Joe McDonnell, Los Angeles sports media fixture, dies at 58

Joe McDonnell, Los Angeles sports media fixture, dies at 58
Joe McDonnell, radio talk show host and sports commentator, died Friday. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Joe McDonnell, a Los Angeles sports commentator and talk show host who was known for his once enormous size and magnetic personality, has died, the Angels confirmed. He was 58.

McDonnell died Friday afternoon at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, according to family friend and sports publicist Steve Brener. The cause has not been determined.


McDonnell, who at one time weighed 740 pounds before undergoing gastric-bypass surgery, was known throughout the Los Angeles sports-talk radio scene since the 1980s. His nicknames included Big Joe and the Big Nasty.

McDonnell was admired by fans and teams alike.

"For more than 35 years, Joe has been a regular at Lakers games and press events," Los Angeles Lakers President Jeanie Buss said in a statement. "Known for his quick wit and strong opinions, Joe's love of and support of the Lakers has always been appreciated. Over all these years, our players, coaches and staff have enjoyed working with and knowing Joe. He will be sorely missed."

Said Angels Manager Mike Scioscia: "I've known him since I first came up with the Dodgers. He's a good friend who will be missed. It's sad."

McDonnell was born Aug. 30, 1956, in Upper Darby, Pa., and attended Alemany High School in Mission Hills and L.A. Valley College.  He began his radio career in 1975 at age 19 for KGIL.

His love of sports allowed him to keep his finger on the pulse of L.A. teams, former colleagues said.

"He was as tapped into the Los Angeles sports scene as much as anyone I've ever seen, in any market, ever," Erik Braverman, one of McDonnell's former sports-talk radio bosses, told Times columnist Bill Plaschke in 2010. "He epitomized the Los Angeles sports fan."

McDonnell was known for getting scoops and exclusives involving some of L.A.'s most famous athletes because he was held in such high regard.

McDonnell paired with Long Beach Press-Telegram sports columnist Doug Krikorian on a long-running radio talk show that aired at various times on four local stations.

In 2010, Krikorian called his broadcast partner "loud, opinionated, obnoxious, irreverent, outrageous, unpredictable, knowledgeable, brash and, most of all, entertaining."

After McDonnell overcame a serious infection in 2010, he reflected on his life in an interview with Krikorian.

"I have a new zest for life since I came so close to losing mine," McDonnell said at that time. "I definitely see things a little differently now. Things that might have incited me to anger in the past don't bother me now."

McDonnell's survivors include his wife, Elizabeth.

Funeral services are pending.


This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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