Sunday, March 12, 2017

Five Years Have Passed Since Ralph Barbieri Was Let Go By KNBR; Sports-Talk Radio in Bay Area Now Tame and Innocuous; 415 Media Sunday Spotlight

Image result for Ralph Barbieri I CAN'T BELIEVE It's been five years since Ralph Barbieri was fired from KNBR. Seems like yesterday the "Razor" was bellowing out the latest injustices involving Bay Area sports.

Barbieri sued KNBR and Cumulus; the case was about to go to a jury trial when both sides settled and by all indications, Ralph did very well.

As he battles his various health maladies (including Parkinson's Disease) Barbieri and his son, Tate, are enjoying life in Marin. Too bad he's not back on the airwaves.

You either loved Ralph or hated him. There was really no in-between. Either way, you LISTENED. You listened to his rants, his raves, and his takes on things, some things that didn't even involve sports, but again, you were there. For all of Ralph's major irritants; his non-stop questions; his over-pontificating broadcast style; his self-aggrandizement mojo; his boisterous blah-blah-blahs, he kept you glued and interested.

I for one hated Ralph early in his career for his hatred of the Oakland Raiders and frequent putdowns of the late Al Davis. I thought he went overboard on a man who was clearly losing it--Ralph went too far on his anti-Al 'tude it but nevertheless made for entertaining radio. Yeah, I too listened.

I listened when he went ballistic with Giants GM and biggie, Brian Sabean --he was literally screaming one afternoon and it was fun to listen to TWO BIG Italians go at it. It wasn't radio shtick either; it was sincere and passionate and real and genuine which made it so good and chewy. Today's artificial radio gimmicks wouldn't cut it because everything is manufactured and made-up shock radio. It's a good thing Barbieri didn't get the memo.

The Razor was compelling because Ralph was compelling himself. His stories about growing up in the advertising business and working for Sport Magazine (which he must have mentioned a thousand times on the air) were cool and quaint. He was a pretty damn good inquisitor and got a lot out of people who didn't exactly open up. Ralph's chats with Rick Barry were some of the best interviews ever on local radio. His one-on-one with a moody Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could be placed on a highlight reel --I doubt anyone could have picked the brain of Abdul-Jabbar like Ralph did.

Sure, there were days when Ralph was too much to take and so you'd tune out but you quickly tuned back in the very next segment too. He was a pain in the ass but he was a sincere pain in the ass. Phoniness was not in his DNA so there you were glued to the radio on Monday through Friday.

KNBR/Cumulus management won't admit this (of course they won't) but they made a huge mistake in letting The Razor go too soon. They let ego get in the way of good business. They lost a big part of their mantle and for such a dumb reason: Ralph was showing up late. Big deal. He made a lot of money for the company not to mention he was KNBR's biggest and most popular personality.

Ralph was the last beacon of light for Bay Area sports-talk radio. Nobody today comes even remotely close. There's a few morsels left but they're bogged down by the current business stream and what seems like a gazillion commercials. Worst of all, they're mostly imposters and don't possess an ounce of The Razor's passion.

38 comments:

  1. 100% agree. Razor was pretty much the last KNBR host that entertained me (well, I do like Murph). The pairing with Tom was brilliant, it smoothed Ralph's edges and gave Tom a daily foil in which to perfect his own radio craft. Who can forget Ralph spending an entire show devoted to his recently departed cat Sunshine, his overly genuflecting interviews with Adonal Foyle, and of course the half hour long plugs for Peter at Amicis. I know I won't. Hope retirement is treating you well, Razor.

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  2. Ralph was sick, tired, and out of touch. He had nothing left. No one else wanted him either.

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  3. Loved "The Razor". Back when men were men in the Bay Area and not the whining "I'm with her" ladies we have today.

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    1. San Francisco, where the men are man and the women are too

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  4. Its not a golden era for sports talk. It peaked. I myself despite what people might think hardly listen to radio sports talk. What I get from the Radnich show is from minutes of listening,not hours-no kidding. From that I catch some of his dumbest shi$. The other shows? I never listen. The old ones are tired and the young hosts- good for them- preach to the youngest demographics who want hip hop music and youngest view of the sports world.
    Its going to get worse before it gets better. When people cant afford games and lose interest to even watch or listen changes will be huge.
    Trump will make American 1940 again.See a game for a $1 might come back...If you even have that.

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    1. America would be blessed to be 1940 again. Give me the greatest generation in its prime over any of the pansy assed adults we have today.

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    2. 206,lol. You have a point. FDR was one of the greatest President in history. Ok,Make it 1929. That's a better Trump analogy.

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    3. Agreed, Stan (2:48 comment)!

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  5. I liked Ralph in general, a little arrogant, but tolerable because most of his observations where spot on. I tired on him when Shawn Estes came on the scene. I swear Ralph was in love with him, I don't mean as a baseball player. He fawned all over him.

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    1. I remember that! Was strange for sure.
      He also had a crush on Chris Webber, mentioned his intoxicating eyelashes often.

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    2. And how about Monte Ellis. The Warriors can't trade Monte and keep this skinny kid Curry. Passionate yes, but not the best depth of his sports knowledge

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    3. A "little" arrogant? How's about a "lot" arrogant?

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    4. All interest in guys yet he chatted it up like a ladies man....hum

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  6. You are right, Rich. I loved Ralpharu's work at times, and disliked it at other times. But he did keep me glued and interested, for many, many years. He worked well with "Mr. T" in his later years at KNBR. I've heard stories about his pompous act away from the studio, but he was nice and spoke to me at Candlestick on a couple occasions. I always got the impression that (deep down) he truly loved and cared for the area, and the Giants and their fan base.

    Wishing you more good days than not, Razor! Keep up the good fight.

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  7. Please get real.

    By the time Ralph was mercifully fired he was painful to listen to. He wasn't great, he wasn't good, he wasn't even adequate. KNBR would have kept him around if he anything left. He didn't.

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    1. Guess what? That decision cost them $4mil. Obviously a bad move financially. Not surprising from a company that is dying in massive debt. Bye bye cloud...

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    2. Agreed. He was mostly phoning in his show, didn't do his homework, asks the same question of guests on Wednesday and Thursday that he had on Monday.

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  8. Ralph Barbieri sucked then and he sucked when he was being shown the door. I felt sorry for him because of the assholes who run KNBR. They treat people like shit. Lee Hammer has sucked down the Kool-Aid along with the other producers. They can't see it. But they're idiots.

    Ralph was self-serving and if he were on the air now, it would be the same.

    In all seriousness, how much sports talk can you listen to in a given day? It's like how much shit about Trump and politics can you listen to in a given day? It's too much. Everyone has a different spin on things, but it's the same thing.

    KNBR may know what it's doing after all with 40 effing minutes of commercials per hour.

    What?

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    1. Good point @2:24! Just because Ralph was fired by evil, greedy, management doesn't mean he shouldn't have been fired. He did.

      Some can argue that Ralph was OK a long time ago BUT he was unlistenable by the time he was dismissed.

      If he wasn't such a bombastic windbag he could have hung around a little longer but he punched his own ticket out by refusing to compromise.

      Good riddance.

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  9. His rants on USF basketball and the administration that watered down that program to where it is today, were classic.

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  10. Razor v Sabes? There's your biggest answer to Ralph's firing. Razor rubbed Lockstep Larry the wrong way. And Lockstep hid behind the Cloud Clowns. (The Tricky Dickeys have often been seen at AT&T Park alongside Baer.) Where as all Oakland & San Jose teams plus the 49ers are okay with on air criticisms of their own teams, it is forbidden in Giants Territory. Barbieri's ending is just a tip of the iceberg. Lots of ex-Bay Sports employees, even not on the Clouds, became exes because Lockstep Larry wouldn't stand for it. Nothing's changed.

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    1. "...San Jose teams...are okay with on air criticisms..."

      Didn't work out too well for Drew Remenda!

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    2. Thanks for the reminder, 8:12. Forgot about the Remenda-Doug Wilson fallout.

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  11. Like Ronn, I miss them only when they were good. KNBR was only wrong in ending things w Barbieri when they did in that they did so a couple years too late.

    //Funny that you mention his oft mentioned Sport Magazine gig. Brought up when he felt insecure. He did the same re women, "I dated models, beautiful women!" Almost as often.

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  12. Ralph was late to work EVERY day. Tom used to start the show by himself at least 2 or 3 times a week! Who doesn't remember that and why do we think that was okay? I can't be late to work every day! Ralph also wasn't that good in the end and any suggestion otherwise is romanticizing things. I'm also sick and tired of this whole "millennials" thing! We raised those people so if we want to blame anyone look within!

    Ralph was old and tired and he was given a lot of money when he probably shouldn't have been. Time to move on!

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    1. AMEN, Ralph would show up late and be huffing and puffing trying to catch his breath. And then he'd repeat old stories. That's all he had OLD STORIES.

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  13. I listened to Ralph when he was just doing updates with Joel A. Spivak on KNBR. I would run into Ralph often at Pat O'Shea's on Geary St. Those were the days when drinking and gambling was still part of the old SF scene. Miss you Ralph!!!

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  14. For all of Ralph's major irritants; his non-stop questions; his over-pontificating broadcast style; his self-aggrandizement mojo; his boisterous blah-blah-blahs, he kept you glued and interested.

    I'd get tired of Ralph's me me me Gettysburg Address questions often, and that's when I'd turn on KGO. He was like an early day 'kars for kids/ tom shane' commercial that would make me eventually switch the dial.

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  15. Rich, as you well know, I worked with Ralph for nearly 18 years at KNBR . He was always lots of fun and interesting to talk with when he was relaxed and informal.

    Ralph and I had some great conversations on the planes and in the stands when he would sometimes ask me during those post season road games to join him in his seats the Giants management had given him on those road trips. But Ralph never liked going into the press box because he always said he couldn't "smell the greasepaint or hear the roar of the crowd," quite like he could in the stands.

    The only time that Ralph I really clashed (if you want to call it that), was Back in 2002. WE were on a Giants trip that included the Division Series clinching win at Atlanta, followed by a late night flight and then the first two games of the subsequent NLCS in St Louis.

    Anyway, we get into St Louis late that night and when he arrived at the hotel by bus later and were walking to our rooms, I noticed Dusty was about 50 yards in front of me down the hall. Suddenly, he turned around and said: "Bruce, can you come into my room please?. I need to talk with you."

    I came into his room, sat down on a chair and Dusty, standing and pacing and sounding really upset, then chronicled chapter and verse about the problems he was having to deal with.

    Management problems; (he was never a fan of Larry Baer,)
    Player problems, (particularly Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds not getting along and Bonds constant need for preferential treatment.) Dusty had clearly
    had enough of the whole thing.

    "And it's gonna get worse next year!" he railed loudly.

    "Wow!" I thought to myself. "Dusty is not coming back to the Giants, even if they win it all!"

    The next morning before game one of the NLCS at Busch Stadium I mentioned that Dusty had had a 'heart to heart' talk with me in a breakfast conversation with Ralph. I was flattered that Dusty had confided in me, and while part of me felt I should ' let the cat out of the bag' and talk about it on KNBR, I also realized that this had been a confidential, informal conversation.

    Ralph was upset that I wouldn't share the information with him and said if we had an 'exclusive,' that we should definitely make it a major part of our discussion on his pre game three hour show from the stadium that night. I was going to be getting several taped one-on-one interviews from the field, and also joining Ralph for about an hour of his program.

    "Ralph, I get the feeling that Dusty wants this thing to stay between him and me. I think he just needed to vent last night. You know that he's a very sensitive, emotional guy sometimes. I just happened to be the guy he felt comfortable with at the time. And you also know what he's been going through this year behind the scenes."

    Anyway, Ralph was pretty upset with me that I wouldn't share the substance of Dusty's conversation on the air but in the end, he backed off and didn't make a big issue of it.

    To Ralph's credit, he never mentioned that Dusty and I had had any kind of intense conversation when he did his show that night from the ballpark, nor did he ask me about it on the air, ever. Our minor disagreement was quickly forgotten.

    I only hope Ralph is comfortable and relatively happy, and I'm glad his lawyer was able to get him a good settlement that is taking care of him and his son's financial needs.

    For all of his faults, Ralph Barbieri had a lot more pluses, was a true bay area sports original and we have not and probably will never see his like on the air again.

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    1. Thank you for that Bruce. Good hearing from you again. Hopefully we can hear you on the air again soon.

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    2. Bruce Mac: Great to read your post! Thank you for sharing how early the Lockstep mindset began with Larry. Hopefully there are no Lockstep executives at Nationals Park (although impossible to avoid anywhere in Washington D.C., regardless of the Hairpiece's efforts.)
      On a different subject, loved reading some of the Marin high school sports history, particularly Redwood's 1970s baseball dynasty in Larkspur, even without the game-by-game results. Wish all of the Bay Area were as detailed about the high school best as they are now, albeit via MaxPreps.

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    3. Good comment, Bruce. ... I have always enjoyed your work.

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  16. Ralphy could ask good, probing interview questions back in the day. Not many softballs. He could be an irritant for the better. But he started to lose some on his fastball, and should have been let go quietly as the contract expired. Given a congratulatory send off into retirement. I miss him on the radio and have good memories of some of the great banter over the years. He and Tom worked well together.

    I think Ratto was a decent replacement, should have been kept on, unless it was his choice to leave. He also has a good rapport with Tolbert. Burns didn't work, and this new candy ass Lund sounds like a kid with little/no sports knowledge. I hope he will get the hook soon.

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  17. He was hard to listen to that's for sure. A non athlete.. you could look at him and tell he never played. I ran into Tolbert at a local batting cage and could tell he wasn't missing working with this smuck. Sorry Rich can't say I miss the Razor. Hope he's doing well though

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    1. How could you tell he wasn't missing working with Ralph?

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  18. Ralphs last few years at KNBR were terrible. At the end he could hardly follow an interview let alone ask any hard questions. It was past time for him to go. I doubt he did all that well in a settlement. His contract was expired and not renewed, not exactly a firing.

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  19. Great hearing from Bruce Macgowan and getting a glimpse into what it was like with Ralph (and Dusty/Giants back then). Thanks for sharing Bruce.
    And thank you Rich for remembering a local radio icon who deserves recognition. For the vast majority of his time at KNBR he was must listen to radio, agree or disagree with him. He did speak for us fans a lot of the time and pulled no punches as he confronted the likes of a Sabean or railed against Baer or other teams' management. It was horrible how cum-u-less went about dumping him. He deserved much better. And if his settlement helped push that company a little closer to bankruptcy, thank God!

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  20. Ralph was the absolute worst interviewer on radio. By the time he eventually, grudgingly quit talking and gave you the question mark, the answer could invariably be nothing more than a binary yes/no. He sucked like a black hole of miasma. Other than Ronn, there has never been anyone on bay area radio that was more enthralled with the sound of his own voice. BTW, who in the fuck is perpetually late for a show that starts at 3 pm? I listened to KNBR to hear Tolbert, and put up with Ralph, much in the way I put up with Rod Brooks to listen to Dumbass. Lund is such a fucking offense, I turn the damn radio off, because I'll watch the Ws on TV if Tolbert isn't doing radio. I can tell my own dick jokes.

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