A return of the Mighty 1090 is excellent news for the San Diego Padres, as well as the rest of the area’s sports community.
After a year-plus hiatus, AM station 1090 will return to the air as the Mightier 1090 this summer. Bill Hagen, the owner of an advertising agency in Arizona, intends to resurrect the station, which had been the broadcast partner of the Padres for 13 years. Hagen recently signed a five-year lease with the signal operator in Baja, California. At this point, the timing of the launch rests in the hands of engineers.
Former host Scott Kaplan has been working toward the return of the station since its demise last year. “When 1090 went off the air, it was my original plan to get back on the air from May and into June,” Kaplan explains. As former hosts took jobs with other radio stations, Kaplan “became the lone free agent.”
Contrary to popular opinion, the abandonment of the Padres did not hasten the demise of 1090, Kaplan says. After all, the Padres just kept losing, and 1090 lost money on the baseball broadcasts. However, the Chargers’ move to Los Angeles definitely did hurt the station, as did the time leading up to the move.
“There was endless talk about the stadium,” Kaplan says. “It was a depressing, dark time with fans mad at sports, mad at the NFL.” But by 2018, the audience had started to return. At the time 1090 left the airwaves, it had been the most popular sports talk station in the county.
However, former San Diego Padres’ owner John Moores, whose company JMI became the majority shareholder in January 2013, had grown tired of losing money. Hefty management salaries and the bill for 15,000 square feet of office space made the situation even less palatable. In late April 2019, the parent company ceased operations and informed employees they must vacate the Sorrento Valley office.
According to recent reports, only Kaplan has signed a contract with the reborn station, although rumors have circulated that Dan Sileo will be part of the lineup. Yes, that Dan Sileo, who has hopped around the country from radio station to radio station. A former defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s, Sileo has been fired countless times when station operators, as well as listeners, have gotten fed up with his vile racist and misogynistic commentary. Sileo had a brief stint on the former 1090 but wore out his welcome quickly. Kaplan, however, does not confirm rumors of Sileo’s involvement, adding that will happen “over his dead body.” Although Friar Phil, of San Diego Twitter fame, reportedly (wink, wink) had been offered the 12-3 p.m. time slot on the Mightier 1090, he declined. (Kaplan confirmed after this piece was posted that the station had not contacted Friar Phil about a position)
In 1090’s heyday with the Padres, Darren Smith hosted the BP Show, which was followed by the pre-game show, the game itself, and the post-game show (hours of Nirvana for baseball junkies). For a time, John Kentera and Bob Scanlan also had a two-hour Saturday show.
On the BP Show, Smith teamed up with former ballplayers Tim Flannery, Randy Jones, Dave Roberts, and Phil Nevin as cohosts and had other players as guests. During those years, the Padres didn’t do much on the field, but lots went on behind the scenes.
In 2016, Former Chief Executive Officer Mike Dee orchestrated the change from 50,000 wat 1090 to 94.9, an FM station with an alternative rock format. While 1090 reached all of San Diego County, up the coast to Santa Barbara and into Baja, 94.9 didn’t even cover the county.
Shortly after that, Dee departed from San Diego suddenly leaving behind a rather sketchy legacy. But he soon landed a job with Entercom Communications as the president of their sports division. Entercom owns the rights to 94.9 as well as the Padre’s current station 97.3 through next year.
In its reincarnation, 1090’s format will also include what Hagen calls “lifestyle” content. In the meantime, former Mighty 1090 hosts Darren Smith and Marty Caswell have moved to XTRA 1360, while Kentera, Ben Higgins, Steven Woods, Tony Gwynn Jr., and Chris Ello host shows on 97.3.
Of course, fans have far more options for following play-by-play than they did in 1921 when the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies squared off in the first radio broadcast in history. Back then, the announcers read telegraphed reports rather than broadcasting in person from the ballpark.
At first, team owners worried that radio broadcasts would encourage fans to stay at home. Still, Larry MacPhail of the Reds understood that the medium would actually increase interest in the team. And, radio perfectly suits the pace of the game. Through the years, the medium has brought the voices of iconic broadcasters like Vin Scully, Red Barber, Mel Allen, and Russ Hodges into homes, cars, and, with the advent of the transistor radio, everywhere within range of the station.
Early this year, the Oakland A’s announced that the team will become the first to discontinue radio broadcasts. Writer Michele Maynard decried the move in her article, “Scandals won’t kill baseball. Kicking the games off the radio just might,” in the Washington Post on February 19.
If radio was just an afterthought these days, the move might be more defensible. But radio remains a powerful listener force. Research from 2017 by Nielsen Scarborough found that baseball was the most listened-to professional sport on radio in the United States. Twelve percent of all adults had listened to at least one game on the radio in the previous 12 months. When baseball broadcasts come on the air, the ratings for the radio stations that carry them can triple.
Oakland A’s Fans can access games only via streaming services. Although team executives made the move to increase the fan base, Maynard warns the move will achieve the opposite result. She points out that the A’s host city of Oakland does not have the high-income base of the city across the bay and tends to rely more on old fashioned radio at home, in their cars, even at work.
The fact remains that every other team in baseball will still broadcast games on radio. Indeed, the MLB app gives users the option of listening to radio or television broadcasts. As one might guess, the radio option better suits listeners walking the dog or hiking a trail or working in the garden than the televised option.
Of course, owning the rights to the Padres’ broadcasts may be irrelevant this entire year. But, after the 2021 season, the team will have the freedom to choose a new broadcast partner, and the reincarnation of 1090 with its wide range and familiar voices could be an attractive choice. Kaplan says that rumors to that effect have been rumbling around. With expectations the team will actually compete next year, the reunion of the Padres with their longtime broadcast partner makes sense for all concerned.