Chet Forte, one of the "Loose Cannons," heard weekday afternoons on XTRA Sports 690, died of a heart attack Saturday, May 18. He was 60. Forte had undergone a triple bypass heart surgery last June.
"He bounced back really fast," XTRA Program Director Howard Freedman said. "His whole life had been a bounce back." Freedman hired him five years ago when they were looking for a sports personality to team with Steve Hartman, who was working with Bruce Cesmat at the time. "The problem was that they both sounded too much alike," Freedman said. Someone had heard Forte as a guest on a talk show and suggested him to XTRA. "We tracked him down and had him do a test show in Norfolk, Va.," Freedman recalled. "It was rough, but we could hear the stories. We knew that he would probably never be very polished, but that the stories he had would be very entertaining to people." Forte was hired to be the "color" man, balancing Hartman's formidable command of statistics.
Beginning with a guest phone call to Hartman's show, Forte was gradually introduced to the XTRA audience. It was fellow XTRA personality Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton who dubbed them the "Loose Cannons." "Listeners called them and said, 'Hey did you hear what Lee Hamilton said about you?' " Freedman recalled. "The name just stuck." Forte overcame a severe gambling addiction in recent years and became an outspoken member of Gamblers' Anonymous. In 1987, he left a successful career at ABC TV, where he directed "Monday Night Football" until of a prison sentence, he was ordered to perform 400 hours of community service. "The people in radio were better friends," Freedman said of the former high-powered TV sorts director/producer. "They were able to love him for who he was." "It's hard to geek up for a show and smack hard when something like this happens," XTRA sports talker Jim Rome said at the top of his show the Monday following Forte's death. Freedman noted that Forte had the unusual ability to see issues from both the talent and the manager's point of view, making him easier to work with as a creative talent. Forte had been known to take some unpopular positions on issues. He expressed ambivalence about O.J. Simpson's role in the murder of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. "I've never seen a violent side of O.J. Simpson," the sports host told Los Angeles Radio Guide in a 1994 interview. Forte, who worked with Simpson on "Monday Night Football" for two years, said that he had seen the pro football Hall of Famer turn his back on arguments.
Forte's sports career began auspiciously as
a star basketball player at Columbia. He was named All-American
and UPI Player of the Year in 1957. At ABC, Forte is survived by
his wife, Patricia, and 17-year-old daughter, Jacqueline.