Frank Beckmann, a retired sportscaster and conservative talk show host who spent 48 years at WJR, is in hospice care and “entering the final stages” of life, his wife Karen Beckmann told Crain’s.
Beckmann, 72, has vascular dementia, she said.
“It just progressed very, very fast,” Beckmann said of the disease. “He didn’t even have much time during his retirement.”
The grim update on the Detroit Metro media personality was the first reported by the Detroit News.
Beckmann hung up his radio hosting cap a year ago at WJR AM 760, where he spent the latter part of a long career doing “The Frank Beckmann Show.” He had stated that his goal for the show was to give airtime to different opinions, and that’s exactly what he did.
Perhaps its most publicized segment was former President Donald Trump, who phoned the radio station on Election Day in 2020 and told Beckmann, among others, “it’s an honor to speak to you.” Controversial celebrities such as Michigan rocker Ted Nugent have also frequented Beckmann’s show.
During his last two months as host, his wife said, Beckmann was unusually disorganized and had memory problems. After a series of tests, he was diagnosed with a rare and incurable brain disease last June.
Her family believed she had two to five years to live, but her condition rapidly deteriorated, Karen said. He collapsed in October after the first of four massive ischemic attacks and was taken to Beaumont Hospital, where he remained for 35 days, she said.
At the end of December, his family took him to Addington Place in Clarkston, where he is currently. He suffered a fourth ischemic attack on Sunday, which left him semi-comatose, his wife said.
“Today the change is that he can’t swallow at all and his hands are mottled, so he’s entering the final stages of the life-to-death transition,” she said.
Long before he was on talk shows, Beckmann was the voice of University of Michigan football games for more than 30 years, including the most memorable moment of that tenure: calling the Wolverines championship win nationwide in 1997.
“He’s the one I’ll never forget,” Beckmann told Crain’s in an interview about his retirement a year ago.
Beckmann started at WJR’s “News Talk” in 1972 before succeeding Bob Ufer as UM’s play-by-play announcer in 1981.
Beckmann has always been “conscientious of his reporting and his work, a great colleague and charitable to the fault,” said Steve Finateri, vice president and market manager of WJR owner Cumulus Detroit, who has worked with Beckmann for 13 years.
“Like everyone else, I grew up listening to Frank Call Michigan games on the radio, and I was a huge fan before I came to work at the radio station,” Finateri said.
He said Beckmann’s family has been providing the station with regular updates on Beckmann’s health, and “we’re all a bit aside” on the latest turn.
Although Beckmann’s bread and butter was Wolverine football, he was going to be the only broadcaster to call games for all four professional sports in Detroit. He was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2008 and named “Best Midday Personality” by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.
Beckmann has also helped raise tens of millions of dollars for local charities such as the Autism Alliance of Michigan, Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund: Dutton Farm, according to WJR’s website.
Even at the very end of his long radio career, Beckmann had doubts about signing, Finateri said.
“We thought he was going to work forever, to be honest with you,” he said.