Rain delay forced Lewin's dry run as WBAL talk host


At the time, the rainout of the Orioles-Cleveland game on May 7 seemed to be the worst break imaginable for Josh Lewin.

Lewin, the radio play-by-play voice of the Rochester Red Wings, had been invited to fill in in the WBAL booth for that Saturday and had spent considerable time preparing for the game, only to see the rain fall for more than two hours.

Little did Lewin, 26, know that that Saturday would start him on the way to his next gig, as host of WBAL's "Sports Line."

The rain delay forced Lewin to take two hours of phone calls, as station executives listened and apparently were impressed.

When Jeff Rimer, who will be taking a post with Florida's Sunshine Network, announced his departure in July, Lewin's name shot to the head of the list of replacements. He'll take over for Rimer in about two weeks.

In three on-air stints at WBAL (1090 AM), Lewin said he has noticed that talk-show callers here are "passionate" about their sports in general and the Orioles in particular.

"It really goes beyond knowledgeable. It's more like rabid," said Lewin. "When I was there, people were calling and asking about [minor-league] prospects all through the system. I can't imagine in San Diego they're asking, 'What have we got in Wichita?' "

Although he is young, Lewin is hardly a broadcasting novice. While a sophomore at Northwestern, he began broadcasting Red Wings games, which required structuring his class schedule so he could leave the Evanston, Ill., campus on late Wednesdays during the spring to get to game sites for the weekends.

Lewin also announced hockey games in Rochester and in Richmond, Va., where he makes his home with his wife, Dana, and their newborn baby.

While he was in college, Lewin played in a piano bar and formed an a capella singing group called the "Bare Essentials," that would occasionally take the elevated train down to Wrigley Field and sing for money outside the ballpark.

If the circumstances allow, Lewin hopes to do some of the same here.

"I wasn't quite the Bill Murray lounge lizard from 'Saturday Night Live,' but I wasn't far from it," said Lewin.

His presence could be music to Baltimore talk-show fans' ears.

U.S. Openings

It's been a pretty quiet first week at Flushing Meadow so far, according to CBS tennis analyst Vitas Gerulaitis, but things should heat up fairly soon.

CBS got a pretty telegenic showdown yesterday between Michael Chang and Andre Agassi, and Gerulaitis is looking for big doings from Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

"He'll be a star. Americans will love him," said Gerulaitis. "He's 20 and he's got the whole game. He's very tough and he's a little like [Andrei] Medvedev. He'll get at least to the semifinals."

'Outside the Lines'

Tonight at 7:30, ESPN presents what should be another fine show in its excellent "Outside the Lines" series. Tonight's "Triumph of the Spirit" program, with host Bob Ley, examines issues confronting mentally and physically challenged athletes, including a report on the struggles of a double amputee to compete in triathlons.

Weekend leftovers

One of the many things Fox will need to do to fine-tune its football pre-game show is come up with a stronger role for Lonnie Lardner, its feature reporter.

Although network officials promised that Lardner, an entertainment reporter at "Good Day L.A." and the great-niece of famed short story and boxing writer Ring Lardner Sr., would not be a set decoration, a la Phyllis George and Jayne Kennedy of "NFL Today" fame, her first story was a feathery piece on Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman. She wasn't even allowed to sit at the main desk with the rest of the macho cast.

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