By FRANK WARD
“Brookshier and Cataldi, 610 W I P”
I can still hear the jingle followed by Tom Brookshier’s deep voice pouring out from the alarm clock radio in my bedroom as a 13-year-old. I was too young to have known Brookie as a leader of the Eagles 1960 NFL Championship team, or as THE NFL analyst in the booth next to Pat Summerall. I now know of his past, and the history and legacy he left behind on the football field and in the television booth.
However, for me, Brookie was the man who turned me into the geeky teenager who listened to talk radio. More specifically, sports talk radio.
He was a central figure in the launch of SportsRadio 610 WIP in Philadelphia at a time when such stations were in their infancy. The format was an infant, barely beginning to crawl. Tom Brookshier was a partner in WIP and took a huge gamble by changing the station’s format to all sports talk, all the time. Nobody knew if it’d generate ratings to make the station sustainable.
More than 20 years later, the station — specifically the morning show he created — is among the most successful in the nation. He later worked alongside Angelo Cataldi and handed the reigns of the morning show to the long-nosed, whining Italian. Love Cataldi or hate him, Brookie is the one we have to thank for making him an institution in Philadelphia radio. He saw something in Cataldi and brought him along.
Growing up, I listened to Brookie on the radio for the couple of years he hosted the morning show. I heard his voice and remember the live broadcast each Friday from the Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel in Philly. I always wanted to go see him, but going to Center City by myself at 6 in the morning wasn’t an option. When hearing his voice, I pictured a small, frail guy. Later I learned who, exactly, Tom Brookshier was.
He always had brilliant insights into sports and the world in general. He kept my clock radio tuned to WIP. He also was responsible for introducing me to the sounds of Cataldi, Tony Bruno, Al Morganti and Jody Mcdonald. They were all as much a part of my sports fan experience growing up as the athletes and teams I cheered for.
Tom Brookshier was the reason I had WIP. He was the reason I was a talk radio geek.
I’ll never forget his last show on the air. While I can’t remember the actual date or month, I remember the long list of sports celebrity callers who checked in to wish him well as he retired. I learned exactly who this man was at that point. Turning off the radio was not something I wanted to do, but either school or work at the bike rental down the shore got in the way.
Back in those days, boomboxes had recordable cassette tapes, so I hit the record button before leaving the house that morning so I could hear the rest of his last show. Today, the day Brookie passed away, I wish I still had that tape. Like I said, Brookie made me a radio geek.
There was so much more to Tom Brookshier than sports, however. He was a member of charitable causes and boards of trustees for those organizations. Being a board member requires a commitment of time and money, things Brookie was more than willing to contribute. Philly was his home and we were lucky to have him as one of us.
I never had the fortune of meeting Tom Brookshier. But, thanks to his part in the launching of WIP, I felt like I knew him. That was just part of his persona. He had a way of inviting you into his world, even over the airwaves of radio.
To this day, when I hear Brookie’s name, his voice still pops into my head and I picture myself sitting in my bedroom with posters of David Robinson, Michael Jordan, Mike Schmidt and others as I lay listening to the man on the clock radio.
Brookie, thanks for being a part of my sports world.