Tablet Sports

Retirement will be a relative term for Randy Galloway

It’s the morning of Dec. 16, less than 24 hours after the Dallas Cowboys blew a 23-point halftime lead and lost to the Green Bay Packers 37-36, and Randy Galloway is at home, where he has taken a couple of calls from radio hosts wanting his thoughts on what some people were calling the worst loss in Cowboys history.

As always, Galloway is happy to share his opinion. But it has been more than two months since he has done it on a radio show of his own, bantering with sports-addicted cohorts and callers over the terrible defense, the mystifying decision to play a fourth-quarter passing game rather than run out the clock, the endless debate over how much of the Cowboys’ woes are the fault of quarterback Tony Romo.

It’s the type of thing Galloway has talked about on the airwaves for nearly 30 years, sounding off on the highs and lows of DFW’s colorful sports history. But nearing 71, Galloway says he doesn’t miss the daily fray.

“About 10 people brought it up after the game,” Galloway says in his gravelly, emphatic drawl. “ ‘God, don’t you want to be back on the radio?’ And I went, ‘Nah.’ I don’t miss it. It would be fun, but if you came back, they’d ask you to do it every day.”

For Galloway, though, “retirement” is one of those relative terms — he’s still writing for the Star-Telegram and plans to continue doing a weekly column after the New Year. He’ll also be a guest on sports-talk shows. That was him on ESPN’s Mike & Mike a couple of days after the game, talking about the “hoodoo, voodoo” that has plagued the Cowboys during much of owner Jerry Jones’ tenure.

“He cannot sit still,” says his wife, Janeen. “He’s got to be doing something all the time. I kind of worried, because he’s basically been doing two jobs [writing and radio] for 30 years. But he still stays busy, still on the phone all the time. People call 50 million times a day to talk about what’s going on with the Cowboys. He very rarely ever stops.”

So he’s just slowing down after a long, eventful ride in DFW media.

Arriving in Texas

With his gruff good-ol’-boy accent and longstanding connection to Dallas-Fort Worth, it’s easy to forget that Randy Galloway isn’t originally from here. He was born in Kentucky, and his family moved all around the South as his father worked construction jobs, including the oilfield gigs that eventually landed the family in Texas in 1955.

“I was 12 years old when we moved from Mayfield, Ky., as green a place as you will ever see, to Odessa,” Galloway says about the drive into the Permian Basin. “About the time we got to Midland, a dust storm had rolled in and I thought it was the end of the world: ‘Where the hell are we movin’?’ ”

The family was in Odessa for only about a year, but it was long enough for Galloway to play some seventh-grade football in the pigskin-obsessed city — and to meet a future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

“There were four guys living in a duplex down [the street],” Galloway says. “They had a trailer, and on the side of it was ‘The Wink Westerners.’ Obviously, we thought it was a country band. We played football with three of the band members, and one guy would never play. He would just kind of sit on the porch, and he’d watch us play football across the street in the park. He had real thick glasses.

“One day at Otto’s Hamburgers, we heard this song come on called Ooby-Dooby. Somebody went up there and looked and said, ‘That was Roy Orbison. He lives here.’ We went back, and that was our guys. We said, ‘Hey, you guys are stars!’ They said, ‘Yeah, we just cut this record.’ And they painted their trailer and changed the name of it to ‘Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings.’ ”

In 1956, the family moved to Grand Prairie, where Galloway has lived ever since. He continued playing football, but suffered a career-ending collarbone injury when he was in ninth grade. He had already developed into a big sports fan — “attempting to play every sport, not being very good at any of ’em” — and there were newspaper people on his mother’s side of the family, so he followed his passions into journalism, writing game stories for a weekly called the Grand Prairie Banner and then working part time at the Grand Prairie Daily News.

While he was at Grand Prairie High, he met Janeen. He was a senior and she was a junior, and the classes didn’t interact much — except at cruising spots like the Dairy Queen, which is where they met.

If that sounds like something out of American Graffiti, that’s because it was.

“That covers the time,” Galloway says. “If you’ve seen the movie, that’s basically what Grand Prairie was in the late ’50s/early ’60s.”

“You’d just drive around and drive around,” Janeen says. “I think we just kind of talked that night, and then he asked me out, and that was it. We never broke up. Four years later, we got married.”

In 2014, the high school sweethearts will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. The Galloways have two daughters, Gina and Jennifer, and four grandchildren — all of them sports fans. They spend a lot of time together, and colleagues have said the only thing more important to Randy Galloway than sports is his family.

“Both of us have always had a good relationship with the girls,” Janeen says. “They just like being around us. Some kids don’t like being around their parents. I talk to some who say, ‘Our kids, we can’t get them to do anything with us.’ But ours love to do things with us.”

Being there

Galloway’s sports writing drive eventually led to a part-time job covering high school sports for The Dallas Morning News in the mid-’60s. At the same time, Janeen says, he worked construction, including doing work on runways at Love Field. But then the sports editor at the time, Walter Robertson, told Randy about a full-time opening at the Port Arthur News near the Texas-Louisiana border, and he would end up living and working there for about a year.

“Port Arthur was like another world for me,” Galloway says. “I loved it down there. I learned the Cajun culture, and they’re still my favorite people. Port Arthur is full of Cajuns.” But 14 months later, Robertson called and offered Galloway a full-time slot at the Morning News.

That was in 1966. He stayed there nearly 32 years, covering every major sports team and gaining a reputation for being willing to face anybody he’d criticized.

“If you’re going to say something negative, you’ve gotta be there every day,” Galloway says. “You learn that, and that teaches you, no matter what you’re covering. If you’re going to say something negative, be there the next day. For years, that was my philosophy: Be there.”

Over the years, Galloway has ripped some of DFW’s heaviest hitters — from Nolan Ryan to George W. Bush (a former owner of the Rangers), Michael Irvin to Mark Cuban, Jon Daniels to Jerry Jones. And Jerry Jones some more.

“The great thing about Jerry is — I don’t know if it’s an act, or if it’s just Jerry — I don’t care what you write or what you say, Jerry is never going to let you know that you’ve bothered him,” Galloway says. “Maybe you do. But he never lets you know ‘I could give a damn what Galloway says.’ ”

Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, on the other hand has been known to spar with Galloway and call him out.

“I love Randy. I truly respected and enjoyed his work when I listened to him as a fan,” Cuban says in an email. “But just like Randy calling out an owner, which he did many times with me, I had no problem calling out Randy.

“So there was always a little tension between us,” Cuban adds. “But he was always open to having me come on air and say my piece. And I like to think we always got along.”

Signing on

When the Washington Senators moved to Arlington in 1972 and redubbed themselves the Texas Rangers, Galloway became the Morning News’ Rangers beat reporter and the notion of “being there every day” became even more of a reality.

Janeen recalls those days as some of the toughest times in their marriage, when he was on the road and she was at home raising their daughters.

“I really did have to do a lot of it on my own, because he was on the road a week or two at a time, and when they were in spring training, he would leave for six weeks,” Janeen says. “But I think with him being gone so much, [the children] appreciate all the time they have with him now.”

That was also the era when Galloway made his first foray into sports radio, making guest appearances on shows hosted by Brad Sham and Norm Hitzges. It didn’t take long to see radio was a perfect fit for Galloway.

“Randy had a lot of things going for him,” says Hitzges, who is now on KTCK/1310 AM “The Ticket.” “He was smart; he had a folksy style; and he had a very recognizable voice. Even today, that’s a hard combination to find. [And] he had really good knowledge to go with it.”

Something else he had going for him: What you hear is what you get.

“I think he can get into some shtick on the radio that can drive me nuts on occasion,” says WFAA/Channel 8 sports anchor Dale Hansen, a longtime friend. “[But] if you’re really going to connect with an audience, you have to be who you are, and then hope that the audience likes it. And I think that’s what Galloway has done. He’s pretty much the same guy off the air that he is on.”

In 1986, when a regular radio spot opened up on WBAP, Steve Lamb suggested to his boss that Galloway would be the right man for the job.

“We’re carrying the Mavericks, we’re carrying the Rangers, … but there weren’t a lot of guys who were really doing talk,” says Lamb, who is still at ’BAP as a sports director. “So I’m trying to get my feet wet in the marketplace, and I’m listening to Randy. And when I was listening to Randy, I was like, ‘This guy — he’s good.’ ”

Galloway says he was told to be at the station at 5:30 for Sports at 6, a 90-minute show. On his first night, he hand-wrote the entire show on a legal pad because he wanted to be prepared in case nobody called in.

“I get on the air, and within two minutes, the phone starts ringing,” Galloway says. “So I didn’t have to use any of it. But hell, I didn’t know how to get in and out of commercial breaks. I didn’t even know how to start the show. ‘Hi!’ or whatever you do. People still kid me to this day, and it’s over 25 years later … but like anything else, you learn, you move on.”

Making the move West

During the ’90s, an already sports-obsessed North Texas became even more sports obsessed. The Cowboys won Super Bowls. The once-hapless Rangers became playoff contenders. The Minnesota North Stars moved to town, and won a Stanley Cup as the Dallas Stars. “The Ticket” launched in 1994 as the market’s first all-sports station, and became an award-winning force on the local radio scene.

And the Morning News bumped up its sports coverage, more than quadrupling its staff and increasing its space and budget for sports coverage. But it was the Star-Telegram that scored the big coup in 1998, when it hired Galloway away from the Morning News so he could write four weekly columns for the Fort Worth paper.

The Star-Telegram already had two highly regarded sports columnists, Jim Reeves (now retired) and Gil LeBreton, who still writes for the paper. But executive editor Jim Witt and then-publisher Wes Turner were looking for ways to increase the Star-Telegram’s sports profile and take on the News, which got extra promotion from Galloway’s WBAP show.

“I remarked that Galloway’s personality seemed to fit the Star-Telegram better than the image the Dallas paper had,” Witt says, and he suggested to Turner that the Star-Telegram needed to make Galloway an eye-popping salary offer, which, after some hand-wringing, they did.

“Maybe [Randy] should consider a career as an actor, too, because he didn’t blink,” Witt says. “And he accepted a week later without making a counter-offer or even trying to get the DMN to match it. … And Randy has been worth every penny. He brought us recognition, respect and readers. He’s helped us generate numerous scoops over the years.”

Changing the station

Galloway made another switch in 2003: After nearly 20 years on WBAP, he moved to KESN/103.3 FM, Dallas-Fort Worth’s ESPN Radio affiliate, which had gone on the air in 2001. Both stations were owned by ABC/Disney at the time, and as WBAP focused more heavily on news and conservative talk, it made sense for the sports voice to be on the sports station.

On 103.3, the show became Galloway and Co., with a revolving door of co-hosts through the years, beginning with Bill Stinneford and Chris Garcia, and including Brian Estridge, who was part of the “Company” for five years.

“I’d been doing radio for years prior, and I never prepared like he prepared,” says Estridge, now part of The Morning News Team on WBAP with longtime DFW radio vet Hal Jay. “Now when I do our morning show, I prepare like he does, because I saw him do it, and I saw how it produced magic out of the speakers.”

Estridge adds that he grew to appreciate Galloway’s compassion, citing an incident that has led to some controversy among Galloway’s fans: In 2006, when former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter was arrested on suspicion of possessing marijuana, Galloway pledged $100 to a bail-bond company to free Carter when no one else would help the former Cowboy. The company waived the fee, but some listeners thought Galloway crossed a line.

“I was in the office when that was going on, and [Randy] did not do it for the attention,” Estridge says. “He sincerely felt bad for Quincy. I’m not so sure that he ever wanted it to get out, to be honest with you. I think there were some others who saw an opportunity to seize upon it.”

Other hosts have included Ian Fitzimmons and Matt Mosley, a former Morning News writer who worked with Galloway for seven years and who’s still in the 3-6 p.m. slot on KESN. Fitzimmons says that although Galloway was the unquestioned leader of Galloway and Company — or GAC, as Galloway called it — he was always generous in letting his co-hosts have their say.

“I think most people with that much personality, who get that much attention and have been kind of the big name in Dallas-Fort Worth for years, have enormous egos,” Mosley says. “What’s interesting about Randy is that the program directors have almost had to encourage him to talk more, because he’s really pretty generous. He likes sharing and getting as many people as possible involved. In his mind, the formula is, you get three guys in there and you bounce it around, and that’s what works.”

Signing off

Galloway has always maintained that his retirement from radio had long been in the works when Cumulus Media took over operations of KESN in October (ESPN still owns the station). He had originally intended to work through the end of year, but because his ESPN contract was non-negotiable, he was able to get full salary and benefits until year-end without having to be on the air even if he chose not to work for Cumulus.

“I still like doing [radio], all these years later, but at some point, you need to retire,” Galloway told the Star-Telegram in October. “At some point, you gotta say, ‘It’s best to get out when they want you to stay, not when they want you to leave.’ ”

The retirement allows Galloway to spend more time with his family, and he and Janeen are in the process of moving everything to a ranch they own in Aledo. Most important for Janeen, it means he doesn’t have to spend as much time on the road.

And if this retirement isn’t completely a retirement, that’s OK, because Galloway says he enjoys what he’s done so much that he doesn’t consider it work. It even earned him and his family a visit to the Oval Office once — although there was some bumpiness long before that invitation was extended.

“I’ve been dog-cussed at 8 o’clock in the morning by the president of the United States,” Galloway says. “George W., when he was managing general partner of the Rangers, I’d write something in the Morning News, and man, he was calling me the next morning. So you wouldn’t trade anything for that experience. That’s almost historic.”