Steve Fredericks, 72, longtime Philly sportscaster

Posted: April 10, 2012

HE WAS basically a West Philly kid who never really forgot the life of the corners and the playgrounds and the camaraderie of the streets.

But Steve Fredericks rose from that environment to become one of Philadelphia's best- known sportscasters, who raised sports broadcasting above the ordinary with his wry humor and his erudition.

"Live," he'd open his "Sports Line" show, "from the palatial, but not overly ostentatious, studios of WCAU Radio . . ."

"That's not normal sports language," said Bob Gelb, Steve's producer at the time. "It had a big impact on me."

Steve Fredericks, born Stephen Frederick Oxman, a sports-talk-show host and play-by-play announcer for college and pro games for 44 years, the voice that Philly fans identified with on two radio stations, died Saturday of pancreatic cancer. He would have been 73 on May 1. He lived in Boynton Beach, Fla.

Steve had many characteristics that set him apart from ordinary sportscasters, including his signature exclamation when a player sank a long shot on the basketball court: "So-and-so pulls up from 25 feet - BANG!"

"He was one of the best play-by-play announcers in this town's history," said veteran WIP host Big Daddy Graham. "He was a fun guy, irreverent, but he always told the truth. He could see right through you."

When Steve retired in 2004, Graham wrote in the City Paper: "To me, it's a struggle to envision a Philadelphia radio landscape without Fredericks."

In a Q&A, Graham got Steve to reminisce about his boyhood in West Philadelphia, where he played all sports and once gave up a home run to Herb Adderley, the future NFL Hall of Famer who starred with the Green Bay Packers.

Don Henderson, veteran broadcaster who worked with Steve at WCAU, called him "very professional."

"I owe my career to him," said Mike Missanelli, sports writer and host on the Fanatic 97.5 FM, who partnered with Steve for six years on an evening drive show on WIP. "He mentored me. He was extremely learned, in any area of life.

"We formed an interesting bond on the air. I was the wise guy and he let me. He realized the show would be better if he played the straight man."

Steve was born in Philadelphia to Herman and Georgia Oxman. He graduated from West Philadelphia High School in 1957 and joined the Air Force.

He was shipped to Japan, where he became an announcer on Armed Forces Radio.

After the service, he attended Temple University as a communications major. He called basketball and football games with Merrill Reese, now the Eagles broadcaster. Upon graduation, he began broadcasting Sixers games for WCAU.

He also broadcast for stations in Boston and New York.

"He was so smart, so outspoken," said his wife, the former Nancy Green, whom he married in 1981 and called "Tootsie."

"He was a wonderful father and husband and he adored his grandchildren," she said.

Steve was off the air during part of 1987 after undergoing cardiac-bypass surgery.

An outspoken critic of drug use, he was not immune to its lures. In October 1988, he was suspended without pay after being charged with possession for buying a $20 bag of heroin on Cumberland Street in Kensington. In January 1989 a judge placed him in a rehab program and he returned to the air.

Besides his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Debbie Helie and Robin Oxman Perez, and four grandchildren.

There will be no funeral service. He will be cremated and his ashes spread on the roots of a magnolia and a hibiscus tree on his property.


Contact John F. Morrison at 215-854-5573 or morrisj@ phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @johnfmorrison

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