Broadcaster Beatrice hangs up his microphone
Apr. 26, 2000
Scott Harris
Staff Writer

Galen A. Lentz/The Gazette

Former Potomac resident Ken Beatrice, who hosted "Sports Call" for 24 years, did his last show Thursday.

The sports media in the Washington, D.C. area bid farewell Thursday to one of its most enduring figures when radio broadcaster Ken Beatrice hung up his headphones for good.

Beatrice, 56, hosted the sports talk radio program "Sports Call" for 24 years in the Washington area. Before signing on with WTEM 980 AM in Rockville in 1992, he hosted "Sports Call" for WMAL 630 AM in Washington. The show aired from 7-10 p.m. weekdays.

Beatrice, a thin man with a thick New England accent, said he enjoyed his job and the distinction and memories that accompany it, most notably an interview with Olympic track and field legend Jesse Owens. However, Beatrice said it was the right time to move on, as he hopes to spend more time with his family.

"There were a number of things I wanted to do," Beatrice said. "I never even got a chance to eat dinner with the kids."

Beatrice, whose first planned post-retirement event was a family Easter dinner, said there were no other issues involved in his decision.

In particular, Beatrice thanked Bennett Zier, executive vice president for the company that owns WTEM, AMFM, Inc., Tod Castleberry, WTEM's operations manager, and his show's listeners for their understanding and support of his decision.

"[Zier and Castleberry] were terrific about this," Beatrice said. "They understood. I was in the middle of a very good contract...and the fans, they were always there. That's not why I left."

Beatrice was about five months into a two-year contract when he retired.

Beatrice, a Potomac resident for more than 22 years before moving to Edgewater about a year ago, said he had no qualms about making the decision.

"I have no regrets whatsoever," Beatrice said.

Mike Jakaitis, an associate editor for WTOP 107.7 FM and 1500 AM radio in Washington -- who got one of his first jobs in radio as a producer working with Beatrice about eight years ago -- said Beatrice "is cut from different cloth."

"He was a workaholic," Jakaitis said. "I mean, the man's crazy. He put so many hours in."

Jakaitis said Beatrice, who he regularly saw work 50-60 hours a week, always possessed formidable knowledge on a wide range of sports, which was particularly valuable in the diverse and commuter-heavy Washington area.

"D.C.'s a big melting pot," Jakaitis said. "People who aren't from around here could tune into him...he knew a lot about every team. He was real good at doing the local stuff, but it was amazing how much he knew on a national level."

During Beatrice's final broadcast Thursday, aired at 5 p.m. and again at 7 p.m., several prominent local sports figures called or came to the broadcast to see him off, including John Thompson, former head coach of the Georgetown University basketball team and now a broadcaster for WTEM and Turner Sports; Morgan Wootten, famed head coach of Hyattsville's DeMatha Catholic High School basketball team; Norv Turner, head coach of the Washington Redskins; and Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals.

"Twenty-four years ago, [Beatrice] came to this town, and got us so excited about sports, every sport," Wootten said on the show. "He's the most knowledgeable guy I've ever met. We're going to miss [him]."

Thompson expressed respect for Beatrice's professionalism, and regret over his retirement.

"I'm going to miss my man," Thompson said on the show. "I think about Ken and I reflect back...and the one comforting thing I always found about Ken...was I never felt that Ken was coming trying to dig up something or to attack you at a moment of weakness, and I thought that he was truly just trying to report what happened. That was one of the reasons that I always respected him."

Jakaitis said Beatrice may have been a driven worker, but he was doing it for all the right reasons.

"You could never question his commitment," Jakaitis said. "He just loved his listeners."

WTEM operations manager Castleberry said the area will miss Beatrice not only for "Sports Call," but also for the speeches and charity work he undertook for such groups as the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs, as well as high school and college athletic programs throughout the area.

"I think there really is going to be a certain sadness because we know the impact Ken has had on the community," Castleberry said. "He literally does an unbelievable amount of [charitable] work. More so than any other broadcaster."

Castleberry said "Sports Call" will be temporarily replaced on WTEM with "ESPN Game Night," a program consisting of news and feedback from reporters stationed at professional sporting events across the country. An announcement as to a permanent replacement will come within the next few weeks.

Jakaitis said area sports radio will forever be lacking after saying good-bye to Beatrice, and his trademark catch phrase.

"I don't think Washington will be the same without 'You're Next!'," he said.