Could Anthony J. Bruno be joining Anthony L. Gargano on 97.5 The Fanatic?
Gargano, who launched his morning show on the station in April 2015, has been without a permanent co-host since Jon Marks walked away from the station last September to join SportsRadio 94.1 WIP. But after months of pairing Gargano with a stream of fill-in hosts, it looks as if station management is getting close to hiring a full-time replacement.
There’s no official timeline, but sources say the yet-to-be named co-host is expected to start before the beginning of the new NFL season.
Gargano could certainly use a pick-me-up, considering he also lost update anchor and co-host Maureen Williams back in April. According to numbers obtained by Philly.com, Gargano finished in a distant fourth place behind WIP’s Angelo Cataldi in the coveted men’s 25-54 demographic in the spring ratings book, dropping slightly from last year’s numbers. At one point, Gargano was actually closing in on Cataldi in the ratings, so he could certainly benefit from any new additions to his show.
The most surprising name I’ve heard mentioned more than once is Bruno, the veteran sports talker who has been successfully podcasting since abruptly walking off his top-rated afternoon show on WIP in July 2015, a show he co-hosted with Josh Innes. Innes was subsequently fired by former co-host and current WIP program director Spike Eskin, and now hosts a sports talk show in Houston.
Bruno has been friends with Gargano for a long time, and both were actually neighbors at the Residences at Dockside. The two worked together in the past at Fox Sports radio (Bruno had a daily show and Gargano worked on weekends), which Gargano spoke about in a nearly 2-hour appearance on The Tony Bruno Show last week.
“I’ve always respected you not only as a incredible talk show host; you’re engaging and organically funny,” Gargano said. “Growing up, I was a big fan of yours.”
Bruno, who I’m told would consider joining Gargano if the situation were right, would have a lot to overcome before he joined the station. Before his stint at WIP, Bruno worked for The Fanatic for four years as a midday host alongside Harry Mayes before walking away after a contract dispute in 2014. If the station and Bruno could agree on a contract and salary, next on the list would be mending a rift that formed during his time at WIP with top-rated afternoon host Mike Missanelli.
In a continuing back-and-forth that was largely instigated by Innes, Bruno dubbed Missanelli a “jealous, multi-time failure” and called him “a horrific teammate” when the two would cross over at The Fanatic.
“Never said that about anyone I’ve worked with in 40 years,” Bruno noted at the time.
For his part, Missanelli has called Bruno “a rat” and said he was forced out of The Fanatic the first time around in part because his “ADD is off the wall.”
The Fanatic declined to comment on the possibility of Bruno’s joining the station.
Bruno isn’t the only name being considered for the coveted morning role. Sources at the station indicate that current NFL Network analyst and former Eagles offensive lineman Brian Baldinger could end up as the permanent morning-show co-host, provided he could make the schedule work with his television duties.
Baldinger has been a regular part of the morning show’s “Meat Locker” segments and appears on the show already at least twice a week, and clearly has a good rapport alongside Gargano. But he’s also gotten into some hot water on the show for comments he has made. Back in October, the NFL Network suspended Baldinger for 6 months without pay for suggesting the Eagles should “put a little bounty” on Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. Baldinger defended his comments as mostly “tongue in cheek,” which management at The Fanatic largely agreed with.
Another person seriously being considered is Eytan Shander, The Fanatic’s flexible pinch hitter who seemingly hosts shows all day and night for the station. Since Marks’ departure, Shander has spent a good deal of time filling in alongside Gargano, and clearly has the chops to be a capable co-host.
What Shander lacks is the name recognition of either Bruno or Baldinger, which hurts him if the station wants to make a splash with whomever it hires. It would also mean The Fanatic would lose a versatile pinch hitter whom the station relies on to fill air time during the day, at night and on the weekend.
A dark-horse candidate to fill the open spot is Billy King, a former general manager for both the Sixers and the New Jersey Nets best known for making deals that didn’t exactly pan out for his squad. Since being forced out by the Nets in January 2016, King has appeared as a basketball expert on numerous radio shows, including making semi-regular appearances on Gargano’s show.
Despite his knowledge of basketball and The Fanatic’s relationship with the Sixers (unless something dramatic happens, the station will retain the contract to air games next season) it seems unlikely the station would turn to someone with such little radio experience to fill such an important spot in its lineup.