Academic journal article Nine

The Mouth Roars No Longer: Pete Franklin, Sports Talk, and Cleveland Indians Baseball, 1967-1987

Academic journal article Nine

The Mouth Roars No Longer: Pete Franklin, Sports Talk, and Cleveland Indians Baseball, 1967-1987

Article excerpt

Standing on the pinnacle of greatness!
The [Ninth] Wonder of the World!
A walking encyclopedia of sports knowledge!
Compelling to hear!
The undisputed champion at his game, and held in awe by his peers!
Who can this paragon of excellence be?
Why ... it's Pete Franklin
Introduction to Pete Franklin's Sportsline

The recent disclosure that Pete Franklin, erstwhile dean of Cleveland's sports talk radio, had passed away in California in November 2004 was met with a great deal of melancholy and even some hand-wringing by many in both the Cleveland market as well as in other markets around the country. The once-heralded cross between pensive fan and insufferable (and self-proclaimed) loudmouth can, in many ways, be credited with initiating the shift in sports programming. This shift has, in turn, resulted in the more recent coalescence of sports and talk as a sort of theater of the absurd, a place where opinions become fact and where those same spurious notions can cause concern among local sports franchises and marketers. Franklin's ability to transcend the accepted methodology of the typical sixties-era sports talk host, bringing entertainment to the sports industry, helped bring the industry out of the narrow confines of its once provincial circles to a much broader audience.

Though Franklin's career would suffer a dramatic downturn following his departure from the Cleveland market in the late 1980s, his ability to affect the Cleveland sports scene and his influence over other radio markets made available to him during much of his time in Cleveland were little short of extraordinary. His reign coincided with what many regard the darkest days in Cleveland sports. His battles with team management across the vast Cleveland sports spectrum helped redefine the very nature of interactive sports programming--the most intriguing aspect of his legacy. As one former producer acknowledged, "You've always got to set up a straw man, and Pete was very good at doing that. He also had the benefit of having a lot of straw men at the time." (1)

This paper traces Franklin's place within the Cleveland sports scene during his most successful years, focusing particularly on his ability to turn public opinion into a quagmire for local franchises. Of particular interest is his strident criticism of the Cleveland Indians, a franchise that spent the majority of those days locked in a battle for respectability while wallowing deeply in a noxious mix of mismanagement and ill-fortune.

SPORTSLINE

Raised a Braves fan in Massachusetts in the late 1920s, Peter J. Franklin spent the majority of his early professional career broadcasting in markets that stretched from Bakersfield to Savannah, though he found little success along the way. His big break came when he finally cracked the Northeastern Ohio radio scene in 1967. There he primarily did general talk radio in Canton while keeping a rather tight lid on his more opinionated tendencies, a trend he must have learned the hard way during his many stops through the South (a Columbia-educated Yankee was unlikely to receive a pass for annoying or offending the local populations). What first caught the ear of local producers and programmers during his Canton stay was Franklin's ability to nimbly make the shift from political discussion to sports talk during his late night broadcasts. For some, this ability marked a sort of latent pattern in Franklin's repertoire, a matter that would prove quite prescient in the years to come. (2)

Frustrated and on the brink of leaving radio once and for all by 1968, Franklin would end up in Cleveland, a much more enticing market, where he would launch the initial segments of what would become Sportsline on local station WERE. WERE was undergoing its own unique period of flux when Franklin arrived. A rather weak-signaled outfit at 13,000 watts, it was, nonetheless, Cleveland's premier sports radio station, largely because it carried both the Indians and the American Hockey League's Cleveland Barons. …

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