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The 'Voice of the Trojans' will be missed

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

The long-time “Voice of the Trojans,” Steve Auten, passed away early Thursday morning. He had been ill for some time and cancer, unfortunately, claimed another victim.

Steve and I weren’t close friends, as I deem a close friend as someone you hang out with a lot, go to places together, play sports with, and confide in. But I will say that Steve opened up with me and confided in me the past couple of years or so, so perhaps he and I were friends in that regard.

After all, both of us had to deal with cancer. I was a little luckier than Steve, as I still am around.

Steve was one class ahead of me at New Castle, as he graduated from good old Walter P. High in 1970 and I in 1971. The earliest recollection I have of him was seeing him play for Riley Elementary in the old Grade School Basketball League back in the 1960s when he played the Sunnyside Cardinals, my brother’s team. Riley won 38-29.

Steve was a multi-sport athlete who played football, basketball, and baseball for New Castle. The biggest visual image I have of him in high school is sitting in the locker room in a muddy uniform at halftime of New Castle’s Halloween Night football game at Marion in 1969. Check out the 1970 Rosennial, and you’ll see it.

That was the game in which the Giants roared out to a 41-0 lead and had no first downs, as they scored on the opening play of each of their first six drives. Marion ended up winning 75-0.

I lost track of Steve after he graduated from high school, but started listening to him when he became the play-by-play announcer for New Castle football, basketball, and baseball games.

I didn’t live in New Castle in his early years at that job, but when I visited my parents here and the Trojans were playing, we had the radio on during his broadcasts.

Steve and I got to know each other a little better when the late John Hodge hired me as a sports correspondent for The Courier-Times back in August 2004.

I didn’t get to cover many Trojan games back then, as John Hodge and Jeremy Hines usually had those assignments. But when one of our county teams was playing for a sectional championship or regional title after New Castle had been eliminated from the tournament, he frequently showed up with his sidekick John Harp to do the broadcast at some of the games I covered.

John Harp usually didn’t do baseball broadcasts with Steve, so when the Tri baseball team played host Cowan for a Class A baseball sectional title back in June 2007, I was covering that game for the C-T and Steve invited me to be his sidekick for the broadcast.

I had never done anything like that before, so it was a fun experience. The best part was that we broadcast what I consider the greatest comeback in a tournament game I have ever witnessed in person.

Even though the game was at Cowan, Tri was the home team and fell behind 5-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. The Cowan pitcher was hurling a two-hitter and the Blackhawk defense was playing flawlessly behind him.

Well, the Titans rallied and scored six runs with two outs in the last of the seventh inning to stun Cowan and win the sectional 6-5. Tri hasn’t won one since.

I know I was thrilled about it and I think Steve was, too, as he got to broadcast the Titans in the regional, where they lost 2-1 to Indianapolis Ritter.

It was the first time my voice was on the radio since I competed in a spelling bee held on WCTW-AM 1550 back when I was a student at Bundy Sixth Grade School here in town, located where Maplewood Terrace now stands.

I also got to be in on a couple other baseball broadcasts with Steve, this time at New Castle games. Every time he called a game, I loved to just sit there and listen and was amazed at all of the interesting stories, facts, and figures he came up with to fill air time. It never was boring even if the game was from time to time.

I also appeared as a guest a couple times on Steve’s “Sports Corner” show on Saturdays after I became sports editor of this newspaper.

I wrote a couple feature stories about Steve for our Progress and Hope editions and visited with him at length to obtain information for those stories.

Steve confided in me about certain things, off the record, and asked me not to reveal them to anyone. I keep my promises and will take those things with me to my eternal reward, whenever and wherever that is.

Steve was a big Cincinnati Reds fan, and I think it’s ironic that he passed away on the same day as legendary Reds and Baltimore Orioles player Frank Robinson.

I attended a game at old Crosley Field in Cincinnati in June 1965 during Robinson’s final season with the Reds when they were playing the St. Louis Cardinals, and got to see Robinson play. Crosley Field still is one of my favorite Major League Parks next to Wrigley Field. It’s too bad it no longer exists.

I also have seen an Orioles game in old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and saw the spot where the longest home run ever hit at that facility (by Robinson) landed.

Steve probably attended a number of games at Crosley Field, as he did in Riverfront Stadium and Great American Ballpark. I would have liked to have attended a game with him there, as I’m sure he would’ve come up with a bunch of interesting stories to tell during lull periods of the game.

It’s a shame we won’t hear his voice or get to listen to him call the play-by-play at another game. “Rest in peace, Steve. I’m glad I got to know ye.”

David Risley is sports editor of The Courier-Times