by Aubrey Bruce, For New Pittsburgh Courier
Re·tire·ment: the action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work.
On March 14, 2022, legendary sportscaster Guy Junker rode off into the sunset of one phase of his career and rode into the sunrise of another. To say that the retirement of Junker, who continues to work on his own terms, is an atypical definition of a normal retirement would be to say the least; a humongous understatement. He says the following about his departure from the daily schedule of a Pittsburgh sportscaster: “I have missed so much in my family life but when I had to work on Christmas Day last year, that was kind of the final straw. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I got tired of working nights, weekends and holidays. I just didn’t want to continue until my health became so poor that I couldn’t enjoy life. I’ve always been financially smart and we have always lived within our means. After I crunched the numbers, I realized that I would continue working on the side, but it would be on my time. I still do a radio show weekly and Stan (Savran) and I still work for Awesome films.”
As we talked about his retirement, I asked Guy to hit rewind and take us back to the very beginning of his journey.
“I was born in South Side hospital. We lived on the South Side when I was a little kid and I ended up going to Baldwin High School. My parents moved to Brentwood. We lived in Brentwood until I was in the third grade, then we moved the Baldwin. We still have the house in Baldwin.”
Junker had a love of sports from the very beginning. “Oh yeah,” he recalled, “we played everything. I played high school and college baseball. I played baseball at Baldwin High School and then at Penn State McKeesport, that was like a junior college. I didn’t play much basketball. I played a little bit of football, but I played a lot of hockey. In fact, I was still playing hockey until I was about 56.”
Regarding his first break, he pointed out that there were a series of small opportunities before the so-called, “big break.” “Getting that first job no matter what it was, was a break. I was doing high school football games for WPQR-FM in Uniontown for 10 bucks at game. Just the fact that anybody would hire me and pay me to do something was big, but my first real big break where I was starting to make some decent money was when B-94 went on the air back in 1984 and they needed a morning guy to do news and sports. Before that I worked in Beaver County, Fayette County and in the outskirts of some of those little suburban radio stations but B-94 was my first big break.”
Junker reminisced about all things Pittsburgh sports but when I brought up the name Stan Savran, his entire demeanor changed as he recalled meeting his future on-air partner for the first time.
“This is a funny story,” he said, laughing heartily. “I actually met Stan when I was working in Beaver County. The Penguins had a press conference down at the old Pittsburgh Press Club downtown. That was when they were going to name Eddie Johnston as their coach, I went down, and you know I’m living on practically living on food stamps working at this little radio station. I get down there, I sit down at the table and I’m looking forward to some of the things that the Penguins are gonna feed you, so they give out the press release. I go out in the hallway to phone in my report for the noon news. When I came back, Stan was sitting in my seat and there were no other seats. I was too timid as a young guy and I didn’t know Stan at the time, so I filed my report and left. I didn’t even eat lunch. Stan and I started working together at Channel 4 (WTAE) in 1984. In fact, I got hired because Stan got the Penn State football play-by-play job and they needed somebody to anchor on Saturdays while he was doing the games. When I was originally hired it was only going to be for 11 or 12 Saturdays while Stan was doing Penn State football. Well, in the meantime during that football season, John Steigerwald left Channel 4 to go to KDKA-TV (2). They (WTAE) moved Stan to weekdays and then I became the weekend anchor and eventually I started producing for Stan’s 11 o’clock sports show on WTAE and I’d fill in for him on his talk show when he’d go on vacation.”
As far as the TV show “Sportsbeat” goes, Junker said that he hosted it from the KDKA studios with Bob Pompeani for the first year. When the now-defunct KBL TV contract with KDKA was not renewed, “we moved to the Channel 11 (WPXI) studious, which meant Bob could no longer do the show and right at that time, Stan got fired from Channel 4, and we hired him, and we’ve been together on TV and radio just about every year since 1991.”
Who could forget “Sportsbeat,” as many callers would start their discussion with, “Stan, Guy, Love the Show.”
Junker also had a strong and valid opinion about some of the gossip magazine-type coverage of the personal lives of athletes and how to create and maintain a balance between covering sensationalism and realism. “I certainly didn’t (get into the business) to cover some guy who got a DUI or was having an affair or whatever. I was never interested in that stuff. I just wanted to report on games, practices, trades, that kind of thing. My biggest gripe since social media became such a hangup is that one guy puts a bleep out there and your management and your bosses want you to drop everything that you’re doing and investigate it and a lot of times it just turns out to be nothing.”
One thing is for certain; Guy Junker, the kid from Pittsburgh’s South Side, had a sparkling career and turned out to be far more than nothing because when it’s all said and done, the value of a man is in his eyes and the eyes of the beholder because as we all know; “One man’s gold is another man’s Junker.”