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Damon Bruce returns to KNBR 1050

Damon Bruce is a guy who’s been known to come out firing. Just ask the Giants about how he treated them on Sportsphone 680 in the years before they won the World Series. But on Tuesday, a kinder, gentler Bruce was on display as he returned to his former time slot on KNBR 1050 (minus one hour).

Bruce started with some comparisons, likening radio hosts to players and radio station program directors and corporate decision makers to managers and GMs. As a “player,” Bruce said all he can do is check the lineup card and comes up to bat when told. While it would have been incredible radio if Bruce came on and blasted Gary Radnich, such actions may have signaled Bruce’s last show on KNBR at any time, on either of their two stations.

“For the record, I’m really happy for Gary and Larry and wish them all the best in the world,” Bruce said at the beginning of his second segment. Bruce also mentioned how he’s looking forward to working with Larry Krueger before and after 49ers games. Bruce said there’s “no hard feelings,” and how KNBR tried something new (pairing him with Radnich), and it “didn’t work.”

Bruce certainly tried harder to make things work from 9-to-noon than Radnich, who acted like a petulant child before going on a “vacation” that coincidentally lasted until KNBR hastily shoved Bruce back to his old show and gave Radnich a less (outwardly) ambitious partner in Krueger. But the truth was that Radnich was never going to give 100% while sharing a studio with Bruce, and chemistry between the pair ranged from nonexistent to toxic.

It’s probably a bit of a blow for Bruce to go back to the smaller station, but we’ve learned that in radio everything is VERY fluid. Bruce seemed to realize during his time off that every bit of airtime is precious, and it makes a lot more sense to make the most of his time on 1050 — where Bruce built a loyal audience since KNBR decided that the Sportsphone 680 should be manned by retired journeyman outfielders.

Bruce isn’t about to burn any bridges, and that’s the mature plan of action here. Years ago, who knows — he may have blown up and quit after putting 100% effort from 9-to-noon and in effect getting told, “Sorry, we’re going to do what Radnich wants and Radnich doesn’t want you.” Instead he made a not-very-subtle remark on Twitter about Radnich being past his prime, and then put it behind him. This accomplishes a few things:

1. Bruce comes out looking a lot better than Radnich.

Radnich looks bitter and manipulative, and Bruce looks like the guy with the brighter future who’s biding his time. While the Bay Area is the fourth- or fifth-biggest media market in the nation, the media around here has a decidedly small-town feel. Everyone knows each other, and if you’re known as someone who’s tough to work with, opportunities can dry up pretty fast.

2. Bruce is still working.

The job market still sucks these days, and talk radio is a fickle business (just ask Krueger). With 95.7 pretty much booked for the time being, going back to 1050 gives Bruce to do his own show without worrying about pleasing a co-host who still considers himself a Bay Area legend. It also provides Bruce five times a week to do a paid audition — you never know who’s listening throughout the nation.

3. KNBR is indebted to Bruce for saving the time slot.

If you haven’t noticed, there’s a bit of a radio rivalry brewing, and I probably wasn’t the only person who started to listen to 95.7 a lot more often between noon and 3, what with KNBR’s options consisting of Fitz and Brooks (ZZZZZZZ) or Dan Patrick (would you like some vanilla with your vanilla?). I’m not privy to Bob Fitzgerald’s and/or Rod Brooks’ respective contract statuses, but who knows … maybe KNBR (who obviously liked Bruce enough to force him upon Radnich in the first place) told Bruce that if he plays his cards right, he’ll get F&B’s slot when/if they leave. Or, if Radnich leaves, Bruce would go back to the 9-to-noon slot. This is all speculation, but I know that I’m glad to have more local radio competition in the middle of the day.

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