Traber gets the call to air his opinions

KEN ROSENTHAL

November 14, 1992|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Let David Segui, Randy Milligan and Glenn Davis worry about who's on first for the Orioles. Jim Traber no longer can be bothered with such a trivial pursuit.

Not long ago, Traber spouted his opinions daily to former Orioles manager Frank Robinson. Now he performs the same act as a radio talk-show host for all-sports WWLS in Oklahoma City.

It's Radio Free Whammer.

Monday to Friday.

From 1 to 4 p.m.

"I can believe that," Robinson says. "A talk show, huh? That's right down his alley."

Traber, of course, still harbors a mild grudge against the Orioles -- "to this day," he insists, "I still say I wasn't given a fair chance."

But he's gone from the first-base wars to the ratings wars, from threatening the career of Larry Sheets to threatening the career of Jeff Rimer.

Seriously, Traber would love to crack the Baltimore market, but he says he's indebted to the local talk-show hosts, Rimer in particular.

Some would say Traber was a talk-show creation in the first place. He certainly was a frequent topic, not to mention an occasional caller when he felt his side wasn't being heard.

Which was never.

Traber was on the air more than Ross Perot.

We now join his show in progress by calling the Tecate Beer Line at 1-800-780-8322 and asking the receptionist to put us on hold.

That's how you can listen to Traber.

Not that he wants to spare the line.

"My phones," he says, "are lit up all the time."

Just now, he's reciting the Dugout Card Store Card Quiz. But before he starts taking calls, he's just dying to get something off his chest.

A little background:

Traber, a native of Columbia, Md., attended Oklahoma State on a football scholarship and now lives near the OSU campus 75 miles away in Stillwater. But this station serves Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma.

"OU fans are unbelievable. They're the biggest spoiled babies in the entire world," Traber says before going on the air. "The minute they start doing badly they want to fire the coach and kill people.

"When I came on, one of the first things I said was, 'Oklahoma fans are spoiled.' That caused some controversy."

For some reason, Traber's listeners occasionally question his objectivity. The issue grew especially touchy this week, with the hated rivals meeting today in what Traber calls "the bedlam series renewed."

So here's his Tuesday opener:

"I want to start off with a challenge. I know I've done this before. But yesterday I was driving home to Stillwater. I had a little dip of Copenhagen in my mouth. I'm listening to Al Eschbach [the host from 4 to 7 p.m.].

"One of the very first callers said, 'Al, you know that Traber is so biased. I can't believe how biased he is.'

"I'm thinking, 'How gutless is this person? I've been sitting on the show for three hours before that, and he has to wait three hours to tell Al Eschbach I'm biased?'

"I challenge that caller. If you're listening, tell me why I'm biased. Give me a call -- 329-9000 is the number in the Oklahoma City area. . . ."

Is this a great country, or what?

Traber returned to Stillwater after getting released by the Cleveland Indians last spring. Of course, he called the Orioles first, pleading for one last shot, but assistant general manager Doug Melvin told him no.

His original idea was to complete his degree, but he quickly landed a talk-show job one night a week. Tom Holliday, an assistant baseball coach at OSU, hooked him up with the station in Oklahoma City. The rest is broadcast history.

Traber is signed through the end of the month, but he's scheming to take over the 4-7 slot. Eschbach is moving to Kansas City to replace the immortal Conrad Dobler. Traber says if he gets the job, his salary would increase to the $35,000 range.

That's far less than he earned in four seasons with the Orioles and two in Japan, but the Whammer is in his element now. He's actually quite restrained on the air, but like any budding media star, he's suddenly an expert on everything.

Just the other day, a caller named Boots started discoursing about the state of high school football in Oklahoma.

"Well, Tulsa football is down this year," Traber replied.

Watch out, Rimer.

Here comes the Whammer.

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