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After 46 years, man comes back to 'true love': radio


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 22, 2002

Under Dayle A. Greene's picture in his 1966 high school yearbook, his career ambition is listed as "radio announcer."

Under Dayle A. Greene's picture in his 1966 high school yearbook, his career ambition is listed as "radio announcer."

His career has taken a few history-making turns here and there, but today, he's living that ambition.

Greene broke new ground when he came to Tampa in 1972. The Florida A&M University graduate was recruited to be one of the first black on-air talents at WTVT-Ch. 13, and before long, he became Tampa Bay's first black news anchor.

"It was exciting, it was challenging, it was new, it was demanding, and it was fun," he says. "It really opened up my eyes. That was my first real job."

In addition to hosting the morning news and the morning show Breakfast Beat, Greene did some street reporting. By the end of his nine-year tenure at the station, though, he was selling advertising time.

Greene left the media for a few years to work in public affairs for the state, encouraging interaction between the government and minority-owned businesses.

During this time, he also stepped up his involvement with nonprofit organizations and causes, particularly those devoted to education.

In 1985, he stepped back into the public spotlight, this time with his "true love": radio.

"I think I like radio over television," he says.

He began working as an announcer and board operator in Tampa. Before long, his station was bought by Cox Radio Inc. and became WWRM-FM 94.9 (Magic). Greene has been there the whole time.

He now hosts a community affairs show, Spectrum, early Sunday mornings on 94.9, WDUV-FM 105.5 (the Dove) and WPIO-FM 101.5 (the Point).

He has kept busy in education, too. In 1994, he campaigned, unsuccessfully, for the School Board, and he and several other volunteers now recruit African-American students to go to college.

This past weekend, Greene borrowed a van from his church, Mount Olive African Methodist Episcopal, to take a handful of students to educational fairs at FAMU and Florida State University in Tallahassee.

"I guess it's a labor of love," he says. "I just take the students to the educational trough, and they have to partake."

One student in particular is doing right by her mentor.

"I have a daughter who now is a broadcast journalism student at FAMU, a senior," Greene says. "She's done internships at Channel 8 and WNBC in New York, so she's kind of following in old dad's footsteps."

Greene, 53, said he plans to step up his work with nonprofits when he retires from Cox Radio in a couple of years.

"I enjoy doing what I do best, and that is to capture students at an early age and try to influence them to go to college," he says.

* * *

Stop us if you've heard this one before.

A professional sports league starts losing money because large-market teams are signing all the expensive players, putting small-market teams in a financial crunch.

It sounds like the current state of Major League Baseball, but it also describes the North American Soccer League circa 1984.

"The cost of running the team, mainly the cost of paying the players, exceeds the . . . revenue generated from attendance," said George Strawbridge Jr., who in 1974 became the owner of Tampa's first professional sports team, the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

During the 1970s and 1980s, when the Devil Rays and Lightning were years away and the Bucs still were wearing orange jerseys, the Rowdies were arguably Tampa Bay's most popular sports attraction.

In 1980, an average of 28,435 fans saw the Rowdies play each game, and one July 4 game drew a crowd of 56,389.

Fans had Strawbridge, a wealthy Philadelphia businessman, to thank.

"Tampa was a growing area, and as of yet, it didn't have any major professional competition, so I thought people would notice a soccer team a bit more than they might in, say, Philadelphia," he said. "And they did notice it, because we were the only game in town for at least a year, which was a big help to make friends and build up a following."

Strawbridge remembers the Rowdies as a "folksy, homey," community-oriented team that connected with fans because it was the only good game in town.

In 1974, the team won the inaugural NASL Soccer Bowl, Tampa's first and only major professional sports championship.

"We had a terrific amount of fun," he said.

But by 1984, Strawbridge and the rest of the league were losing money. Large-market teams signed big-name players, and competitive balance became a thing of the past.

Soccer, he said, "has too much competition in the United States with more established sports."

"I thought with the demographics being what they were for soccer, in which about 90 percent of the children that do any kind of physical activity were playing soccer, I thought that would translate into more interest as far as the spectators were concerned," he said.

In 1984, the same year the NASL folded, Strawbridge sold the team. The Rowdies kept at it until 1994, when the team folded.

Strawbridge doesn't miss owning a professional sports team. He's doing quite well with his other sporting pastimes: horse breeding and steeplechase racing.

His Augustin Stable has bred several winning horses. One racehorse, With Anticipation, has more than $1-million in winnings and might race in the Breeder's Cup Turf this year.

For the past couple of years, he has been the president of the National Steeplechase Association.

In March 2000, Strawbridge made a return to Tampa for the first steeplechase at Tampa Bay Downs.

"It was fun because I got to see a lot of old friends," he said. "I remembered all the good times. I had good times when I was in Tampa."

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