Behind the Mic

The voice on the other end of the phone call laughs inquisitorially.

“Who would want to know about me? Most people don’t even think I have feelings.”

Tracy Jones, who makes his home in Bellevue, has worked hard to make people hate him. Maybe hate is too strong a word. But Jones would like to think he can raise your hackles — at least from 3-6 p.m. weekday afternoons. Or prompt a few laughs. You choose.

Jones, 51, is half of 700 WLW-AM’s afternoon drive team, now reunited with co-host Eddie Fingers.

What started as a weekend gig for the former Reds outfielder has turned Jones into one of those well-known radio guys whose insults you repeat to your friends — “Did you hear what he said?!”

Fans will tell you his radio persona is all in good fun. So, get over it.

Critics blast him as arrogant. What about the derogatory comments to female callers? His over-the-top theatrics on just about any topic that comes up?

“If you don’t get it by now, then you’re not very bright,” says Jones, displaying a bit of his radio side.

“You should know that I’m really not mean-spirited. I like to have a lot of fun. It’s tough for me to talk 3-6. I’m not like these radio guys where that’s all they’ve always wanted to do all of their life. For me, I can get into character and do it and I enjoy it.”

“Love it Here”

Jones is California born and raised. But his heart now belongs to Greater Cincinnati, no matter how much he might bash Norwood or other neighborhoods.

“I’ll never leave Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, this area,” says Jones.

“I always talk about how this place is horrible and I’m going to be moving and you’re lucky to have me but I love it here. People are good to me. Where else could this happen?”

“Really, is there a more quaint downtown area than there on Fairfield Ave? It’s got that small, hometown feel that I wasn’t used to coming from California. I love it here.”

The Reds chose Jones with the first overall pick in the secondary phase of the 1983 Major League Baseball amateur draft. The New York Mets actually drafted Jones in the fourth round of the previous June’s draft, four spots ahead of Randy Johnson and five in front of Will Clark, but like his future big league brethren he chose not to sign at that point.

By 1986 he was up with the Reds, a rookie starting in left field on Opening Day and batting fifth in a lineup that featured Eric Davis, Buddy Bell, Dave Parker, Davey Concepcion and pitcher Mario Soto.

Jones spent six years in the major leagues – “The Show” – with five different teams. His talent and fiery brand of play combined with a brash personality in the clubhouse made him a part of trades four times in his career. It’s a point he likes to bring up to his audience, with a twist.

Five Teams

“I don’t know if you know this but I played for five teams, like that’s a compliment because everyone wanted me and I was in demand,” says Jones. “That bothers people. They hate that. They tell me “You were a horrible player!” when I tell them how great I was.”

For the record, Jones played in 493 career games with the Reds, Montreal Expos, San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners. He had a batting average of .273, collecting 356 hits, including 27 home runs and driving in 164 runners.

It was that young Jones who was the inspiration for the radio Jones. He credits James Rothchild IV, his friend and president of his fan club, with helping develop the persona over the years beginning when Jones hosted the Reds “Extra Innings” postgame show on weekends. The Reds weren’t doing so well on the field in the early 2000’s so, as Rothchild explained it, things went from “analyzing the Reds to becoming a closer fit to the Jerry Springer Show.”

Like a 25-year-old

“How you hear me on the air is kind of like the way I was when I was 25,” says Jones. “When you’re 25, you kind of think the world revolves around you. I didn’t care about anybody but myself. I always talked about myself. But you have a transformation and you mature when things happen and you start hitting that downslide and you come back to reality.”

Jones and Fingers, a long-time morning personality with WEBN-FM’s Dawn Patrol, were paired in 2008 after legendary Gary Burbank announced his retirement from the airwaves.

The two formed a nearly instantaneous chemistry, even if the audience so used to Burbank and his array of characters didn’t initially embrace Jones’ style.

Four years later, with a separation period of about 14 months (Fingers was fired in a contract dispute with Clear Channel Media corporate in October, 2010 and rehired this past January), the duo are again doing well.

“Nobody could go through life being the radio Tracy Jones,” said Fingers.

“Tracy Jones on the radio is Tracy Jones times about 20. Anybody on the radio has to have a tiny bit of seed of what they are so you can exaggerate it.

“Anyone who has been successful at it has the ability to do that. And where there is that molecule of Tracy, he can take and work into this massive personality where, let’s face it, you either like it or you hate it. I happen to think it’s pretty funny.”

The Other Side

There are a couple of areas where Jones is serious: money and family.

Jones runs his own financial planning service company — Tracy Jones Financial — and spends his mornings and evenings working for his clients. Part of his radio character is consumed with the extravagant — limos and top restaurants — but in reality, he says, he’s frugal.

His son Hunter is an outfielder in the Cleveland Indians organization. His wife Denae is strong enough to put up with his radio antics. It is a second marriage for Jones, who tells his audience that they should all experience a divorce because it makes the next marriage better. Exaggeration is part of the radio deal but it comes from his own experiences. “She doesn’t think I’m funny but she just shakes her head. She does take some arrows doesn’t she?” says Jones of his wife.

“She is thick-skinned and knows how I am, the real me. We’ll meet people and she’ll say ‘He’s nothing like that.’ That’s the first thing out of her mouth. She says it to people we don’t even know.”

Who says Tracy Jones doesn’t have any feelings? ■