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Mike Francesa signs off from WFAN's afternoon drive time show after 'an incredible run'

Mike Francesa during an interview at WFAN studios

Mike Francesa during an interview at WFAN studios on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Credit: Newsday/Chris Ware

Mike Francesa signed off from afternoon drive time on WFAN on Friday after 30 years in that role, telling listeners, “It’s gone too fast, but it’s been an incredible, incredible run, and I thank you all very much, and I’ll see you soon.”

That will be early January, when Francesa is scheduled to begin appearing regularly on Radio.com, the digital arm of WFAN’s parent company, Entercom, as well as on a weekday 6 to 6:30 p.m. show on WFAN itself starting Jan. 6.

He said the WFAN show will be heard live the vast majority of the time, but he did not announce a format. He said his first scheduled Radio.com show will be on Jan. 4, to preview the NFL playoffs.

The circumstances of the finale were far different from those of Dec. 15, 2017, when he concluded an elaborate farewell tour with what was supposed to be the end of his time at WFAN.

About 4 1⁄2 months later, he returned — a hiatus he did not mention on the air Friday — and 19 months after that, he left drive time again, but not the company, with which he has a new three-year contract.

He is likely to lose to ESPN New York’s Michael Kay for the first time when results of the autumn radio ratings book are released on Dec. 23.

Francesa had only one guest Friday, his close friend Jim Nantz of CBS, and otherwise took calls and thanked listeners and colleagues.

He opened his show by noting the milestone and recalling how he first worked in afternoon drive time on Thanksgiving Day, 1987, before launching “The Mike and the Mad Dog” show with Chris Russo on Sept. 5, 1989.

His update man that day in 1987 was John Minko, who also worked with him on Friday.

“Whatever victories I’ve had, he’s always considered it part of his deal, too,” Francesa said. “So he’s part of the team . . . We had a good run, Mink.”

Francesa said during the opening, “To have the same show and same hours for over 30 years is more than anybody could ask for. This is the last one. We will not spend a lot of time dwelling on that.”

Callers spent the next several hours thanking Francesa anyway, although the fact that the Knicks fired coach David Fizdale less than an hour into the show briefly gave him something else to talk about.

Fizdale was hired the week Francesa returned to the station on May 1, 2018, so his entire Knicks tenure began and ended inside Francesa’s second stint.

Several callers seemed to grow emotional in recalling ties to the show through their fathers. No prank callers got through.

Francesa said he did not know what show will replace his, presumably on Jan. 2, when the winter ratings book begins. But he did offer an opinion when a caller suggested that Evan Roberts and John Jastremski would provide youth, passion and conflicting team loyalties.

“I think the logical show is obviously Joe [Benigno] and Evan, because they’ve paid their dues,” he said. But Francesa said if Benigno takes a pass, “Evan and J.J. makes sense.”

He added, “You look for a show that creates some natural and instinctive conflict. Not generated conflict — natural conflict. That’s the key.”

Benigno, 66, is six months older than Francesa. Roberts, who is almost certain to be one of the afternoon co-hosts, Jastremski and Maggie Gray, the other presumed candidate to work with Roberts, all are in their 30s.

“Life moves on,” Francesa said. “It’s time to let the next generation come in and do some stuff. That’s how life works.”

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