Final Four forecast, March of 1989
Mike Francesa was just beginning to become a familiar voice at WFAN early in 1989 when he made a bold assertion on Don Imus' morning show, predicting Seton Hall would make the Final Four.
Imus promised him a new Porsche if it happened, which it did. The Pirates advanced to the championship game before losing to Michigan. Imus ended up reneging, but Francesa's star was rising fast.
The Debut, Sept. 5, 1989
Many people inside and outside WFAN thought program director Mark Mason had lost his marbles when he got the idea of pairing Mike Francesa and Chris Russo, but he did it anyway, as the still relatively new station sought a program to anchor afternoon drive time.
"Mike and the Mad Dog" was born on Sept. 5, 1989, originally in the 3 to 7 p.m. time slot.
Getting Piazza, May of 1998
Did talk radio pressure from Mike Francesa and Chris Russo prompt the Mets to acquire future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza from the Marlins after he was traded there by the Dodgers?
Then-GM Steve Phillips insists it did not, and he would know. Still, the duo's focus on that topic was an illustration of the power of sports talk in the 1990s to set at least the media and fan agenda.
9/11 comments, Sept. 12, 2001
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Mike Francesa and Chris Russo made comments that many listeners that day insisted then and now sounded as if they were putting part of the blame on Israel and American Jews for the circumstances that led to the attacks.
WFAN said there were and are no recordings of that show, and Francesa and Russo have denied saying anything inappropriate, including the notion of asking American Jews to declare their loyalty to the U.S.
YES simulcast, March 19, 2002
For the first time since its 1989 debut, the "Mike and the Mad Dog Show" made its simulcast debut on the YES Network, a relationship that would last until early 2014, when Francesa's solo show was replaced by ESPN Radio's "Michael Kay Show."
Their first topic of conversation that afternoon of March 19, 2002 was . . . hockey? Yup, the story du jour was the Rangers' acquisition of Pavel Bure.
Enter Sandman, April 3, 2006
There might be no better example of how sports talk radio mines silliness and passions at the same time than the controversy that erupted when reliever Billy Wagner joined the Mets. It turned out his entrance music was Metallica's "Enter Sandman," best known around here as the soundtrack of a more celebrated relief pitcher from across town.
The Yankees' Mariano Rivera said it didn't bother him, but it did bother Mike Francesa and Chris Russo. Francesa suggested Wagner change his song altogether. Later he insisted he was mostly kidding. It sounded pretty serious at the time.
Cory Lidle, Oct. 9, 2006
Upon being criticized by Mike Francesa and Chris Russo for his comments after the Yankees lost a playoff series to the Tigers, Yankees relief pitcher Cory Lidle called in to defend himself. A long, contentious discussion resulted, with Lidle becoming frustrated and agitated.
Two days later, Lidle was killed upon crashing a small plane into a building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Francesa and Russo had no way of knowing the tense conversation would be his last interview, but both were shaken by the incident.
Defending Don, April 10, 2007
Don Imus aided the careers of both Mike Francesa and Chris Russo, and they publicly defended him during the controversy over a comment he made about Rutgers' women's basketball team that most considered racist and sexist.
While both hosts agreed Imus' remark was out of line, they argued against his eventual firing and criticized friends of his for not supporting him.
Calm down, Jim, March 6, 2008
During a remote from Nassau Coliseum before a Rangers-Islanders game, Mike Francesa grew frustrated when he and Chris Russo heard their producer and engineer speaking and thought that was being heard on the air.
Francesa began arguing with an off-camera engineer named "Jim," who seemed to be talking back to him.
"It's never you, Jim," Francesa said. " Jim, Jim, calm down . . . Don't start, OK? Jim, turn the mic off. You guys are on my show. I don't want you on my show."
Eventually a visibly angry Francesa signaled for a timeout with his hands. "Take a break right now," he said.
The Finale, Aug. 5, 2008
Newsday first reported on June 22, 2008, that "Mike and the Mad Dog" likely were headed for a split, but the saga carried throughout that summer, and as it turned out their final show together was at Giants training camp on Aug. 5.
People who watched them work that day confirmed a chilly tension between them in the air.
Tony calls in, Aug. 15, 2008
WFAN announced on Aug. 14, 2008, that "Mike and the Mad Dog" were no more. The next day, an emotional Russo called in to Francesa and they reminisced about their long partnership.
Later, Russo's father Tony phoned in, and he and Francesa shared an emotional conversation of their own.
Alberto Jose Alburquerque, Oct. 5, 2011
When a caller referenced Tigers pitcher Al Alburquerque the day after he pitched in relief in an ALDS game against the Yankees, Francesa thought he was being pranked and that it was not a real player's name.
It turned out Alburquerque was very real, but rather than own up to his mistake, Francesa claimed on the air that he thought Alburquerque was known by his full name, Alberto Jose Alburquerque, rather than Al, and thus was confused.
In a 2014 interview with Newsday, Francesa acknowledged he handled the situation badly, and that mostly he had been mad at himself for the original mistake.
Mike dozes off, Sept. 11, 2008
Few incidents in Mike Francesa's career drew as much attention as the Tuesday on which he could be seen on the YES simulcast dozing off while listening to Sweeny Murti give his Yankees report.
Rather than poke fun at himself over the incident, which years later he admitted would have been wise, he explained he had been up all night tending to a sick child and merely had briefly closed his eyes. Some callers sought to provoke him with on-air jabs about the the brief nap.
A-Rod pays a visit, Nov. 20, 2013
It was New York sports theater at its best -- Alex Rodriguez at the height of the long controversy over his use of performance enhancing drugs storming into Mike Francesa's studio on 20 minutes' notice.
He angrily and tearily denied using anything illegal -- lying both to Francesa's face and to a simulcast audience on the Yankees' YES Network. Rodriguez would not be seen on a baseball field again until 2015.
The Giants picnic, March 9, 2015
In one of the strangest -- and most amusing -- moments on Mike Francesa's show, a caller phoned in to ask, seemingly in all seriousness, whether the San Francisco Giants and New York Giants have any sort of social relationship.
"Has there ever been a franchise-to-franchise or maybe even player-to-player get-together when San Francisco comes to New York?" the caller asked. "Like, do they ever say 'hi' or maybe, I don't know, go out to dinner or something?"
Said Francesa, "As a matter of fact they have the Giant picnic. They hold it over in Totowa, I think it is, and then they have the Giant relay race and the Giant raffle and then they all get together for the Giant breakfast the next morning and then they all go their separate ways."
Then Francesa jokingly discussed the relationship between the Texas and New York Rangers.
"They meet usually in Abilene and have that in August every year," he said. "[Henrik] Lundqvist is particularly close to Yu Darvish. As a matter of fact, there is kinship between the two of them."
Radio City Reunion, March 30, 2016
Mike Francesa and Chris Russo had several, relatively brief on-air reunions in the years after they split up, including from Yankee Stadium before a 2009 ALCS game and from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLVI.
By far their most extensive joint appearance came on March 30, 2016, in the form of a three-hour show from Radio City Music Hall that televised live by MSG Network and featured guests such as Tom Coughlin, Joe Torre and Mark Messier. It was a fundraiser for the Garden of Dreams Foundation.
'30 for 30' documentary premieres, April 21, 2017
ESPN's "30 For 30: Mike & The Mad Dog" documentary premieres at the 2017 Tribeca/ESPN Film Festival on April 21, 2017. It aired on ESPN in July.
Francesa says goodbye to WFAN, Dec. 15, 2017
In January 2016, Francesa announced that he would be leaving WFAN at the end of his contract in December 2017. After a months-long farewell-to-WFAN tour that included shows at the Tilles Center and the Paley Center for Media, Francesa hosted what was then his final show with WFAN on Dec. 15, 2017.
April 24, 2018: He's back!
"It's time to return to WFAN," Mike Francesa said in the morning. By the end of the day, the framework was in place for him to return to afternoons on WFAN (3-6:30 p.m.), relocating his replacements Chris Carlin, Maggie Gray and Bart Scott to an earlier and shorter time slot of 1-3 p.m. On Friday, April 27, it was announced that Francesa's first day back on the air would be Tuesday, May 1, confirming a report earlier in the week by Newsday.
Dec. 7, 2019: Francesa leaves drive-time again
Francesa announced on Nov. 5 his plans to leave WFAN's afternoon drive-time slot in December, and his final show in that role came on Dec. 7. Francesa had only one guest on his final show, his close friend Jim Nantz of CBS, and otherwise took calls and thanked listeners and colleagues. However, this didn't mean he was done with WFAN entirely just yet — beginning in January, he would do an hour exclusively on Radio.com from 5-6 p.m., followed by a half-hour on both WFAN and Radio.com.
July 23, 2020: Francesa retires again
Francesa announced on his show that he leave WFAN effective after his show on July 24, marking his second and presumably final departure as a regular presence at the station. "I had an incredible run," Francesa told Newsday. "I wouldn't trade my broadcast career with anybody. I'm very proud of it, and I think I've been incredibly fortunate."