WDAE (620 AM, "Sports Radio 620 WDAE") is a sports talk-formatted radio station in Tampa, Florida, United States. It broadcasts at a medium-wave frequency of 620 kHz. It is owned by iHeartMedia, Inc.. It broadcasts with 11.2 kW days and 11.0 kW nights in St. Petersburg. This station is licensed for 5.6 kW days and 5.5 kW nights. The higher power was granted by the FCC by Special Temporary Authority in order to overcome interference from stations in Cuba. This station also broadcasts using Ibiquity digital broadcast also known as HD radio during daytime hours. The station's studios are located in South Tampa.
The station at WDAE is believed to be the first radio station ever to broadcast in the state of Florida. It also has the distinction of being the first directional AM antenna system in the US, implemented in order to protect WTMJ in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, also on 620 kHz.
WDAE began at 833 kHz in Tampa on May 15, 1922, as the radio outlet of the Tampa Times, an evening paper in the city. While there is reason to believe WDAE is the first station on air in Florida, as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) credits them with being, there is evidence that there was a station in Jacksonville, Florida with the call letters WCAN, and was licensed before WDAE was. Whether WCAN ever signed on or not is not known, thus WDAE is credited with being first. WQAM also takes credit as being first, although that station was not licensed with those call letters until 1923.
In the 1970s WDAE, which at some point after the early years had moved to 1250 kHz, was a top 40 station, and continued with that until the early 1980s when it switched to Standards.
In March 1994, WDAE ended a simulcast of WUSA and switched to classic country as "Country Gold Froggy 1250" with former WUSA personalities whose on-air names became I.B. Green, Jimmy Hoppa and Davey Croakett.
In the 1990s, it began a sports format.
In the late 1990s, 620 WSUN, then owned by Cox Communications, was sold and the easy listening programming was moved along with those calls to 910 (formerly WPLA/WFNS in Plant City). After a brief interim while 620 WSAA broadcast the audio portion of Bay News 9, WDAE eventually moved its programming to the superior 620 signal. Business News WHNZ moved from 570 to 1250, and religious programming from Salem Communications took over at 570.
WDAE is currently owned by iHeartMedia, Inc. (formerly Clear Channel Communications), the largest U.S. radio owner.
Currently, Sports Radio 620 WDAE broadcasts a mixture of local and national sports programs. Its national shows include shows on ESPN Radio. Its local weekday hosts include: Tom Jones, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Ron Diaz, Ian Beckles - ("The Ron & Ian Show") and Steve Duemig.
Flagships and other play-by-play
WDAE is the flagship station for the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball, and shares flagship for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League with WFUS-FM. It is the former flagship of the Tampa Bay Lightning of the National Hockey League (who is now on sister station WFLA-AM), and the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League (now on WHNZ-AM). It is also the home in Tampa Bay for the Florida Gators college football and basketball games. WDAE also carries the Honda Grand Prix which takes place in St. Petersburg, Florida.
When WDAE became a sports talk station in 1997, one of the hosts to help build the station was WFLA-TV sports anchor Chris Thomas. He hosted the Chris Thomas Show on WDAE from 1997 until 2004, when he died from cancer. Thomas was a listener favorite, often getting in mock on-air feuds with WDAE's afternoon host, Steve Duemig. The two men were friends in real life.
As part of his tongue-in-cheek on air persona, Thomas often gave himself nicknames, such as The Mediocore Sports Hunk. He also used many sound drops, such as the ferret from the Budweiser commercials, or various other animals, but he would give them names, such as Clevis and Clovis.
Thomas gained fame as the sports anchor on local television station WFLA-TV Channel 8. Despite his popularity, WFLA-TV declined to renew Thomas's contract in 2002, publicly expressing a desire to move to a younger broadcaster. However, some fans have speculated his openly hostile relationship with the Glazer family, owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a major sponsor of Channel 8, and an off the air alcohol-related incident six months earlier led to the station's desire to part ways with Thomas.
Off the air, Thomas battled alcoholism most of his adult life. In January 2003, he was involved in a drunk driving accident with Buccaneers cheerleader Michelle Betancourt. However, despite the controversy surrounding his personal life, he remained a beloved figure in the Tampa Bay community.
After Thomas died in February 2004, the WDAE studio was renamed the Chris Thomas Studio.