November 19, 2007

Joe Nuxhall: 1928-2007

***My buddy Johnny P asked me if I was going to write anything about Joe Nuxhall passing. My answer was "nope"...so I put him up to the challenge. Here goes!***

Baseball has lost an icon.

Joe Nuxhall, who will forever hold the record as the youngest Major League Player of all time, passed away last week at the age of 79 after a fight with cancer.

To many around the nation, Joe was that 15 year-old kid who debuted for the Cincinnati Reds in 1944 and pitched a long time ago. For Reds fans, he was also one-half of the voice of the Reds on radio, teaming full-time with Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman in 1974 for 31 unforgettable years.

For those 31 years, Reds fans invited “Marty & Joe” into our cars, living rooms, rec rooms, and garages to talk to us about our Reds. He was our friend. It didn’t matter the “conversations” were one-sided, Joe was still there to tell us about our team. If the Reds weren’t doing too good (which seemed to happen a lot lately), we’d hear him talk about his golf game, or ask Marty how his tomato plants were doing.

While other announcers like Vin Scully mastered the English language at describing baseball, Nuxie’s folksy way hit a homerun with Reds fans. He was himself from the moment he stepped into the radio booth in 1967, and Reds fans loved it. He described many hits as going into right, er left-center field. Home run calls were simply “Get up, get up, get outta here!” Long pauses were the norm. He was to Reds fans what Harry Caray was to Cubs fans.

Joe’s post-game interviews with the “Star of the Game” were always memorable because he never asked a question. Joe would simply say to the “star” “You talk about the homerun you hit…” That was the cue for the player to start talking. We’re still waiting for his first question. His sign-off “This is the old lefthander rounding 3rd and heading for home, good-night everyone” at the end of each broadcast became his trademark, and now is on the exterior of Great American Ball Park.

In an era when it’s easy to not like certain players because of various reasons, it was hard not to love this kid from Hamilton, Ohio. Nobody, no one, ever said a negative word about Joe. I suspect he’s the kind of guy that would mow your lawn or shovel your walk if you asked him to.

Baseball may have lost this icon, but Heaven has gained a good one. Without a doubt, the Old Lefthander has rounded 3rd and headed to Heaven.

For a touching video tribute to Joe Nuxhall, check THIS out.

Ballhype: hype it up!

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