Joe Nuxhall’s debut
Sixty five years ago today, a boy from Hamilton, Ohio fresh off of his sophomore year of high school went from facing 13 and 14 year-old counterparts on the ball field to staring down Stan Musial and the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals.
With Major League Baseball players off fighting in World War II, clubs scrambled to keep their rosters stocked with any available talent they could find.
Nuxhall signed with the Cincinnati Reds on Feb. 18, 1944, but did not join the club until Hamilton High School was out for the summer. He was in uniform with the Reds on opening day after gaining permission from his high school principal.
The fresh-faced pitcher who had a hard fastball but not much control made his remarkable major league debut in mop up duty against the National League leading Cardinals on June 10, 1944.
Trailing 13-0 in the top of the ninth inning at Crosley Field, Reds manager Bill McKecknie called on Nuxhall to try to finish off the lopsided contest. His entrance into the game made him youngest person to play in a major league game in the modern era.
Nuxhall managed to retire the first batter he faced, Cardinals shortstop George Fallon, on a ground out. After recording the initial out, “The Ol’ Left-hander” surrendered five walks, two hits, one wild pitch and five runs while only recording one additional before being relieved.
“I was pitching against seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders, kids 13 and 14 years old… All of a sudden, I look up and there’s Stan Musial and the likes. It was a very scary situation,” Nuxhall said about his debut.
After spending the remainder of the season with the Birmingham Barons and participated in the Reds’ spring training in 1945, Nuxhall regained his amater status to play football, basketball and baseball for Hamilton High School.
Following graduation, Nuxhall spent five seasons in Cincinnati’s minor league organization before he returned to the big leagues in 1952.
He spent 15 of 16 big league seasons with the Reds and has a two-time National League All-Star and led the league in shutouts in 1955. He also pitched for the Kansas City Athletics and Los Angeles Angels. He signed with the Baltimore Orioles before the 1962 season, but was released before making an apperance.
Nuxhall was always a Red. He retired in 1967 with a club record 484 games pitched, which eventually was broken by Clay Carroll in 1975.
Nuxy may have retired but he went straight into the broadcast booth with the Reds and was behind the microphone for many key moments in the teams’ history including the reign of the Big Red Machine, Pete Rose’s 4,192nd hit to surpass Ty Cobb and the Reds latest World Series title in 1990.
However it was his folksy charm that he brought to the broadcast booth along with fellow broadcaster Marty Brennaman that made them one of baseball’s broadcast teams from 1974-2004.
Whether it was the duos’ dicssion of latest tomato crop of Nuxy’s famous signoff “This is the old left-hander, rounding third and heading for home,” it made for entertaining radio that is hard to find these days.
Nuxhall died on Nov. 15, 2007 at the age of 79 years old after a long battle with cancer.