Thursday, February 12, 2004

New man in Reds booth



By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] New Reds broadcaster Steve Stewart (left) gets a congratulatory pat from Marty Brennaman Wednesday.
(Gary Landers photo)
Steve Stewart is probably going to fit in, based on the opening of his introductory press conference.

Stewart started by saying: "If you don't mind, I'm going to read a list of 113 of my family and friends."

It was a good-natured jab at Reds general manager Dan O'Brien, who read such a list at his first press conference.

Stewart, who takes over for Reds broadcasting legend Joe Nuxhall part time this year and full time next year, is about to enter one of the loosest broadcast booths in sports. Nuxhall and partner Marty Brennaman like to have fun.

"Having a sense of humor is an important part of it," Stewart said.

Working with Brennaman requires it.

"Marty should have been a chef," Nuxhall said. "He likes to stir things up."

MULTIMEDIA
Listen to an audio sample of Steve Stewart's work
View WCPO video
Stewart, 41, doesn't take himself too seriously, and that will help. He is replacing Nuxhall, who is in his 60th year with the club.

"I'm not replacing Joe Nuxhall," Stewart said. "He's an icon, a legend. ... He's as loved by his constituency as any broadcaster in America."

Stewart, who was the third man in the Baltimore Orioles broadcast rotation, will work about 80 games this year, then take over full time in 2005.

But Stewart said Nuxhall will always be welcome to share the booth with him.

"Even after he retires, if he wants to do a series, or even a trip, it's fine with me," Stewart said.

Brennaman also said he'd like to have Stewart work the games Nuxhall does this year in some capacity.

Stewart grew up in St. Louis listening to legends Jack Buck and Mike Shannon on Cardinals broadcasts. He knew early on that he wanted to a broadcaster.

"I was fascinated by baseball on the radio very early on - certainly single digits as far as age," he said. "I remember waving to Jack Buck and Shannon from the rail at Busch Stadium. They waved back. That was a big moment for me."

Stewart has been working his way up the broadcast food chain since graduating from Southern Methodist University in 1985. He's done professional soccer, Randolph-Macon College football, University of Virginia basketball, University of Maryland football and basketball. He did four seasons of Triple-A baseball.

The last four years, he's worked 25 to 30 games on the Baltimore radio network. He also got a taste of what he's in for in 2002 when he subbed on a St. Louis Cardinals broadcast.

"I've sat in Jack Buck's chair," he said.

Stewart didn't enter the race for the Reds job until late in the process.

"I didn't even know the job was open until a month ago," he said.

He read in the online edition of The Cincinnati Enquirer that the Reds were down to four candidates. Stewart, who has known Brennaman for years, called him and asked if that was true. Brennaman confirmed it. That was nearly the end of the story.

"But my wife (Cindy) said: They're down to four, not one," Stewart said.

He got a tape to John Allen, who was heading the search. After interviewing Monday, Stewart was told he had the job Tuesday.

"We're made a lot of important decisions this off season," Allen said. "We've hired a manager and a general manager. But I don't think they come any bigger than the one we made today."

Brennaman, who was part of the process, said Stewart is ready for the job.

"I can say unequivocally - I've known him for more than a decade - that he's eminently qualified," Brennaman said. "No. 1, he has a sensational voice. In this job, you have to have a voice that wears well with listeners. He's also paid his dues. That's important."

Stewart's big day was slightly tempered. Dan Hoard, one of the other finalists, is a friend.

"It's a little mixed," Stewart said. "Dan's a very good friend of mine. We used to go out after doing games together (in Triple-A). He left a message congratulating me. I feel bad for him. If I didn't get it, I hoped it would go to him."

Stewart hasn't met Nuxhall, who is in Sarasota, Fla., but Nuxhall had a bit of advice for him.

"Steve has to be himself," Nuxhall said. "When I took the job, a lot of people talked about Waite Hoyt. But this will blow over. I've been on 37 years. People are going to remember me for awhile."

Stewart signed a two-year contract. Brennaman's deal ends after the 2004 season. But he sees himself working with Stewart beyond that.

"I don't anticipate that as a problem," Brennaman said. "Sometime after the season begins, we'll sit down. I'm not too keen on going into the off season without a contract."

E-mail jfay@enquirer.com




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