Controversial radio host Mike North says he’s done with sports – Chicago Tribune
Once the loudest, most distinctive voice in Chicago sports radio, Mike North says he’s done with that.
“I’m stepping away from sports radio and sports podcasting, sports columns completely and I’m heading in another direction completely because I think the timing is right,” told WTTW-Ch. 11’s Phil Ponce on Monday’s “Chicago Tonight.”
A former hot dog stand owner who parlayed his penchant for hot water and everyman perspective into a lucrative media career, North parted company with WSCR-AM nine years ago.
North, who helped launch the all-sports station 25 years ago, gave The Score its identity in its early days and, at his peak, was pulling down $1.5 million a year from the station plus endorsement cash.
Since then, North got entangled in Chicago Sports Webio, a digital media venture that turned out to be a Ponzi scheme. The scam earned mastermind David Hernandez a 17-year-sentence for bilking investors out of millions of dollars.
North segued from that into co-hosting a short-lived early morning news and talk show for WBBM-Ch. 2, “Monsters & Money in the Morning.”
More recently, he had a nationally syndicated radio program for Fox Sports, a podcast and a column with the suburban Daily Herald. But he turned 65 last month, is ready to live part-time in Las Vegas and told Ponce he has come to view sports differently than he once did.
“I don’t care, for the most part, what Kyle Schwarber, whether he bats second or fifth anymore,” North said. “Back then I did, but I’ve moved on.”
North said that he can say everything about sports he wants to say on Twitter, and bemoaned what sports radio has become.
“I care about the teams and I’ve always cared about the management,” North said. “But the nonsense that’s coming up now, I mean, I’m hearing the USC mascot is coming under siege because his name … was the same as Robert E. Lee’s.”
That there have been murmurs about USC mascot Tommy Trojan’s horse for decades sharing the same name as Gen. Lee’s – Traveler – has not exactly made it requisite talk show fodder.
“We used to discuss what happened with the field, on the field and with the personalities,” North said “Now it’s stuff I never dreamed we’d be discussing.”
Without addressing North’s REM cycle specifically, it’s worth remembering he made his name – for better and for worse – venturing well beyond batting orders, box scores and depth charts.
North infamously observed Antonio Mora, then a WBBM anchor, didn’t “look Spanish enough” and suggested he “wear a sombrero” on the air. He called Korean-born Cubs pitcher Jae Kuk Ryu a “Chinaman.”
A female ESPN reporter, he said on the air, must have slept her way to get the assignments she was getting. When there was a SARS scare in North America, he suggested everyone could be safe by avoiding being around Asians. He called Hub Arkush, then a Bears radio analyst, “a retard.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Operation Push ripped North’s “Hug a Black Day” as patronizing. The Anti-Defamation League was no more pleased when North followed up with “Hug a Jew Day.”
Apologies from station management were issued to an array of groups over the years, even Greeks, though a review of news reports failed to identify what precisely got North into trouble on that one.
North said on WTTW he had “no regrets and no filter.”
That mindset also resulted in no-holds-barred radio that held listeners in his thrall.
An unforgettable live 1992 interview with then-team President Michael McCaskey began with North calling McCaskey dumb, questioning the franchise’s commitment to winning and ended with him referring to McCaskey as a “lowlife.”
“I had 18,000 interviews in my career and I made them accountable,” North said.
But the most attention North earned lately was for a 2016 tweet saying ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza, an Olympic softball gold and silver medalist-turned-broadcaster, would be fired if she were a man.
Fox Sports Radio retweeted the remark, then quickly deleted it.
On his program, the Washington Post reported, North fired back at critics.
“I’ve got to tell you something, folks. You know, I’ve been called every name in the book doing this job since the early ’90s,” North said. “Good names, bad names, and (everything) in between. I’ve been called everything from a pillar in the community to a guy who’s the best who did it in Chicago’s history to a racist and a sexist. I’m going to just tell you right now what everybody else doesn’t want to say, except maybe the regular fan who you see on social media: Jessica Mendoza is the worst baseball announcer who has ever announced the game of baseball.”