Tom Hoffarth remembers Joe McDonnell

McDonnell with the Angels' Josh Hamilton.

Joe McDonnell, the radio sports talk host and reporter who died Friday at 58, regularly got the number one spot on Tom Hoffarth's annual Daily News lists of the top LA sports talk hosts. Hoffarth writes in a column this weekend that "McDonnell’s unfiltered passion as a sports-talk host in Southern California, working for more radio stations than he could keep track, might have been more than this city was willing to stomach."

In our lives, we didn’t need to be as angry as he was sounding, but we were drawn to him anyway because we wished we had that much conviction about something that was important to us. That intensity stayed with him for all the times he felt he had to keep reinventing himself simply to remain employed.

He was as baffled as anyone while L.A. sports-talk stations kept juggling their lineups, changing formats or just plain going under – mostly at his expense. McDonnell could have parked himself on a Ventura Blvd. corner with a sign “Will Talk Sports for Free,” but he was already doing that in some instances.

In a 1997 piece for the New Times Los Angeles, Steve Lowery wrote that McDonnell’s rocky sports radio path was “more like an addiction than a career. The man just can’t help himself.”

It was as if McDonnell and whatever Joe-mentum he could muster continued to get sucker punched. He was simply trying to make L.A. embrace sports talk as other major cities had been doing, and there was no way he would ever entertain offers to leave here for more fame or money elsewhere.

“I’m stubborn,” the loyalist in him would say. “This is my home. I don’t want to leave. I believe this can work here. We have to commit to it.”

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