Bob Chase was recently honored with one of sports most prestigious honors, the Lester Patrick Award for service to hockey. It is fitting he has finally received his long overdue recognition, but there are others who have also made significant contributions to our community that have not been fully recognized. Such a man is Art Saltsberg, who has served our community in radio and television for five decades.
On Jan. 25, 1978, Saltsberg, then news director of WOWO-AM, realized the possibility of a catastrophic blizzard crippling Fort Wayne. Instead of going home and letting others worry about it, he rented a room at the Travelodge. When his worst fears were realized, he tunneled his way back to the studio and joined the stranded night crew to provide unequaled around-the-clock coverage until reinforcements could arrive. For Saltsberg it was entirely typical, just another three days at the office.
Those of us who follow sports, however, will remember Saltsberg as the pioneer of the finest sports talk show the area has ever seen and likely ever will see. While WOWO news director, he founded a twice- weekly call in sports show in 1977 with Ron Gregory. Later, after leaving WOWO, he reprised the show in Auburn before returning to WOWO in November 1985. He and Dean Pantazzi became the gold standard for nightly sports talk and, in the judgment of this writer, created the most entertaining sports show in this areas history.
Saltsberg and Pantazzi did it differently. They treated each caller as a welcome guest and refused to belittle them to make themselves look clever or smart, as was the custom on most national shows. Their shows were always upbeat, informative and even occasionally spiced with a bit of trivia – in short, always enjoyable. They worked with a variety of producers and often had to do the legwork themselves despite having full-time careers in other realms. Throughout the history of the program, Sports Talk was must-listening for sports fans in the tristate area. Because of WOWOs 50,000-watt signal, sports fans across the eastern U.S. and Canada were grafted into the WOWO sports community.
Saltsbergs powerful voice and smooth delivery are self-evident, but it is his indisputable integrity that still makes him in heavy demand as a commercial spokesman. If Saltsberg endorses a product, one can be sure he believes in it and uses it himself. While Chase is the unquestioned icon of Fort Wayne sports, lets not forget the contribution of others such as Art Saltsberg. He deserves thanks for a job well done.