Harold K. Deutsch

The WCBM executive helped create programming tied to the station's broadcasts of Colts games

April 11, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Harold K. Deutsch, who brought popular football and news programming to WCBM-AM radio as its former vice president and general manager, died of cancer Monday at his home in East Hampton, N.Y. The former Owings Mills resident was 84.

Born in Cleveland, he earned a marketing degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and served in the Army during World War II. Mr. Deutsch moved to New York City and became a salesman at WINS-AM.

"He got his start in radio in New York and worked in the great era of Murray the K [a disc jockey] and the Beatles," said his wife of 42 years, the former Sandra Peterson.

He was vice president and national sales manager for Capital Cities Communications' radio division when he came to Baltimore in 1973 as general manager for WCBM.

"He headed WCBM when AM radio was still king, before FM took over," said Dave Humphrey, a former sports broadcaster who worked with him and is now a communications official with the state's General Services Department.

"Harold was a broadcasting innovator, a super salesman and an all-round nice guy," Mr. Humphrey said. "With his support, the staff at WCBM created the kind of radio we will never hear again."

He said that Mr. Deutsch created lucrative sports programming built around their broadcast of Baltimore Colts games.

He also created a show, Braase, Donovan and Fans, featuring former Colts Art Donovan and Ordell Braase at the Flaming Pit restaurant in Timonium, and later did similar programming - with John Unitas and Bobby Boyd from the Baby Doe Mining Company, a restaurant and bar in Towson, and from the Golden Arm restaurant near Rodgers Forge.

"From 1972 to 1983, I was part of the Baltimore Colts radio team, and part of my duties was to host the Monday night shows during the NFL season," Mr. Humphrey said. "Harold Deutsch enlisted me to produce and direct the Baltimore Colts football play-by-play broadcast for the 40-station Colts Radio network.

"Before all games, home and away, I hosted the Coach's Corner, a 15-minute pre-game interview program with the team's head coach," he said.

In 1982, Mr. Deutsch took out a full-page ad in The Sun to announce the station's format change to all news and talk.

"It was becoming pretty clear that AM radio was going to have to do something else than play records," said Robert Shilling, who worked at WCBM from 1966 to 1985 and later was Fox 45 TV's managing editor. "Harold was an incredibly perceptive boss. He believed in radio and in his staff. He was an innovator. He was a catalyst, a spark."

When the Colts left Baltimore, the station lost listeners.

"Football really involved one day a week, but we had related programming that built our base," Mr. Shilling said.

In 1985, when its owner, Metromedia, ordered WCBM to drop the all-news format and 40 employees lost their jobs, Mr. Deutsch moved to Rochester, N. Y., where he managed a station and later worked on the formation of Metro Traffic Control with a friend, David Saperstein.

Mr. Deutsch then returned to New York City and managed Metro Traffic's office there.

"Harold was a genius salesperson," said Mr. Shilling. "He was loved by all the advertising agencies in Baltimore."

Services will be held at noon April 18 at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in East Hampton.

In addition to his wife, survivors include three sons, Robert Deutsch of Rockville, James Deutsch of New York and David Deutsch of Brooklyn, N.Y.; a daughter, Elizabeth Abrams of Chicago; and two granddaughters.

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