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'There's magic in those voices': reflecting on the Cleveland sports radio titans lost this year

A photo of Mike Trivisonno
The Triv Show
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Mike Trivisonno was on the air in Cleveland for decades. He's among several titans in Cleveland sports broadcasting who have passed in 2021.

Just as rock 'n' roll is synonymous with Cleveland's identity, the voices of sports broadcasting are synonymous with Northeast Ohio's teams and the memories to go along with them.

It's been a difficult year for sports radio in Northeast Ohio. Some of the biggest voices passed, including Joe Tait, Les Levine, and just this past week, Mike Trivisonno at age 74.

Terry Pluto reflected on their special connection with listeners and the power of radio.

More than just sports
"There's magic in those voices," Pluto said.

Tait, Trivisonno and Levine spent decades on the air connecting with listeners. Pluto said there's something about radio that makes the connection stronger than other mediums.

"It isn't just about sports; it is voice in the background in the kitchen in the morning when you're just getting yourself up," Pluto said.

"Radio is sort of the same way as it's always been. But, the voices, just think there's something very powerful about it. I don't know what will ever really replace it."
Terry Pluto

Pluto said Cleveland has always been a big market for sports radio. It all started with Pete Franklin, a Massachusetts-born broadcaster known for his bombastic delivery. He hosted Sportsline at WWWE (now WTAM) from 1972 to 1987.

"If you were to talk about how Shakespeare had this impact on drama and playwrights and theatre, the person who was the Shakespeare of sports talk regionally was Pete Franklin," Pluto said.

Trivisonno was a regular caller to Franklin's show, giving himself the nickname "Mr. Know It All."

Eventually, Trivisonno took over Franklin's show.

"I doubt any of us would have said 'Mr. Know It All' [was] going to be the next Pete Franklin," Pluto said.

And, Pluto shared a similar story. He called in to Franklin's show as a kid to suggest a trade. Franklin berated him. Years later when Pluto was starting out as a baseball writer, he appeared on Franklin's radio show to talk about trades.

The staying power of radio
The question remains as to who will be the next Tait or Trivisonno in Cleveland.

Regardless of who it is, Pluto said their lengthy careers and connection to audiences is proof that radio remains a powerful medium.

"It'll evolve and change, but in the end is still a voice in the night. It's a voice in the morning," said Pluto. "It's you and that voice on the radio that gives you comfort, or even if it makes you mad, it's like you want to argue with your favorite uncle."