CINCINNATI – Seventy years ago, the Ol' Left-Hander became the Youngest Left-Hander.
It was June 10, 1944, when 15-year-old Joe Nuxhall tripped up the dugout steps, took the mound for the Cincinnati Reds and became the youngest major leaguer of all time – a distinction he holds to this day.
It was four days after D-Day and World War II was raging on. Baseball had sent many of its players to fight, so the teams needed players.
The Reds had gone to Hamilton, Ohio, to look at Orville Nuxhall and they ended up signing his son instead.
Joe was 6-foot, 2-inches, about 190 pounds. He looked the part, even if he wasn't ready to play it.
Now, he was sitting in the dugout, watching the St. Louis Cardinals batter the Reds at Crosley Field.
Years later, he told me he had a great seat. He was admiring the St. Louis offense - the Cardinals were ahead 13-0 in the ninth inning - when manager Bill McKechnie called on Nuxhall to pitch.
"All of a sudden, Mr. McKechnie tells me to go warm up and, all of a sudden, this isn't as near as good of a seat as I thought it was," Nux said. "And then to have to go out there and face these guys, it was mind-boggling."
After retiring the first batter, Nuxhall managed to walk five, hit a batter and give up two hits and five runs while getting only one more out.
He went off to the minors for eight years to tame his fastball and his temper before coming back and having a fine career (135-117) with all but five wins as a Red.
He won 17 games in 1955 and had five straight 10-plus win seasons from 1954 to 1958.
He had his best season in 1963 when he was 15-8 with a 2.61 ERA.
Nuxhall was by no means the greatest player in Reds history, but he became one of the most beloved figures in Reds history.
When he retired after the 1966 season, he had a tremendous career in the broadcast booth. Joe and Marty Brennaman became a fabulous team - the voices of the Big Red Machine and the soundtrack of many Cincinnati summers.
Nux has been gone about seven years now, but his stories and his memories linger.
He was one of the best.