Starting next week, for the first time in almost two decades, Boston sports fans will not be able to tune in to WEEI and hear the voice of Glenn Ordway. The Boston Globe's Chad Finn was the first to report that WEEI parent company Entercom fired Ordway on Tuesday and Finn broke the news on Wednesday, just a couple of hours prior to Ordway going on the air at 2 p.m. with his "Big Show."
Ordway worked several years alongside Boston Celtics legendary radio play-by-play man Johnny Most in the 1980's. In 1987, he joined WEEI. In Ordway's twenty-six years with the station, he filled various roles including executive sports director, program manager, and program director.
In 1996, Ordway began "The Big Show." "The Big O," an admittedly rotund fellow, would be the host and he would surround himself with some of the best talent in Boston sports media.
Ordway also had a big personality. He could be bombastic. He would shout over callers. He could also be very funny, depending on his chemistry with his co-hosts or guests.
My favorite part of the show was Ordway's brainchild, "The Whiner Line." At the end of every show, Ordway would allot the final fifteen minutes of his show to a well-produced concoction of quick voice mails left by listeners.
Over the years, the "Whiner Line" evolved from just being mundane, disgruntled fans complaining about their Boston teams to highly entertaining, sometimes musical comedic skits. It became an art form with frequent contributions from regular callers. The Accordion Guy would come on playing a comical sports ditty on his accordion. "The Cardinal" would leave a message in his heavy Irish accent. There was the caller who would lambaste Ordway and end all his rants by screaming, "You fat bastard!" There was the Morgan Freeman impersonator who would end his messages with, "I'm Morgan Freeman... and I built the Batmobile." There was the Beavis and Butthead impersonator. I can't look at Bob Kraft without hearing the Kraft impersonator (comedian Graig Murphy) on the whiner line crying out, "Jon-a-than!" Murphy's Terry Francona impersonation is so good that one time he fooled Dustin Pedroia when Murphy, in character, called the show and spoke to the Red Sox second baseman. And, of course, there was Frank from Gloucester who is a character in and of himself.
For many years, "The Big Show" dominated afternoon drive. In 2006, WEEI won the Marconi Award for the best sports station of the year.
During the height of the show's popularity, a variety of co-hosts and guests would join Ordway. O was the ringleader. He never had a "co-host," but instead would bring in one or two guest hosts, depending on what was dominating the news at the time.
If it was baseball season, Ordway would be joined by Sean McAdam and/or Steve Buckley. If it was football season, Steve Nelson, Steve DeOssie, Fred Smerlas, and/or Tom E. Curran would join Ordway. If it was Celtics season, there was Cedric Maxwell. The variety of the guest hosts kept the show fresh. Each guest also brought credibility to the show and offered insider's insight.
The emergence of 98.5 The Sports Hub in 2009 changed everything. At first, WEEI mocked their new "rival." I remember listening to WEEI at the time and being put off by station ads which had a voice-over guy condescendingly making fun of "the competition" and cockily telling listeners that WEEI was the best sports station in the country.
While it took The Sports Hub a while to gain its footing, by 2011, they had WEEI worried. In March of that year, WEEI shook things up in a big way. Dale Arnold, who had been with WEEI since 1991, had his midday show taken away from him. Arnold's co-host, Michael Holley, was now paired with Ordway. It marked the first time Ordway would have a permanent co-host. I wrote at the time how it was a huge mistake by WEEI.
Merely two years later, I was proven right. Ordway's strength was always as a moderator. As strange as it may sound, the biggest mistake WEEI made was asking the highly-paid Ordway now to be a bigger contributor.
"The Big Show" was not the same without the expert insight from journalists like McAdam (who left for the Sports Hub) and Rob Bradford, the unintentional comedic storytelling of Buckley, the machismo chest-bumping of DeOssie and Smerlas, and the hilarity of Tom E. Curran and Maxwell.
I was one of those who tuned "The Big Show" out. Over the last couple of years, I'd check in every few weeks to see if things had improved. I used to be an everyday listener. While Ordway's knowledge of the NBA and the Celtics I found insightful, I found him lacking in all the other sports. Almost to prove my point, Ordway seemed to focus his shows on off-field stories, like Tom Brady "dancing" in Brazil, steroid use, Tiger Woods' affairs, etc.
The two-man show badly exposed Ordway. His strength was always his light-hearted banter with his guests. Now he was being asked to be an expert, to offer insight, to take hard-line stands. The notorious "flip-flopper" was never known to take hard stances. If there is a saying of his that should be engraved on his tombstone it would be, "That's not what I said."
So now Ordway is out and some guy, Mike Salk, is reportedly going to replace him. Salk has been co-hosting a morning show in Seattle since 2009.
This move should not be the last for WEEI. John Dennis and Gerry Callahan should not be sleeping easy for the next few months. If Ordway can go, they can't view themselves as safe, either.
I'm a bigger fan of Minihane, but both are young, passionate, opinionated and humorous. If there is an outsider I'd love to see join WEEI full-time it would be Jackie MacMullan. She is a frequent guest on national shows like Around The Horn, so a talk radio gig would probably be perceived as a step down. But, hey, Michael Holley and Michael Felger left prominent positions to join talk radio, so it couldn't hurt to ask (and offer lots of money).