After a promo announcing the debut of WFAN as the first 24-hour sports radio station in America, Suzyn Waldman came on the air at 3 p.m. on July 1, 1987, as the first actual voice heard on the station, giving the first of what would become an institution: the 20/20 Sports Update.
“I think that was the only update I ever did where I didn’t make a mistake,” Waldman laughed during an appearance on WFAN’s Moose and Maggie Show on Wednesday, the 33rd anniversary of WFAN’s launch. “Remember, there weren’t computers back then, so I was able to actually write it down! We went out and ripped and read, so that was the one thing I got to practice.”
It’s only fitting that 33 years later, Waldman, who is still with WFAN as an analyst on Yankees baseball broadcasts, got 33 minutes on the air to discuss the first 33 years of WFAN’s history – one she knew would be successful from the start.
“I always thought WFAN connected with the city. I know it wasn’t successful really until Imus got here, but everywhere I went – in those days, I went everywhere with my tape recorder and then came back and did overnights – but everywhere I went, I noticed that people knew what I had said the day before,” Waldman recalled. “I knew what kind of sports fans are in this city. Once you had people just talking to New Yorkers, it was really going to work. You can’t talk to people in New York about Nebraska football; if we could just focus it right into New York, I thought it was going to be successful the whole time.”
Waldman recalled how early attempts to oust her from the station led to a pairing with Steve Somers on overnights – “he taught me all kinds of things, and I owe a lot to Steve because he taught me about this business,” she says of The Schmoozer – and how her thoughts on having baseball beat writers on the air in a pre-internet and almost pre-cable TV news era wasn’t going to work out, which led her to convince the station’s first program director to utilize her as WFAN’s first beat reporter.
But of course, all that came after that first moment, one Waldman recalled as “powerful” as she realized the gravity of the moment when her voice would send WFAN onto the air and send its predecessor on 1050 AM, WHN, into extinction.
“It was very crowded in the old studio in Astoria, downstairs at Kaufman-Astoria studios,” Waldman recalled. “I walked in, and we were all very nervous because there were television cameras everywhere, but on the other side of the glass, everyone from WHN was standing in there watching and holding hands…30 seconds before our jingle went on the air, I looked in there and they were crying, and I thought to myself, “as soon as I open my mouth, these people cease to exist. It was very powerful.”
For cheers to 33 years, check out the full clip of Suzyn Waldman on Moose & Maggie below!