The Early Days
WOR AM, 1932
In the 1930s and 40s, the station carried all of NBC’s television programs on the radio, which was the norm, and the standard for entertainment in those days. Radio was the big thing back then, all the way through World War II. It was the source of entertainment before television, and to people back then, it took the place of television. Even soap operas got their start on radio.
The station also provided local entertainment, welcoming local artists to come in and perform music on the radio as well as carrying York symphony broadcasts, among other things.
From an informational standpoint, WORK was the place to turn during a critical time in American history. It was on-air for people during the Great Depression. It was the only local station on-air the day Pearl Harbor was attacked; if people in the York area heard about it, they heard it on WORK.
The Steinman family originally owned the station, but was forced to sell when the FCC began cracking down on the subject of owning too many stations in the same area. It was in the late 1960s that the FCC disallowed owning overlapping signals. The Steinmans also owned WGAL AM/FM and WGAL TV, radio stations in Harrisburg, Reading, Easton, and Williamsport, and Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. which they still own today. WORK actually first went on-air before the FCC came into formation, which did not occur until 1934.
Finding the Frequency
1350 AM Antenna
One of the first initiatives of the FCC was to clean up a congested AM dial. WORK was assigned 1320 on the AM frequency, and stations were mandated to either broadcast directionally at night, or not broadcast at all during the nighttime hours. WORK constructed three towers to provide a directional nighttime signal in 1941. Two of those towers still stand today.
As major market stations with the largest AM signals began to develop, most stations had to move up the dial by a few frequencies. It was in 1941 that WORK moved up the dial to 1350 where it has remained ever since.
The format would change as ownership changed hands. The NBC Network affiliation remained in place from 1932 until 1973 when WORK was still primarily a news station, but as network television became a standard in households, radio formats around the country shifted. WORK, which became WZIX in 1973, transitioned into a music station, carrying a Top 40 and adult contemporary format in the 70s, and even carried a big band format in the 70s and 80s when under ownership of a group from Baltimore.
15 Years of Sports Radio
In 1981, the station’s call letters became what we know today as WOYK, and the station was considered a “full-service” format, which included music, news, and sports. Doug George, who sold the station to York Professional Baseball, LLC in January, 2014, purchased WOYK in December of 1987, owning the station for just over 26 years. WOYK ran as an oldies station under his direction, and then a country station until becoming a full-time sports format on January 1, 1999.
Now in its 18th year as a full-time sports format, WOYK has had a long tradition of sports broadcasting dating back to its early days. During its history, the station carried the Baltimore Orioles from the 1950s through the early 1980s, and then again from 2007-09. For many years through the 1960s, they also carried the Philadelphia Phillies, and then did so again in the 2000s. They also carried Baltimore Colts football until the team snuck away in the middle of the night in 1984. Hershey Bears hockey returned to WOYK in 2014, and was also carried on the station in the 1970s.
Additionally, York White Roses baseball aired, and for many years, York High athletics were broadcast with York fixture George Trout calling the games before eventually becoming station manager.
Other teams that the station has broadcast over the years include the Philadelphia Eagles, Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins, University of Maryland football, Pitt Panthers football, Notre Dame football, Villanova basketball, and the Motor Racing Network.
Keeping the Tradition Alive
In many ways, the tradition has remained the same, from a combination of local and national news in its early days, to a combination of local and national sports today.
WOYK has also been the proud broadcast home of St. Matthew Evangelical Lutheran Church services every Sunday morning since 1935, now celebrating its 81st anniversary, which very well could be some sort of record for a continuously broadcast church service.
Originally a 1,000-watt signal both during the day and at night, WORK became a 5,000-watt daytime signal shortly after World War II ended. Its 5,000-watt daytime signal makes it the area’s most powerful AM signal, and the largest licensed to any station outside of Philadelphia and Baltimore, covering all of Southcentral PA including York, Harrisburg, Lancaster, and northern Maryland.
York Professional Baseball, LLC becomes just the sixth ownership group in 82 years of the station’s existence. With the move to then-Santander Stadium (now PeoplesBank Park), it marks the first time that the studios are located in downtown York since 1987, and the ballpark becomes just the third different location to house those studios. From 1932-1987, the only two studio locations were on the second floor at 13 South Beaver Street, and the third floor at 2 West Market Street.
From its early days carrying NBC programming on WORK 1000 to its current status as York’s only local sports station, the history of SportsRadio 1350 WOYK is a long and storied one, rich with tradition, and portrays the fascinating history of the radio industry as a whole, right here in our backyard.
Special thanks to WOYK chief engineer John Hess, with the station since 1975, for historical information. Hess is the longest-tenured employee at WOYK.
A New Era in Radio
WOYK General Manager Darrell Henry (left) with former Revs pitcher, New York Mets lefty Scott Rice at Citizens Bank Park in 2013.
WOYK is now on the cutting edge of providing local sports programming, but it also possesses the longest and richest history of any radio station in York.
WOYK is York’s pioneer radio station, having first signed on the air on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1932. In its infancy, it was known as WORK, simply replacing the “Y” in York with the “W”, and it resided at 1000-AM on the dial.
At the time of its birth, and for several years thereafter, radio served as the main source of entertainment and information for the American public, long before television became a standard addition to households in the United States. WOYK, or WORK as it was known then, was the go-to source for residents of York County.
For decades, WORK was an NBC Network affiliate. And in a way, it has come full circle with WOYK now an NBC Sports Radio affiliate.