After hanging up the headphones in February, former WIP host and current Chestnut Hill resident Angelo Cataldi is back in the spotlight with a new book. The book, which was released on Tuesday and called Loud, serves two purposes. The first is to recap Catalidi’s 33-year career at WIP. The second is to rehabilitate the nation’s image of Philadelphia sports fans.
“I want to get people to look at Philadelphia as a sports city that's not just a band of thugs having fights and throwing stuff and acting out while they're drunk,” he said in his phone call with the Local. “I won't deny there are plenty of those kinds of stories, but their hearts are bigger than their mouths.”
So for the time being, Cataldi is taking a break from playing with his grandkids in retirement to go on a national book tour designed to proselytize the word of Philadelphia’s good-natured sports fans just as much as it is to promote his book. He’s making two stops in Chestnut Hill in the process. The first is at Chestnut Hill Brewing Company on Dec. 6 from 6 to 9 p.m. The week after, he’ll be at Booked during Stag and Doe night on Dec. 13, also from 6 to 9 p.m.
In the Local’s phone call with Philly’s Sports Radio King, Cataldi spoke about his new book, the way the Phillies season ended and the evolving state of Philadelphia sports fandom.
What made you want to write a book that’s not just about yourself but also promotes the idea of Philly sports fans being good guys?
There’s stories like the one about Kenny Justice who was one of my regular callers. Right near the end of my tenure at WIP, he called in and revealed on the air that he's dealing with kidney failure. He's in his late forties or something like that. He told the story about his kidney, although he didn't call for that reason. He called to complain about the Eagles, and I kind of goaded him into it a little bit. I had heard something about him having some health struggles.
Within a couple hours, 28 people signed up to donate their kidneys to help Kenny. As a result of that, Kenny got a kidney transplant, and he's healthy now and doing great. That's the side of the Philadelphia sports fans that I'm trying to expose here. Yeah, we're passionate and sometimes we overreact and stuff, but we're just as passionate about the positive side.
If there's one goal in the book it's that – to at least get people to see the other side of it. It's so lazy and easy to just call all of the sports fans these drunk idiots. They're not.
I read your column in the Inquirer that mentions the Kenny Justice situation. You wrote that you were aware of his kidney issues as if you knew him personally. Do you know a lot of your regular callers more personally than the casual listener might expect you to?
I knew Kenny was dealing with something, but I had no idea it was at the level where he was going into dialysis. My own father went on dialysis in the last couple years of his life, and I understand that when you do that, your situation is very serious. Your prognosis is not great unless you can get that transplant.
I was not aware that Kenny was facing dialysis at that point, I just was aware that he was having a struggle. But since then, I think I have lunch with Kenny every few weeks.
I've had a couple viewing parties over at my house with regular callers Eagles Shirley and Arson Arnie and Kenny, who are regular callers. I'm just trying to pay them back for all that they did for me.
I've befriended them at a different level since I went off the air because I guess we share a passion, and it's been really fun to watch these games with them, especially Shirley. She really livens up the whole room.
You called the book Loud and you mention that you're referring mainly to Philadelphia sports fans, but is it referring to your radio persona as well?
All of the above. Loud was my radio persona. I was a screamer and a yeller. So it applied to me and obviously, it applied to the fans, especially those who might have been watching the Phillies in the playoffs and heard those crowds the last couple of years at Citizens Bank Park.
But it applies to everyone. In the book I illustrate how I was shy and even nerdier than I am now, and how coming here and doing the job that I did on the radio raised my volume, and then I raised their volume. As I got more involved in what they were doing I became more provocative and got them to scream a little bit louder from time to time. It was reciprocal.
What was your reaction to Phillies fans taking the advice WIP host Jack Fritz’s advice and giving Trea Turner a standing ovation in August? He had been struggling mightily at the plate all season after signing a massive $300 million contract with the Phillies but turned things around soon after. It seemed to have worked?
I was appalled by it. I confronted Jack Fritz. I saw him this week and re-confronted him. He was my intern. He started on my show at WIP, and I said to him 'did you learn nothing from me? We're cheering guys who are making $300 million and hitting .230? What? Are you crazy?'
I really gave it to him, and if there was one moment in these nine or ten months I've been retired that really resonated with me it's that that was a successful promotion – cheering a guy who was failing was a successful promotion because it brought Trea Turner out of the doldrums and turned him into the player they bought when he was a free agent. I said to myself, 'Well if there was any question left that I was a dinosaur, this would prove it.'
I don't know if the personality of the fanbase is evolving, but clearly, as there are more and more younger fans, there's more and more tolerance. They're more forgiving and there's a softer approach to rooting for the teams. In one respect that makes sense to me, but in another saddens me because I loved the image of Philadelphians being so tough and requiring the players to earn the pay they're getting. I always thought that the accountability in this city was second to none and it seems to be declining somewhat.
That segues well into my next question: Does losing our tough-guy sports mentality make us just another fanbase?
It's too early to say. You still have to say that the Turner thing was kind of an outlier, but it could be headed in that direction. I'm not sure though. If you listened to the fans during the playoffs for the Phillies, no other city compared to them in terms of volume and commitment to the team and trying to get them over the hump, so maybe, maybe not. It's hard to say.
You were on WIP a few weeks ago and used the word "choked" to describe the Phillies being eliminated by the Arizona Diamondbacks, which is still fresh in everybody's mind. Is that fair to the Phillies? And is it fair to Arizona to suggest that the only reason they won that series is because the other team choked?
The Phillies were a better team than Arizona. If you check the standings, you'll see the records. Secondly, their general manager, Dave Dombrowski, said that he was surprised by the fact that when they got back home, they lost their plate discipline. They were swinging at balls they never would've swung at during the series.
That last part – going outside the zone and trying to do more than you can and responding to the crowd by feeling more pressure and not succeeding in it. That to me is the definition of choke. And they choked.
I know it's a harsh word and it upsets people and all, but [Phillies President of Baseball Operations] Dave Dombrowski was basically saying that. He was saying that the pressure got to them. And the pressure getting to somebody is a choke.
Let’s end on an Eagles question because they currently have the best record in the NFL. What are your expectations for them this year? Will they go back to the Super Bowl?
They've got a great record, but I'm not feeling a Super Bowl because I think they should have grave concerns about their defense. You can't be 26th, 27th in pass defense and be a championship team. They're just letting too many people run up and down the field on them. And by run I mean throwing the ball. Nobody is covering anybody. I don't know what they're doing.
I guess the secondary is not a good coverage secondary, but if I was a defensive coordinator I would be blitzing a lot more to cover that weakness because there's no question they have a great defensive line. So right now, I'm thinking no. I think they'll fall short and maybe lose to the Niners or something like that.
They're definitely a playoff team, but I'm not positive they're as good as they were a year ago.
For more information, including how to order a copy of Loud, visit angelocataldi.com.