You'll see many obituaries of a radio personality who was a part of Michigan life for nearly 50 years. Here's a personal side that's different:
Growing up as a teen in the '80s, loving broadcasting and sports, I was what kids today might call a Frank Beckmann "stan."
Frank was a sports radio powerhouse of talent then. He basically invented sports talk radio in Detroit with a show that would be unrecognizable to today's listener. "SportsWrap" was a nightly interview show (unless the Tigers or Red Wings were on), with Frank interviewing top guests. The callers — of which I was one, more than a few times — brought questions, not hot takes. There were no arguments, just loads of insight. I was hooked. That show probably cost me a few As in high school.
At the same time, he was the play-by-play voice of Michigan Football and the Lions, usually back-to-back, on the same weekends. In those days, college football games weren't on TV much and NFL home games had to sell out to be on TV. Frank was the eyes and ears, the picture painter.
I remember being about 14 and asking a mentor about Frank because I was such a fan.
He started out as a hippie but became an award-winning news reporter before switching to sports. That's why he's always prepared and so good at describing the action.
I decided I had to see Frank up close. Through family connections, a "shadow” day was set up for me in the 1986 season. I was going to watch Frank call a Lions game, in the broadcast booth vs. the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals won 24-17 in front of a non-sellout crowd of 52,423. I was a freshman in high school.
Frank could have treated me like a privileged kid and just ignored me and let me watch. That would have been fine. But he engaged with me for the whole time, answering all of my many questions, making me feel comfortable and letting me experience everything, including his post-game interviews in the locker room. Everything, that is, but the cigarettes and beer that were press box staples in those days.
That day was pivotal for me and put me light years ahead of my peers, paving the way for me to do play-by-play of high school games and also cover games in the 1988 and 1989 seasons in the same NFL press box, with my own credentials.
More than a dozen years passed between that day in 1986 and when Frank became a political talk show host. By then, I had also transitioned from sports — albeit with less fanfare — into public relations. When I re-introduced myself at an event, Frank quickly remembered.
For the rest of his time on the air, Frank always greeted me so warmly — on Mackinac Island, at the Auto Show or in the studio — that whoever was with me would always ask "How do you know Frank?" figuring it was more than just through booking guests on his show.
While his talk show in later years could really veer to the right, Frank always treated the clients I brought to the show with respect and curiosity, whatever they were talking about. Whether you agreed with his opinions or not — and often, especially toward the end I did not — he was a consummate professional.
My best to Frank's friends, inside and outside of The Business.