Stewart to replace Nuxhall in Reds radio booth

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 12, 2004

CINCINNATI - Joe Nuxhall's replacement doesn't have the household name or the baseball fame. Why, he isn't even left-handed.

Steve Stewart is about to find out what it's like to take over for a city's favorite son.

The Reds chose the Baltimore Orioles radio announcer Wednesday to take over for Nuxhall when he retires from the broadcast booth after this season.

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Stewart, 41, has never met Nuxhall but knows what he's getting himself into.

''I told Steve, 'You're replacing probably the most loved fixture in this town, and that transcends everything,''' said broadcaster Marty Brennaman, the other half of the ''Marty and Joe'' show. ''I'm not talking just about sports. I'm talking about the most loved individual in this community. Hopefully, it will be an easy transition.''

It will start this season, with Nuxhall announcing about half of the games while Stewart eases into the job. Nuxhall, 75, doesn't mind sharing the microphone for his final season.

''My problem is thinking about next year,'' he said. ''That's going to be the tough part of it.''

Stewart has a different sort of challenge - replacing one of baseball's historic figures and one of the Reds' most recognized names.

Nuxhall still holds the distinction as the youngest player ever to appear in the major leagues, getting into a Reds game as a 15-year-old reliever in 1944. Teams looked for amateurs to fill out rosters during the war years.

The self-described ''old left-hander'' also has spent the last 37 years broadcasting Reds games on radio. He and Brennaman are entering their 31st season together.

Nuxhall's signoff line - ''rounding third and heading for home'' - is featured in bright lights atop the administration building at the Reds' new ballpark.

By contrast, Stewart never made it very far in baseball as a player. As a broadcaster, he has been a television news anchor and covered indoor soccer, college baseball, minor league baseball and Cardinals and Orioles games.

Stewart, who got a two-year contract from the Reds, announced approximately 30 Orioles games per season for WBAL-AM in Baltimore. He also was a part-time sports anchor for the station and has hosted sports talk shows.

Stewart also filled in as play-by-play announcer for St. Louis in 2002.

He learned about the Reds' opening a month ago, when they had already narrowed the field to five finalists. He contacted Brennaman and made an impression with his easygoing style and smooth voice.

It didn't matter that he was so different from the man he is replacing.

''I'm not Joe Nuxhall,'' Stewart said. ''When he was 15, he was pitching in the major leagues. When I was 15, I was battling acne and hoping to go on a date someday. I'm a different animal.''

Nuxhall said that won't matter once listeners get to know him.

''Just go ahead and do the job the way you've always done it, and eventually this thing will blow over,'' Nuxhall said. ''Certainly for 37 years, with a voice that's been there that long, folks are going to miss it for a while. But if you don't try to trick anyone and you go ahead and try to be yourself, I don't see any problems.''

Neither does Brennaman, who first met Stewart in the early 1990s. Brennaman helped to screen and select Nuxhall's successor.

''I guarantee you he's good enough that it won't take people long to like him,'' said Brennaman, who replaced Al Michaels as a Reds announcer. ''He's a very likable guy. I think he'll do extremely well here.

''I told him this is the most provincial city you'll ever live in. Once they determine that you're one of them, they will go to the mat for you in this town.''