There is just one more week left of Mike Francesa on the WFAN airwaves and, boy, has it been quite a ride.
Whether you like him or hate him, there are plenty of moments where many of us have laughed, screamed or, heck, maybe even cried while listening to the show.
Narrowing down the most memorable moments is a near impossible task. There are enough memorable Francesa moments for a March Madness style bracket and each one could contend for the Final Four.
With that being said, below are the 10 most memorable moments that this particular writer believes best demonstrates why Francesa has been New Yawk’s Numbah One for almost 30 years.
On Sept. 13, 2012 Francesa had Sweeney Murti on to talk Yankees in his weekly spot and then the Sports Pope began to slouch over a little bit. His head started to nod to the side and his eyes closed and, yep, he is sleeping on air.
Francesa was asleep at the wheel for nearly a minute before Murti mentioned his name while talking, which prompted him to jerk his head up and look around the room wide-eyed and confused.
It led to a viral moment and he still gets prank calls to this very day about it.
Francesa refused to admit he fell asleep on air until earlier this year, when he explained he had taken his son to the hospital after an asthma attack and that was why he dozed off.
It was not one of his personal best moments, but certainly one everyone else will never forget.
FIRST SHOW ON YES NETWORK
In 2002 Mike and the Mad Dog could not just be heard, but also seen on TV as they were simulcast on the YES Network — a pretty big deal at the time.
Being on TV certainly helped elevate their popularity as viewers got to watch the popular duo in action live and see Francesa with a Diet Coke at his side for the first time. Fans would be treated to many other quirks and visuals of the two over the next several years.
The most remarkable thing about the first show, though, was probably the opening topic.
On March 19, 2002 — after they acknowledged they were on TV for the first time — they decided not to open the show about Yankees or Mets spring training, March Madness or the Knicks. Nope. It was news that the New York Rangers made a trade for Pavel Bure.
Yes, hockey. The sport Francesa maybe gives 20 minutes a day in May to if the Rangers are making a deep playoff run. What a world.
A-ROD IN STUDIO WITH LAWYER
This moment may not have as much to do with Francesa as it does his guest, but it certainly demonstrates his clout.
Alex Rodriguez, with his lawyer by his side, joined Francesa in studio minutes after he learned MLB Commissioner Bud Selig would not have to meet him face-to-face as he appealed his Biogenesis suspension.
He spent 40 minutes with Francesa, but it was the opening act that was memorable when A-Rod complained about the “man from Milwaukee.”
“Today I just lost my mind,” he said. “I banged a table and kicked a briefcase and slammed out of the room… what we saw today was disgusting. The fact that the man from Milwaukee that put this suspension on me with not one bit of evidence, something I didn’t do, and he doesn’t have the courage to look at me in the eye and tell me this is why I did 211 (games)? I shouldn’t serve one inning.”
A-Rod eventually served a season-long suspension, missing the entire 2014 season.
REUNION WITH DOG AT FRANCESACON/RADIO CITY
With the rise of social media, Francesa reached a new level of popularity and thus Mongo Nation and FrancesaCon were born.
What originally began as a bar crawl, FrancesaCon transformed into an annual one day event celebrating the Sports Pope. At the third FrancesaCon, the guest of honor reunited with his former partner, Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo, which was featured in the “Mike and the Mad Dog” ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.
The two also got together for a live reunion show at Radio City Music Hall in 2016, which brought out all sorts of New York sports legends such as Joe Torre, Tom Coughlin and Mark Messier.
While they had brief moments appearing on each other’s shows beforehand, the live show certainly brought back memories from the 19 years they spent together which was a special treat for many fans who wished the two never split in 2008.
While Francesa is far from a meteorologist, whiffing on a few of his snowstorm predictions (just don’t tell him that) his commentary on the weather is always just so intriguing for whatever reason.
Mix that in with his patented thick, Long Island accent and you get a moment like in November 2014, while discussing the snow that hit Buffalo with 20-20 update anchor Erica Herskowitz, Francesa said he would clear the snow off the field for the Bills game with his “snowblowah.”
“I can do it. I don’t want the money but I’ll take the ticket and I’m bringing my snowblowah,” he said. “I can do rows really fast because I’m good with my snowblowah. I love my snowblowah. I love the snowblowah. I love to do my driveway with the snowblowah. It’s one of my favorite things. Get a lot of snow and use the snowblowah. I have a great, great snowblowah.”
It’s the little things like this that his fans love.
Maybe there is a little recency bias factoring in here, but with just weeks left to go, Francesa reminded everyone just why we enjoy listening to him by leaving us with one of his classic rants.
This time his target was Ben McAdoo and the New York Giants.
After going 2-9, McAdoo and the Giants decided it was time to bench Eli Manning and evaluate the other quarterbacks, starting with Geno Smith.
Well, Francesa absolutely lost it, eviscerating the head coach and GM Jerry Reese, calling it a gutless move.
“Maybe on your way out you can get to Eli’s rings, it’s the closest you’re ever going to get to one, too,” was the mic drop line Francesa had for McAdoo.
Francesa did get his wish and both McAdoo and Reese were fired a week later.
ANDY PETTITTE IS A STARTING PITCHUH!
You cannot have a list of memorable moments without this one.
Amid the Joba Rules debate in 2009 when the Yankees attempted to transition flame-throwing reliever Joba Chamberlain into a starter, Francesa pushed back against the idea. It was a hot button issue on the radio airwaves and when Alex from Bedminster called in one May afternoon, it reached a boiling point.
The two went back-and-forth for a bit with Alex pleading his case for Chamberlain as a starter. In doing so, he began to make some sort of point about how even Andy Pettitte could pitch the eighth inning, and it set Francesa off.
“Andy Pettitte is a starting pitcher! Andy Pettitte is a starting pitcher who has won 200 games! What are you talking about? Andy Pettitte can’t pitch the eighth inning! Get rid of him.”
Francesa gave him the classic hand wave and the rest of us one of the most classic sound bites ever in sports radio.
POPE DECLARES A POPE
There are plenty of times Francesa’s show transcended sports and one of those best moments came when the Sports Pope introduced the new pope in the Vatican live on his show.
Francesa announced the white smoke (“that doesn’t even look white. Is that white? I guess it is… it looks kinda dark to me”) rising from the Sistine Chapel and breaking down the candidates and their odds to become pope like they were horses.
Of course, Francesa initially got it wrong.
“(Angelo) Scola is the pope. The favorite is the pope. So the lead Italian is the pope. Is that him? They just put his picture up there. Are they announcing he’s the pope?”
But eventually he got it right, sorta.
“This is it? The archbishop — wait, he’s an archbishop, though — this is it? This is the pope? From Buenos Aires? From Argentina? Is that it? So Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergolio? Ber-joli-o? He’s the new pope? The cardinal from Argentina. Seventy-six year-old pope. So they went with an older pope. Cardinal Ber, Berg. Um, well you guys will tell me how to say his name, and then we’ll find out his papal name but the cardinal from Argentina — there might be two, I don’t know — but the 76-year-old from Argentina is the new pope.”
WHO’S AL ALBUQUERQUE?
Prank calls on the show were as much of a staple as the Minkman, and Francesa is usually pretty aware when someone is trying to pull one, but this was no prank.
During the 2011 baseball playoffs, a caller was curious about Francesa’s thoughts on Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque, who had allowed three runs without giving up an out in Game 4 of the ALDS.
“Who’s Al Alburquerque?” Francesa asked. “No… if you’re trying to be funny it’s Al Buquerque. It’s not Al Alburquerque. I mean, oh jeez. Children near the phones.”
Francesa cut him off, but when he returned from the break he tried to clear things up in the most Francesa way possible.
“I thought he was making a joke about Al-ba-querque. Get it? But the guy’s name is Alberto Jose Alburquerque and I’m not sure, maybe they do call him Al Alburquerque… but that’s who he was alluding to. I didn’t know he was talking about the pitcher last night, I thought he was making a joke.”
PHONE CALL WITH DOG’S FATHER
We can laugh at Francesa all we want, but he is human, too, and one of the most touching moments of his tenure at WFAN came during an emotional phone call with Tony Russo, the father of Chris “Mad Dog” Russo.
The call came during the show where Francesa announced that Mike and the Mad Dog would no longer exist and the two were parting ways.
Tony, who frequently called into the show, gave Francesa a call that got the normally stone-faced host to tear up a bit.
What got Francesa was when Tony asked him, “One thing I want to ask you, can I call at any time?”
“You’re killing me, Tony,” Francesa said, scratching his face. “Yes, yes any time Tony. Any time. When the Yankees move back into first place, it will kill your son, but you can come in and host the show with me.”
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