Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Old Lefthander

News out of Cincinnati that Joe Nuxhall has died... He spent 31 years as a radio broadcaster for the Reds, with a unique style that made him immensely popular with his listeners. My own interest in baseball grew from listening to his accounts on the radio as a nine or ten year old boy in Cincinnati. He always ended the night with his signature phrase -- "this is the ol' lefthander, rounding third and heading for home."

Nuxhall made his major league debut in 1944 when he was just 15 years old, making him the youngest player in modern baseball history. He retired the first two batters he faced, but got rattled when Stan Musial came up to the plate. The legendary hitter lined a base hit, and the Cardinals scored five runs before manager Bill McKenchie took the kid out of the game. Nuxhall was sent to the minors and didn't return to the big leagues for eight years. By then, he'd become a confident young pitcher. His best season was probably 1955, when he went 17-12 and earned the first of two all-star appearances. The Reds traded him to Kansas City in 1961, so he missed Cincinnati's trip to the World Series that fall. He returned as a free agent in June of 1962 and pitched for the Reds until he retired in 1966.