Lance McAlister celebrated his first anniversary on WBOB-AM (1160) by jerking the chains of Kentucky and Cincinnati fans with an April Fools' Day joke. McAlister said there was going to be a press conference to announce a six-year basketball series between UK and UC.
Listeners bought it hook, line and jumper.
"I was surprised how many people bought it," he said.
The move was typical McAlister. He's the guy at WBOB who works the hardest to get listeners - callers involved in the show. He comes in each day with an agenda to provoke reaction, whether it be an April Fools' gag, an opinion, or a contest.
"I've always figured if someone takes the time to call, it's an honor," he said. "I may agree or disagree, but I'm rarely going to hang up on someone."
McAlister solicits opinions with "I believe . . ." on Wednesdays, a clever ripoff of the Kevin Costner speech in Bull Durham; "Tee it up" on Thursdays; and "Grand Slam Baseball" every day.
McAlister came to BOB a year ago from WMVP in Chicago. The station tried him and "The Sheik" out for a week and, fearing a violent listener revolt, gave McAlister the BOB job. The Sheik's main goal each show was to tick off as many people as possible. The choice of McAlister may have been the wisest decision the BOB brain trust has made.
McAlister, 31, spent most of his youth in Cincinnati. His family moved to Carmel, Ind., an Indianapolis suburb, about the time Lance entered high school.
He now follows Bob Trumpy on the air; McAlister used to irritate Trumpy.
"I used to call him up and argue about Wayne Krenchicki and Buddy Bell," he said. "I was Lance from Carmel."
McAlister lived in Marty Brennaman's neighborhood in Anderson Township. He once had Brennaman sign his Reds yearbook.
McAlister's broadcast start came at Carmel High School, after he got cut from the baseball team.
"The coach didn't have a place for a left-handed shortstop," he said.
McAlister ended up doing the games on the school's radio station. He continued his play-by-play work in college at Butler.
He got a job with the CBS TV station in South Bend, then moved from there to Chicago, where he did a talk show on ChicagoLand TV. (He still does some freelance TV for Fox Sports Illinois).
He eventually ended up doing a show on WMVP with former NBA star Norm Van Lier. He did that until the station switched formats. About the same time, BOB was looking for a local replacement for the "The Fabulous Sports Babe."
The opportunity appealed to McAlister because he had remained a Reds and Bengals fan. That's part of the appeal of being here.
"I love it," he said. "I liked covering the Bulls, Cubs and White Sox, but those weren't the teams I grew up following. When I was 9 years old, I painted my face orange for the Freezer Bowl. I was there for Pete Rose's 3,000th hit. I was there for 4,192."
McAlister has been a nice fit for the BOB. He's the most prepared guy on the air there. He does some of the sophomoric humor that's a station staple and he's sexist (it seems if you don't check that on the application, you don't get the job at BOB). But he keeps the show lively, and he mixes his opinion with facts, even if he does fool with the listeners once a year.
ROME IS BACK:
Jim Rome, the hippest radio talker around, is back on the Cincinnati airwaves. Rome will be on All Sports 1360-AM live from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. It will be interesting to see if Cincinnati becomes one of the cities to reach "jungle" status.
Dan Hoard will be the play-by-play guy on UC football games on Channel 19. Dave Ashbrock, who does a nice job on UC basketball, will produce and direct.
Look for Anthony Munoz to do the color, if it can be worked out.
John Fay covers radio - TV sports for The Enquirer. He can be reached at 768-8445.