OKC show is sports ratings powerhouse

September 1, 2011
Courtesy of the Oklahoman

Two transplanted Easterners — a New Jersey journalist with a crackling, grating voice and a temperamental ex-jock from Maryland — have formed the state’s most entertaining sports talk tandem.

Al Eschbach, 65, and Jim Traber, 49, appear as the “Dominant Duo” from 4 to 6 p.m. on the Sports Animal radio network.

“We’re like the ‘Odd Couple’,” said Eschbach, who this month celebrated his 35th anniversary as a sports talk host. “He’s Felix. I’m Oscar. We’re so different. But it has been a lot of fun.”

The pair are a ratings powerhouse for the men’s 25 to 54 age demographic. They ranked second in the demographic from 2 to 8 p.m. for the spring ratings book, trailing only rock station KATT-FM 100.5.

A Columbia, Md., high school star, Traber was recruited to play quarterback at Oklahoma State by head coach Jimmy Johnson and assistant coach Dave Wannsted. He also played baseball for the Cowboys, leading to a major league career and pro stints in Japan and Mexico.

Eschbach, who attended an all-boys Catholic high school, moved to Oklahoma in search of excitement. “OU was ranked as one of the top 10 party schools by Playboy Magazine,” he said. “It was cheap and it was easy to get in.” He now teaches sports broadcasting at the university.

Eschbach has never lost his high-strung New Jersey accent, which is his trademark along with his “See ya” farewell to callers. He relishes talking about his exotic vacations, including a recent three-week trip to Thailand.

“The last thing I would ever have expected was for me to do talk radio here with my accent,” Eschbach said. “Are you kidding me? When I started, people would go like ‘Damn Yankee.’ Was the Civil War still going on?”

Traber said. “I’m one of the only people who I think understands everything that comes out of Al’s mouth. It’s kind of hard at times.”

When the two were first paired in 1998, Traber said some listeners assumed it would become a battle of OSU vs. OU, but he said he never had no intention of becoming a “homer” for his alma mater.

“I think you lose credibility,” said Traber, who is known for lashing into callers with extended tirades. “There are OU fans who think I am an OSU homer and there are OSU fans who think I’m an OU homer. I feel if both sides don’t like me, I’m doing it the right way.”

Both enjoy serving their large throng of sports listeners. They are joined in “The Total Dominance Hour” by Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel and KWTV-9 sports director Dean Blevins.

“I can tell you that this is the most passionate place there is to do sports talk radio,” Traber said.

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Read more at the Oklahoman where this story was originally published.