Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton has been reporting on the Sports we love for over 30 years now. Hacksaw grew up in Northport, New York. He has since established himself as one of the most popular talk show hosts in the history of sports radio.
People either love him or hate him but everyone knows him. He’s known for saying ” I built a sports talk empire” but, truly, he has. In a world where talkshow hosts come and go, Hacksaw has remained one of the most popular talk show hosts in America. He’s literally done it all.
He has been the play-by-play voice for hockey, Pac-10 basketball tournament, college football, college basketball, and the NFL. He established himself well in the early 80’s in Phoenix, AZ. He had his own talk show and called games for the ASU football and basketball programs.
Hacksaw left Arizona in 1986 to become the play-by-play announcer for the Chargers with Jim Laslavic and Pat Curran. He remained in that position all the way until 1997. He then worked for XTRA690 for 17 years. Hacksaw then went to work for 1090am with his ritual 4-hour daily talk show. Today, you can find Hacksaw on 1090am doing the Padres Pregame Show. He’s famous for his lines on the air ” I’m bleeping brilliant” and who can forget ” Show me your lighting bolt.” He often says ” I have won awards, I have a national reputation, I built a sports talk empire.”
He shares his opinions with his listeners and invites both those who agree and disagree with him. Hacksaw tells you what he thinks and invites the debate on air with his listeners. It truly is a pleasure and a privilege to introduce you to Hacksaw.
1. You have dedicated your career to either calling play-by-play or having your own talk show on the radio for almost 30 years now. What attracted the boy growing up in New York to this career?
Hacksaw: I grew up in a sports family in New York, and loved following all the teams. At one point there were 9-newspapers in New York and Long Island and I loved to read the stories and columns.
2. You were the play-by-play announcer during the magical Chargers Super Bowl season in 1994. Can you share some of your favorite memories of that season with us?
Hacksaw: The best part of the season was the journey, the huge road wins, to see a team come together, get hot, and believe in the leadership of Bobby Ross. The season turned in an ugly win in Kansas City, a game marred by cheapshot penalties, and a confrontation between Stan Brock-Bobby Ross and Marty Schottenheimer on the field, over personal foul penalties. It galvanized the team. They got tougher and more physical as the year went on and were a complete team, finding a way to get it done. They got blown out in the Super Bowl, by a superior offense of the 49ers. I think the Chargers were overwhelmed by the event, and never recovered by going down 14-0 six plays into the game. But the memory of the journey stands out, the games, the fans, the cities reaction, and the fans reaction to our broadcasts on the Mighty 690. I loved doing the NFL, and did a great job for the Chargers till they left our station. The broadcasts have never the same, not close to what we did with Jim Laslavic-Pat Curran-Chet Forte-Bill Werndl. You should visit the Hall of Champions, they have a featured display on the Chargers and our radio broadcasts. It was a fun time. I miss it.
3. You made a living hosting an All Sports Talk Show. You had to keep up to date on all sports including College, NBA, Hockey, MLB and the NFL. I have my hands full with the NFL. Seriously, how did you manage to keep up to date with all the sports you covered?
Hacksaw: I have always had a passion for knowledge. I love the research end of the talkshow business, love talking to people around the country, delivery informaton to listeners. I built a sportstalk empire first in Phoenix, then San Diego. I have a real inquisitive nature, and love to talk and track storylines in all sports.
4. Being involved in the sports media as long as you have, you must have some great stories and memories during that time. Are there any stories that you could share that you think Charger fans would enjoy?
Hacksaw: Best interview I did was with Arthur Ashe, before he passed. Fun interview was with Yankees slugger Mickey Mantle. Most unique interview was with Negro League star James ‘Cool Papa’ Bell. Interviewed Bowie Kuhn, Bud Selig, Roger Goodell, all fascinating people. I love talking to beatwriters and broadcasters of each team who can give you unique insights.
5. Being in talk radio for so long, you have done literally thousands of interviews in your career. Who was your favorite? Who was the toughest? Who’s the one person you never got to interview that you always dreamed of interviewing?
Hacksaw: Toughest time was interviewing Indy 500-driver Scott Brayton on a Thursday, and we talked about speed and accidents and deaths. He was killed the next day in practice. Insightful interview was with Martina Navratilova about defecting behind the Iron Curtain, and boxer Marvin Hagler about growing up in the projects. Most stunning interview, the bombast of Howard Cosell-though I loved the interaction. Best local interview-Tony Gwynn. Interview I wish I could do, with my father, who passed away a long time ago. What was it like growing up in the Depression, to be in Combat in World War II, to play minor league baseball? If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be Jackie Robinson-Branch Rickey, and my Dad..
6. What are your thoughts on Twitter? It seems to have its positives and negatives. What are your thoughts on the new Social Media world?
Hacksaw: The world changes constantly, especially in communications. Twitter can get you information quickly. The downside is anyone can have an opinion on their Twitter account, and they can write and say things that are untrue, unfair and cruel. My theory has always been be honest about what you are saying, and be fair, and yes at times, you have to be tough also, but that comes with being a talkshow host. And that should include people using Twitter about other people.
7. You have covered the Chargers since 1986, I believe. What do you think of the new Telesco and McCoy regime?
Hacksaw: Telesco comes from a great scouting-evaluation background, coming off the Bill Polian tree. He had a good first draft, and hit on a solid free agent in Woodhead. He missed out by chopping too many veterans off the defense that first year, to get younger and more athletic, but much less experienced, and it cripped the team. This off season, he has one solid acquisition in the RB-Donald Brown, but he mishandled free agency. I would have asked Rivers-Weddle-Clary for restructured deals, to get cap space, to go rent a veteran nose tackle and a DB. They need a couple of veteran hitters on defense. They didn’t get it and the window on Rivers is closing fast. They will get good players in the draft, but that means more young players on top of young players already trying to learn the game. Telesco is timid around the media and that is a shame. McCoy was tremendous in virtually every facet of running his program, and will grow more. His only negative, his less than honest approach to answer questions about injuries. He got caught in fibs. Be honest with us.
8. You have followed the Chargers bid for a new stadium since Spanos asked for one back in 2003. The lease ends at Qualcomm in 2020. Seems we are really running out of time but the urgency doesn’t seem to be there in my opinion. Do you think they can get something done? Do you think it can ever pass a public vote if it came to that?
Hacksaw: The economy is the issue in California. The Wonder Bread factory sight is the right one, but the giveaway days are over for the Spanos family. There is too much bad history about their dealings. Dean must committ 200M of his ‘own money’, plus use the NFL G-6 fund and naming rights. If he can bring 400M to the table, then I believe the City-County can bond for the rest, and get the 850M for a sight adjacent to Petco. The joint Padres parking will help reduce the cost, but Spanos must write his check first to get the community to help him.
9. Why do you think San Diego has this reputation of being a soft media market? Would you agree with that perception?
Hacksaw: It is a relatively small market, 1-paper, very few TV stations that do hard-core sports. The media in general doesn’t ask tough questions that need to be asked. Have you seen a fire-and-brimstone columnist in the UT-take on the leadership of the teams? That is what differentiates the NY-Bost-Phi-LA-SF markets from San Diego.
10. First, congrats on being the new Padres Pregame and Postgame host on 1090am. When can fans listen and how can they interact with you during those shows?
Hacksaw: I co-host the Padres Pregame shows with John Kentera everyday, a hour before lst pitch and we do a post game talkshow on Saturday and Sunday with Kurt Bevaqua. You can follow me on Twitter @hacksaw1090, as well as on the air.