The Fabulous Sports Babe
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Nanci Donnellan, best known by her title of "The Fabulous Sports Babe," is an American sports radio broadcaster based in the Tampa Bay, Florida area. She is best known nationally for being syndicated across the United States on both ESPN Radio and ESPN2, from 1994 until 2001. She is noteworthy for being one of the few female broadcasters in sports radio, and was one of the first female sports radio call-in hosts in America.
She first appeared on the radio on WEEI, Boston and the eclectic, legendary WLOM on Cape Cod. In 1983 she joined Tampa Bay radio station WNSI (1380) and later on at WPLP (570) hosting her own sports show at night, The Nanci Donnellan Show. From 1991 to 1994, she was the weekday afternoon sports talk show host on KJR 950 AM in Seattle before joining ESPN Radio.
In 1994, ESPN Radio picked up Donnellan's show, and made The Fabulous Sports Babe the network's first nationally syndicated weekday programs (prior to this, ESPN Radio only operated on weekends). She also helped launch ESPN2, by having her show simulcasted on the channel during the afternoon and late night. Her show was heard in more than 500 cities in the United States and Canada and over 35 countries around the world.
Donnellan left ESPN in 1998. She then waged a successful battle against breast cancer. Donnellan returned home to Tampa where she eventually signed on with the relatively new Sports Fan Radio Network that year. Donnellan used Tampa's WQYK-AM 1010's studios to produce her show when it was on the Sports Fan Radio Network. She was one of the cornerstones of the network's programming. However, in 2003, Sports Fan parent company Winstar declared bankruptcy. As a result, the Sports Fan Network ceased operation. Donnellan's self-imposed hiatus would last 4 years as she recovered from breast cancer surgery and treatment.
Return to broadcasting
The Babe returned to radio in 2006 and 2007, making special guest host appearances for on-air personalities in the Tampa Bay Sports Radio Market for WDAE and WHBO, CBS SPORTS 1010, KJR Seattle, WQAM Miami, WDFN Detroit and several fill in stops including several weeks at CBS Free FM in New York City. During her on air-on appearances The Babe returned to form and kept the conversations focused on sports and deferred any questions about her personal life by saying "I'm just hanging out, recovering from cancer". She still refers to callers who call in on a cell phone as "rich guy on a cell phone".
She first appeared on January 8 and 9, 2007, filling in for Scot Brantley on WHBO; Brantley was in Arizona covering the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, in which the Florida Gators had just defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes. She again substituted for Brantley on February 27, and two days later (March 1), filled in for Steve Duemig on WDAE, and continued to fill in on sports and news/talk stations around the country.
On April 10, 2008, Donnellan hosted a one-day stint on WRBZ in Raleigh, North Carolina; Donnellan guest hosted to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the station switching to the sports radio format; Donnellan's syndicated show was among the first programs aired on the station. The next day, Donnellan returned to radio full-time, and became the co-host, along with Brantley, of "Brantley and the Babe" on WHBO. The program aired during drive time and can be heard through Internet radio on the station's website. Brantley was laid off from WHBO in January 2009, giving The Babe her own show.
The Babe went off the air in early 2012 due to cited health issues. Whitney Johnson was filling in for her for two months, but the timeslot which was her show's is now called, "The Whitney Johnson Experience".
On August 1, 2012, The Babe returned as the overnight host at WHFS-FM (the former WSJT), CBS Radio's new FM sports station. The move came ahead of CBS's launch of CBS Sports Radio in January 2013. Donnellan later moved to a daytime time slot. WHFS-FM canceled all of its programs, including hers, as part of an ownership and format change in December 2014.
Her website has returned in a blog-style format, supplanting the message it had since 2001, "Gone Fishing."
Personal life and other works
Donnellan was born at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts. She graduated from Clover Park High School in Lakewood, Washington in 1966. She attended the University of Tampa and Northeastern University, but did not graduate.
- Michael Kruse, "The Ballad of the Fabulous Sports Babe: The rise and fall (and rise) of a sports-talk radio pioneer", Grantland.com, September 11, 2012.
- "Sports Babe faces health concerns", Tampa Bay Times, February 9, 2012.
- Kate Meyers, "Book Review: 'The Babe in Boyland' (1996)", Entertainment Weekly, November 15, 1996.
- Rachel Blount, "'Babe' now blasts away in print", Star Tribune, November 22, 1996.