Baltimore'stop-ranked radio station, WLIF-FM (101.9), was sold Wednesday for $25 million to a group of investors led by a New York disc jockey. The price is the fifth highest ever paid for a single radio property.

JAG Communications, headed by New York's WOR morning drive personality John A. Gambling, agreed to buy the beautiful music station from American Media after nearly 4 1/2 months of negotiations handled by Americom Radio Brokers of Washington.

American Media, formed six years ago by Arthur Kern and Alan Beck, who grew up in Silver Spring, paid $5.8 million for the station 2 1/2 years ago.

"The WLIF sale was a good situation for everybody," figures Beck. "JAG nearly doubles their company overnight, and we'll take the proceeds from this and move ahead in a more accelerated acquisition mode."

WLIF has been the Baltimore market's ratings leader for most of two years and is expected to be the flagship station for JAG's three other beautiful music stations, in Providence, R.I., Albany, N.Y., and Norfolk.

American Media is based in Long Island and operates WALK-AM/FM there, and recently opened 100,000-watt radio stations in San Antonio and Orlando, Fla.

"Our goal is to double by the end of '87," says Beck. "We are in the process of looking at a number of situations. Washington is my home and a very vibrant, very exciting market. At some time I would like to do business in Washington."

The 'Get Rich Quick' Department

Don't let the last deal fool you. If you've just been introduced to a financial deal that looks too good to be true, it probably is, according to Paul Hencke, an editor with the Research Institute of America. Next week on WTOP-AM (1500), he'll host "Cheating the Cheaters," a five-part series about financial rackets from hot stocks to real estate seminars to pyramid schemes. Each 90-second segment will air twice daily (at 11:57 a.m. and 3:55 p.m.) Monday through Friday.

WTOP has received this year's Radio-Television News Directors' Award for Continuing Coverage for its daylong coverage of area flooding last November.

But the all-news station will need more than consumer affairs programs and awards to fill the void left by the Washington Bullets and the Washington Capitals. Next season the Bullets will move to WWDC-AM (1260), and the Capitals are expected to announce their switch to WMAL-AM (630) Wednesday night at Capital Centre. WMAL will reveal the name of next season's play-by-play announcer then. Ron Weber, who has done the job for a dozen years at WTOP, says he hasn't spoken to WMAL and is taking a "wait-and-see" approach.

Frank Daly, who has done the Bullets play-by-play announcing for three seasons, will be replaced next season by Charlie Slowes, 25, who has been the voice of St. Louis University basketball for the past two seasons.

Caught in the Ringer Again

Bill Tanner, the once-celebrated programmer who left WASH-FM (97.1) almost 19 months ago after two disastrous years as program director and morning man, was fired following his morning show Tuesday at Miami's WQHT after several unimpressive rating periods. Colleen Cassidy, Tanner's music director at WASH, and two other ex-WASHers, engineer Greg Strickland and deejay Cramer Haas, were also let go in the Miami purge.

When Tanner started at WASH, the station had a popular adult contemporary format and its morning drive commercial rates had reached $350 per minute. Tanner abruptly introduced a mixed sound of pop hits and urban music that advertisers and listeners alike rejected. Within 1 1/2 years, commercial spots dropped to as low as $39, and now, one radio broker estimates the station's value at $18 million, roughly half what its estimated 1981 value.

Judging by the talk on the morning show two days ago, it doesn't appear that things at WASH are getting better. The deejays taunted a caller who was unhappy about them talking into the records. The caller was reminded that he wasn't "listening to W-Lite. That's farther down the dial."

Odds are he found it.

Short but Sweet

WGMS-AM/FM (570/103.5) features "AT&T Presents Carnegie Hall Tonight" every Tuesday at 9, but this week's show includes an added pleasure, a short vignette featuring Judy Garland's sellout Carnegie Hall performance on April 23, 1961. The special segment airs during the final five minutes of the one-hour program and features interviews with John Rubinstein and Shana Alexander. A second, nine-minute vignette, featuring Garland singing "Over the Rainbow," airs June 24.

Less Talk, More Boss

Washington gets a new morning personality beginning Monday when WXTR-FM (104.1) midday man Rob McLean slides into the 6 to 10 a.m. weekday slot. Oldies expert Bob Duckman says he can spend more time as program director and less time behind the mike when he takes over McLean's 10 to 1 program. Duckman joins a legion of former early morning disc jockeys who complain about the difficulty of matching socks in the dark.

Missing Folk

WMAL this week pulled the plug on John Lyon's short-lived "The Lonesome Traveler," a folk and bluegrass music show on Saturday afternoons since Feb. 29. No reason was given. The veteran announcer will continue working his 7 to 10 week-night shift along with the Saturday midday slot, 10 to 3.

The ABC-owned station will carry Saturday's live broadcast of the Belmont Stakes horse race from New York's Belmont Park beginning at 5:06 p.m.

Riverside Radio

WKYS-FM (93.9) will again be the Potomac Riverfest's official radio station. That title gives the NBC-owned station the right to broadcast live from the Southwest waterfront on Saturdays during June and on both days this weekend. On Saturday, Jeff Leonard will get the party rolling at noon, followed by Candy Shannon from 3 to 7 p.m. On Sunday Chuck Davis and Paul Porter will carry on. Featured guests include entertainers Renee and Angela, the Aleems, Jocelyn Brown and more.