“I thought it was going to [last] like a year or two,” Fran Healy, host of MSG’s Halls of Fame, tells FishbowlNY.
Instead, the 30-minute sports interview program is still going strong at 25 years. As the title indicates, Healy does a one-on-one with athletes who have been enshrined in their sports’ Halls of Fame. Occasionally, Healy will interview those “sure fire” Hall candidates (such as Greg Maddux) while still playing.
A one-time Yankee player and longtime broadcaster, Healy’s early guests on the show have a bust in Cooperstown. Before long, Healy branched out to cover NBA, NFL, and NHL greats.
Last month, it came full circle for Healy. He sat down with Ann Meyers-Drysdale, the widow of Don Drysdale, who was his first interviewee in 1988.
“I believe they’re the only husband-wife in their respective Halls of Fame,” Healy says.
Healy estimated that he conducted between 300 and 500 interviews for Halls.
“I never tallied it up, how about that one?” Healy laughs.
With a calm demeanor, Healy’s style is the antithesis to what was Mike Wallace‘s ambush technique on 60 Minutes.
“I start everybody off with the same question: Tell me about your childhood,” Healy says. “Most of the guys are pretty animated about their childhood.”
He says what makes the interview work best, it’s just Healy and the subject face-to-face.
“I’m asking the question and the camera’s on him,” Healy says. “You’re listening to him talk about his life.”
While he says each sports figure is complex in his own way, several stood out, including Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, and former Mets booth mate Ralph Kiner.
Although the program is not tailored specifically to controversial topics, Healy doesn’t shy away from them.
For example, he spoke to basketball star Connie Hawkins, a New York City playground legend, about a point-shaving scandal more than 50 years ago.
Of course, more current is the steroid scandal that has rocked Major League Baseball. Last month, there was a rare shut out of any Hall of Fame inductees.
“I got a feeling that if a player was very difficult, who manhandled the media when he was playing, and he was involved in the Steroid Era, he’ll never get in,” Healy believes. “If you really look back, the thing that raised the issue of steroids is, I think, the way Barry Bonds treated guys in the media.”
One person who didn’t have such worries with the media or steroids was Joe Namath. It’s only fitting, the latest episode of Halls of Fame airs Super Bowl Sunday at noon on MSG Plus.