekend's ESPN telecast of the final game at Yankee Stadium -- to be replaced after 85 years with a new facility next door -- was impressive. From the old-timers parading around in the yellowed uniforms of a bygone era to the flashbacks of shining moments to the guests in the booth to the milestones enumerated on the crawl to the farewell salute to the fans by Derek Jeter, ESPN touched every base.

The best moments captured by the cameras: Whitey Ford helping Don Larsen scoop up dirt from the mound into a cup Larsen brought for the occasion, and Reggie Jackson in the empty stadium on the day before the game trying to find the exact spot where his third home run of Game 6 of the 1977 World Series had landed.

--

steve.springer@latimes.com

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