A staple on local radio airwaves for more than three decades, traffic reporter “Detour Dave” Sandler said his contract with WBAL News Radio 1090 and 98 Rock (WIYY) — both of which are owned by the Hearst Corp. — has not been renewed.
Sandler started at the stations in December of 1986 at age 25 and worked full-time there until the position became part-time in 2012. Early last month, he said he found out that his contract would not be renewed and learned last week that today, July 19, would be his final day at the stations.
“I’m disappointed,” said Sandler, a father of two who lives in Owings Mills with his wife, Jody. “Obviously, I never envisioned myself doing anything different from what I’m doing now. In that aspect, it’s disappointing. I’m going to use this as a springboard for optimism, but I also feel like I’m going to be missing that old friend that’s very, very easy to go to every day.”
Sandler’s most recent schedule had him working from 3-7:15 p.m. on weekdays broadcasting traffic reports. He originally delivered his traffic reports from a small airplane before airing them from the station on Television Hill in 2001, usually during drive-time in the mornings and then in the afternoons.
The stations would not comment on Sandler’s departure. “I [am] going to respectfully decline comment,” WBAL and WIYY President & General Manager Cary L. Pahigian said in an email on Tuesday, July 18.
Sandler said he is now looking for his next professional opportunity. Over the years, he has worked freelance and part-time gigs as a deejay for various events, such as bar and bat mitzvahs. Still, he said he is trying to figure out his next step.
“There’s always the reservation of, and a little bit of angst, until you know what’s going to happen,” Sandler said. “You’re always scared, and you always feel like there’s a possibility of not having something happen nice. I always choose to look at it more positively than negatively. The fact is, there are a lot of nice opportunities if you look for them.”
This is not the first time Sandler has been thrown into a challenging situation. In 1982, he was treated for Hodgkin’s disease, and in 2009 he suffered cardiac arrest while playing in a softball game and nearly died.
Sandler wound up having surgery to repair blocked arteries caused by the radiation treatment from the Hodgkin’s. He missed four to five months of work at the time and had a second complication in 2012 that sidelined him for several more weeks.
While growing up, Sandler loved sports but also became interested in broadcasting, earning his degree in Radio, Television and Film from the University of Maryland, College Park. He eventually began working for a company called Metro Traffic Control after college, which aired traffic reports for various area stations.
WBAL and 98 Rock were two of the stations that used Metro Traffic’s services. Eventually, WBAL decided to do its own traffic reports and hired Sandler in 1986.
The nickname “Detour Dave,” which Sandler said came from former 98 Rock DJ Chris Emry, has helped with his local popularity and recognition over the years.
Now, though, Sandler will be looking for a new niche. Sitting recently in his traffic center, surrounded by computers and cameras that helped him prepare for upcoming reports, Sandler kept one eye on the traffic and said that walking out of the station one final time will be tough.
“It’ll be a sad, sad time for me because it’s the end of an incredibly long and enjoyable career,” Sandler said. “Starting at the age of 25, I got my job here. I spent my entire adulthood [here] for 31 years. You couldn’t leave a situation like this and not feel some sadness because it’s all I really know. It’s been a great run.”
Jeff Seidel is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
Photos of “Detour Dave” Sandler by Jeff Seidel
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