The timing of Craig Carton’s WFAN exit is fitting.
The charismatic and controversial voice’s final day at the station is Friday — right before the station’s 36th anniversary on July 1. As Carton departs WFAN for the second time — he will focus on his FS1 morning show after his first run at the station blew up due to his arrest (and later conviction and incarceration) on federal fraud charges — it is time to take stock of where he stands in the storied history of the station. And to update the ranking order of the WFAN pantheon.
The ground rules: Only hosts of a major weekday program are eligible. That rules out behind-the-glass talent like Al Dukes and executives like Mark Chernoff. And early-day voices like Jim Lampley were not considered.
Here we go …
10. Gregg Giannotti
Giannotti gets the nod by a smidge over longtime Mets beat reporter Ed Coleman (a former midday show host). Ex-midday host Sid Rosenberg and former overnight host Tony Paige was also on the board. Giannotti arrived in a pressure-packed situation — replacing Carton in mornings after his arrest — and has delivered. The morning show is a ratings behemoth and Giannotti has brought a new vibe to the station with his comedy and impressions. He has also demonstrated great range — Giannotti can rant, he can mix it up, he can feud, he can be poignant. His WFAN legacy will likely be determined by what he does after partner Boomer Esiason retires, whenever that is.
9. Evan Roberts
Roberts is a WFAN institution due to his long run in middays and his ascension to afternoon drive. And he has developed into a more well-rounded yakker alongside Carton. But the next few years will likely define Roberts’ time at the station. If he and new partner Tiki Barber cannot maintain the afternoon lead on Michael Kay and ESPN Radio New York, it will tarnish Roberts a bit. If they continue to beat Kay like a rented mule? Roberts has a chance to shoot up the rankings.
8. Joe Benigno
A WFAN legend. There are few things better than a great Benigno rant about the Jets or Mets, and his everyfan status makes him one of the most beloved voices in the station’s history. But there are just so many heavy hitters in front of him. And his stint in afternoon drive was a bit of a letdown (the pandemic didn’t help him). We would like to have Benigno higher, but we have a hard time finding a spot.
7. Steve Somers
Somers is the hardest guy to place. Some folks will want him higher, others much lower. His style was an acquired taste. And while he hosted middays, the bulk of his success came as an overnight host. The daypart program are just more important. Somers gets the nod over Benigno in our book because he is a bigger historic figure in station lore.
6. Boomer Esiason
Is he the most dynamic on-air presence? No. But Esiason has delivered tremendous results for WFAN in the morning. And he has helped save the station from existential crisis twice — Don Imus’ exit and Carton’s arrest. Whenever Esiason retires, he will be remembered as one of WFAN’s most successful hosts.
5. Craig Carton
It is a double-edged sword. Carton is one of the most dynamic voices in station history. Love him or hate him, you have to acknowledge him. And he puts on an entertaining program no matter where he is or what is going on. But what happened, happened. Our take: Carton’s downfall prevents him from climbing into the upper echelon of WFAN legends. But he has to be here given he was a smashing success in both marquee timeslots — mornings and afternoons.
4. Suzyn Waldman
Waldman’s voice was the first-ever on WFAN when it launched on July 1, 1987 (on the 1050-AM signal). She was a Yankees and Knicks beat reporter for the station, she hosted the midday show at one point and she is now the Yankees’ on-air analyst. Waldman is integral to the station’s history, not to mention she is a sports broadcast pioneer. She also played a major role in one of the biggest stories in the city’s sporting life — the reconciliation between George Steinbrenner and Yogi Berra. If there was a WFAN version of Mount Rushmore, Waldman deserves to make the cut.
3. Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo
2. Mike Francesa
The greatest duo, and program, in sports talk history. Francesa gets the edge because he spent his entire career at WFAN and experienced success as a solo act. His career renaissance also opened the door for Russo’s career renaissance. If this was a ranking of top overall sports media personalities, Russo is likely on a trajectory to surpass Francesa at some point. But when it comes to sports talk radio, Francesa is the GOAT. And “Mike and the Mad Dog” will always matter.
1. Don Imus
The biggest event in WFAN’s history was when it landed Imus after purchasing WNBC-AM and moving to the 660 signal. The I-Man did not talk sports in the traditional sense, but that did not matter. He gave the station instant credibility and established a juggernaut morning presence that continues to this day. He also boosted Francesa and Russo in their early days. Imus’ run at the station ended in controversy and disgrace with the Rutgers women’s basketball scandal. But that does not change the impact he had. There is no WFAN without Imus.