Listen to Sports Host Tom Tolbert’s Emotional On-Air Tribute to Fired Partner Ralph Barbieri; Read Barbieri’s Account of Firing

Longtime sports host Ralph Barbieri was fired by KNBR on Tuesday.

Lee Hammer, the station’s operations manager and program director, told the San Jose Mercury News that “it was a management decision.” He declined to comment further, wrote the Merc.

The Chronicle published a statement from Barbieri today. Barbieri describes the firing this way:

I’ve heard it said that this was an amicable parting. That is not exactly the case. I came to work (Tuesday) morning, totally unaware that anything of this nature was afoot, especially since my contract didn’t end until Nov. 1.

As soon as I walked in, I was told that the General Manager wanted to see me. I went into his office. He and the program director were there. I was told that I was being terminated and that today, April 10, would be my last day at KNBR.

They presented me with about 100 pages of legal documents and told me to get to them after I had read them. I was told to gather my belongings and turn in my card key, at which point I was “escorted” out of the building by a KNBR management person.

The whole process took about 7 minutes. Twenty-eight years and change at KNBR they had neatly wrapped up for me in 7 minutes. Let’s see: Four years for every minute. You got to admit that’s pretty darn time efficient – not to mention incredibly classy. Oh, and when I got to my car and tried to access my voicemail, which contained about 20 messages, I found that the station had cut off access to my voicemail. I’ll have more to say later.

Yesterday, Tom Tolbert, Barbieri’s broadcast partner of 15 years, opened the show formerly called “The Razor and Mr. T” and now called just “Mr. T,” with a highly emotional tribute to Barbieri that started like this…

For those of you who do not know… my partner of 15 years, Ralph Barbieri, is no longer with KNBR. You know it’s tough when you’ve been with somebody that long….(pause, choking up) 15 years… (long pause, choking up)… I knew this was going to be tough… I mean you come in here…every single day, and you just kind of take it for granted it’s gonna go on forever…

As much as we watch sports and we see careers come and go, you’re never really prepared for when they end. And they all do…I was at UC Irvine as a freshman when Ralph started here, 28 years ago…I doubt very much I would be where I am without him…

As to the reason why, that was above my head, so I’m not going to get into that….

You can listen to the audio here.

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  • Razorfan

    Knbr management are morons. Remember Gary and Damon – what a brilliant idea. Looking forward to more of Ralph on another station. Come to Miami – we need someone with a brain on the air.

  • ClassicMovieFan

    This reminds me of when program director Salvadore canned John London’s morning show several years ago.  KNBR gives lip service to wanting a more diverse audience, including women, but do every stupid thing to make that NOT happen.  Ralph Barbieri will land on his feet — perhaps with a better arrangement which will allow him more time with his son.  My advice to Mr. Barbieri is to make sure your agent gets you plenty of offers and makes a good deal, choose one that allows you time with your son, remind yourself that you can turn your experience into something even better — look at Rennel Brooks Moon — after the London show she is still on the radio ad is the PA announcer for the Giants.  

    • Christopher Chow

      To Ralph,

      I’ve been listening to you over the years.  I know how you feel.  39 years ago KPIX TV called me in to the news director’s office on my day off where the boss pushed an envelope across his table containing the letter exercising their option not to renew my contract. I was just a 24-year-old, Emmy Award-winning Chinatown kid (and the station was sliding to the bottom), but we are brothers of injustice, man. Best to you and hope to see you on the radio again soon.  Christopher Chow

  • Clarkcasey65

    I am no longer a KNBR listener!  F U Lee Hammer

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Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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