Sports broadcaster Craig Carton is known for a brash brand of radio, close Brooklyn ties, and a philanthropic spirit
Photos By Jon Gordon
Craig Carton was fresh out of college, teaching baseball at some random summer camp, when, at his mom’s urging, he submitted a demo tape to WGR Radio in Buffalo and started a successful career in sports broadcasting.
“My mom’s friend, who worked in radio, was at a wedding in Buffalo and met the general manager of the station there,” the talk radio veteran said. “They were looking for a sports guy, so they said to send a tape. Mine was horrible, but I got a call from the program director, so I packed up all my stuff in my 1980 Buick and just drove up. They shook my hand at the end of the interview and said they’d let me know. Standing there in my jacket and tie, I had one of those defining life moments and I just said: ‘My car’s not making it back home, I’m taking this job.’”
That was just enough conviction to land this son of New Rochelle a $12,000-a-year position. He slept in his car until making a deal with a local retirement home—$99 monthly rent, plus some light snow shoveling and grocery shopping. His first show debuted on Aug. 24, 1991.
“It wasn’t good at first,” he admitted. “The only thing I’ve ever been good at is long-form talk, and that’s not something that you can be trained to do; you’re either good at it or you’re not. But I was an average guy who people could relate to, and I talked Bills football year round and Sabers hockey. I was just very lucky that when I turned on the mic, the audience was entertained.”
It was a monumental stepping stone for Carton, who now boasts more than two decades of broadcast experience, and shares the mic with former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason on WFAN’s Boomer and Carton show.
“To be at WFAN and be successful at doing what I truly love is just amazing,” the radio host said. “It took a long road to get here, but being here is pretty damn good.”
There were a lot of other short-lived talk stints before he hit it big; Carton spent a year at a conservative talk station in Cleveland and almost two years working a nightshift sports show in Philadelphia. But that’s where he built his brash brand of radio. His career is not without controversy; raw language and biting, sometimes defamatory comments have become his trademark.
In the late 1990s, he was working on a morning radio program in Denver, Colorado, where his show had hit number one in the ratings, when he found out his wife was pregnant and he resigned.
“We were living in Colorado with no family, no support system, so we moved back east and I looked for a job.”
Carton, who was born and raised in New Rochelle and has strong family ties to New York City (“My dad grew up in Brooklyn, and my grandfather, who was a golden glove middleweight fighter, owned a diner on Flatbush Avenue.”) was hired by WNEW as one of the “Sports Guys” before becoming a “Jersey Guy” at New Jersey 101.5. He held that position until 2007, when he was scouted by WFAN to assist Boomer in replacing Imus in the Morning.
“We clicked from the very first show,” Carton said. “The first try-out show we did went just as smoothly as the show we did this morning.”
When he isn’t on the radio, the radio maverick is working with the Tic Toc Stop Foundation, a non-profit he founded with a goal of improving the lives of children with Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder which both Carton and two of his children cope with.
“I started this foundation to find a cure and improve the lives of kids like my son,” he explained. “And I’m happy to say that we’re on our way to doing that. We’ve helped raise funds to create a special orthotic device which helps control and eliminate tics, we’re in the midst of a major clinical study at a major university, and all of our events have helped provide funding for research and development. We’re really at the forefront of some amazing and exciting breakthroughs.”
In addition to hosting golf tournaments, celebrity bowling events, and Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments, Carton’s foundation is one of the sponsors of this year’s New York Penn League All-Star game, which will be played at MCU Park in Coney Island this summer.
“I have a fabulous relationship with the Cyclones,” Carton said. “And the business community here in Brooklyn has been so good to us. We’ll be hosting a lot of events in the borough, and this September will be Tic Toc Stop Awareness month. We’re asking businesses to donate nothing more than one dollar for every sale made. We want to show what the power of one buck can do to help children who suffer from this disorder.”
Not bad for a guy who got his start in small town radio.
“Every little bit counts,” Carton concluded. “Even at the smallest level, we can make a difference”