Mike Stone (Stoney) reigns as Detroit’s ‘Godfather of sports radio’ – Detroit Free Press
It wasn’t an ordinary confession, at least not during drive-time radio. But it was teased as “the dumbest thing Stoney has ever done.”
So, after the break, Mike Stone, partnered with Jamie Samuelsen delivered to southeast Michigan sports fans tuned to WXYT-FM (97.1) on this mid-February Thursday morning.
Two nights before, he was watching the Michigan State-Ohio State basketball game when his power went out at home. So, he went to his garage, turned on his car and plugged in his phone to continue watching.
“After about 10 minutes or so, I realized I shouldn’t sit here with the car on and the garage door down,” Stoney admitted to an audience of thousands.
“I know after 10 minutes, I would be in trouble.”
Luckily, the power returned and crisis was adverted.
Considering his near three-decade career and all his radio revelations, this was just another “oh, Stoney” moments. He’s given out his personal cell phone on air, given out his former employer’s phone number on air, admitted to sharing a bed with his sister as an adult and using illicit drugs during the 1980s.
Even in the business of sports radio, it’s hard to imagine someone being as open as the the 58-year-old Stone. But it’s that candidness that has endeared the transplant from Philadelphia as one of Detroit’s own.
Before becoming the longest-running prominent sports radio voice around, Stone was a TV producer at the NBC affiliate in Washington. After failing to get on air there, he worked at a bar, where he got slugged in the face by a drunken patron.
At that point, he was at a crossroads professionally. But fate, and a new sportscaster hired in Detroit, came calling.
“I got lucky, I’m the first to admit it,” Stone said.
WDIV-TV (Channel 4) brought in Bernie Smilovitz to do sports in 1986, and he wanted to bring in his own producer. Someone who had ties at NBC.
“It was the best thing I ever did. He helped me jump-start things at Channel 4,” Smilovitz said. “At that time, we were trying to institute a new way of doing sports, that was more inclusive. Stoney understood that.”
The then-27-year-old Stone helped usher in a style that Smilovitz still uses today.
“I always enjoyed working with Stoney, he always had a smile,” Smilovitz said of “the godfather of sports radio here.”
“He was always had a milk mustache or tuna on his chin.”
It wasn’t until a couple of years later where, a meeting at a house party turned into a new roommate and a new opportunity on radio.
Stone befriended, then moved in with Mitch Albom, in the budding stages of his now legendary career with the Free Press. Stone moved in with Albom and former Kronk Gym public relations man Ken Droz.
And, in 1988, Stone started helping on “The Sunday Sports Albom” on the former WLLZ-FM (98.7).
Stoney’s popularity sky-rocketed when WDFN-AM (1130) dipped its toes into the sports radio landscape in 1994. Originally slated to work with “Mega Man” Ike Griffin, he was paired with former Free Press columnist Rob Parker, but it was “Stoney and Wojo” – Stone and Detroit News columnist Bob Wojnowski — that became the station’s hallmark show.
“What made that station and our show, we had fun and laughed, we made fun of teams when they deserved it and made fun of each other,”
“It was like a club everyone wanted to be in.”
A club that listeners still reflect on with him today. A club where he met the likes of Samuelsen and his current executive producer, Tom Millikan, who along with producers Mike Feld and Greg Hargrave, do morning drive for the new club.
“He’s my friend before he’s my co-worker. And I do believe he’s earned legend status,” Millikan said. “He’s biggest key has been going down to the game and getting into the locker room and building credibility.
“He has the respect of the four local teams and the major colleges, and that’s hard to do for local radio talent.”
But still, the good old days of WDFN resonate with Stone. When Clear Channel laid off much of the staff on the day of President Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, it left a wound that still hasn’t healed.
“I’m still very bitter, and I shouldn’t be. That place was great to me. Because of the contract I had, I was still able to get paid for 2 ½ years. And once my non-compete was over, I able to work somewhere else and get my regular pay.”
And during that time, Stone waited, filled in here or there, wrote a little online and continued to do his Sunday night appearances on WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) – where he once wore a dress and makeup on TV.
Then in December, he was picked up by The Ticket, his first air shift being with Pat Caputo, another WDFN alum.
He’s since developed into a fixture for a new station and a new time slot. After years with Bill McAllister and Sara Fouracre, Stone and Samuelsen, also a blogger for Freep.com, have been starting mornings at WXYT since the beginning of the last football season.
“One of the recommendations I got from Wojo who had worked with him before is let Stoney do his thing, let Stoney be Stoney,” Samuelsen said. “So it’s been a challenge to me, and I’m still not there yet, to kind of just shut up sometimes and let Stoney do his thing.”
So, Stone marches on. He began in Detroit when ESPN was a new medium, and now, his voice still reverberates across the area in the echo chamber of seemingly countless voices.
“I think local talk radio, especially sports, will always survive,” Stone said. “Because people care about their own team.”
And there’s no signs of slow down. He still welcomes fans walking up to him, asking about his twin teenage daughters, Jessica and Marissa, his wife, Cindy, all of whom came into his life in a very public manner.
And while some may bristle over being in the limelight all the time, and especially exposing his flaws without a filter or a conscious, it’s what makes him Stoney.
“The biggest thing I love about Stoney is easily he’s the most ego-less person I’ve ever known. I don’t think he cares how he comes across,” said Samuelsen. “I don’t feel like Stoney ever has an agenda.”
Contact Kirkland Crawford: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @HiKirkHere.