"Twenty-five years ago this month, I did the first sports-talk show at WIP," was how Eskin started his announcement, choking up.
"My career has been filled with challenges. In life there is only so much time to fit them all in," said Eskin, adding that he wanted time to pursue other opportunities. He didn't say what, but he recently has been fill-in host of former ESPN anchor Dan Patrick's national radio show.
Yesterday afternoon we reported at PhillyGossip.com that Eskin was expected to announce that he was stepping down from the show, just one of a number of changes expected at WIP before Labor Day.
Among those changes, as we reported two weeks ago, is that WIP may take over the FM signal of rock station 94 WYSP.
WIP's AM sports-talk competitor, ESPN 950, began simulcasting on 97.5 The Fanatic in December 2009, and quickly found increased listenership, especially among younger people, whom advertisers target. Mike Missanelli's 97.5 show, which competes with Eskin and Reese in the afternoon-drive slot, has been outperforming WIP in that key advertising demographic for a while.
WIP's program director, Andy Bloom, and CBS Radio market manager Marc Rayfield have neither confirmed nor denied the switch to the FM signal.
Bloom did confirm Eskin's on-air statement that the move was Eskin's idea. "We never approached him about making changes. He approached us and said, 'I would like to no longer do a four-hour daily radio program,' " Bloom recalls.
He said Eskin then asked: " 'Would you entertain having me at the station in another capacity?' "
"There's no back story," Bloom said. "There's no behind-the- scenes. We never approached him about making changes. We said, 'We think you are very valuable at this radio station and would like to keep you here in a capacity that suits you.' "
As for the additional changes, we asked Bloom about longtime WIP host Jody MacDonald, who has been working as a fill-in. Is it possible that he would have a larger role going forward? "It is possible," he said. "We are not prepared to make any announcements about his future."
Radio-industry expert Tom Taylor says it will be an adjustment for people not to hear Eskin, who can be seen on TV Sundays on NBC-10. "Howard was probably the first face of that station." Taylor, news editor of Radio-Info.com, says it is "wise of all parties that he will continue to contribute and be associated with the station."
Former Sixers great Charles Barkley told us last night, "Howard was one of the hardest workers ever, but more than anything he was my friend."
That other Howard
Hey now, Howard Stern fans: Ronnie "The Limo Driver" Mund, Shuli Egar, John Tole, Yucko the Clown and Scott the Engineer will peform a comedy show at Recess Lounge (125 S. 2nd) Saturday night. Tickets are $25 at the door or at recesslounge.com for the 9 p.m. show or $35 for the show and a private meet-and-greet at 7:30.
Kalas tatt well-timed
Just in time for his appearance to sing "High Hopes" at today's Harry Kalas statue unveiling at Citizens Bank Park, singer Eddie Bruce got a Phillies tattoo on his leg Saturday. It features Harry's initials inside the Liberty Bell.
Bruce became friendly with the Phillies' broadcasting legend about seven years ago after winning a charity dinner with Kalas. Kalas occasionally would perform "High Hopes" or sing Christmas songs with the Eddie Bruce band. And Bruce also gave singing advice to Harry's son, Kane Kalas, who will sing "God Bless America" during tonight's game.
Steve Carlton, Greg Luzinski, Ruben Amaro Jr., Dallas Green, and broadcasters Larry Andersen, Gary Matthews and Chris Wheeler are all to attend the ceremony. Also on hand will be the statue's sculptor, Lawrence J. Nowlan, and Todd Palmer and Suzanne Norris from Dear Harry Inc., the fan-based group that raised funds for the statue. It stands behind Section 141 on the main concourse by Harry the K's Bar & Grille.
J-Roll's lunch duty
Jimmy Rollins was spotted being interviewed by Philadelphia magazine writer Tim Whitaker yesterday afternoon at Le Pain Quotidien (1425 Walnut), and an hour later lunching with his wife, Johari, and another woman at Marathon Grill (16th & Sansom).
He's a magic man
Magician Steve Cohen, whose Chamber Magic show at New York's Waldorf-Astoria was called "a religious experience" by Woody Allen, makes his Philadelphia debut, with 7 and 9 p.m. shows Sept. 13-14 at the Four Seasons. The shows are limited to 50 guests, who are asked to dress in cocktail attire for the show. A tuxedo-clad Cohen will perform close-up magic including sleight-of-hand and mind-reading. He's been hired for private shows by Martha Stewart, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Warren Buffett, and has influenced magicians including New Jersey's Billy Glasses. Tickets are $75, and $100 for front row, at chambermagic.com or at 866-811- 4111.
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