Joseph Henry Nuxhall (born July 30, 1928 in Hamilton, Ohio; died November 15, 2007 in Fairfield, Ohio) was a long-time pitcher and broadcaster for the Cincinnati Reds, notable for having been the youngest person to take the mound in a major league game (after which he suited up for one more game with the 1944 Birmingham Barons before deciding to return to high school).
Nuxhall pitched in a team-record 484 games for Cincinnati over 15 seasons. His career record was 135-117 with a 3.90 ERA. He continued his association with the team as a the Reds' radio broadcaster for 40 years. Nuxhall died in 2007 after a long battle with cancer.
Early life and professional debut
Nuxhall was one of five children born to Orville Nuxhall of Hamilton, Ohio. With the Reds' roster depleted by players serving in World War II, scouts began looking at Orville's semi-pro performances. When he declined a contract, they began considering his son, Joe, who at 14 years old was already a 6'-2" tall, 190 pound lefty who could throw a hard fastball. Joe signed his contract on February 18, 1944 and his principal gave him permission to join the team for opening day of the 1944 season.
Nuxhall made his first appearance on the mound on June 10 of that year. The Reds were trailing the visiting first-place St Louis Cardinals 13-0 at Crosley Field. His first opponent, shortstop George Fallon, grounded out, but he proceeded to give up five runs on two hits, five walks and a wild pitch before he was relieved. His one out and five runs allowed in 2/3 inning gave him an ERA of 67.5. He was immediately sent to Birmingham to work on his control.
As a Baron, Nuxhall made one appearance, this time for a third of an inning. He struck out his first batter, but then allowed five walks, a hit, and six runs for a 54.0 ERA. He stayed on the bench for the remainder of the season, then reported to spring training in 1945 before deciding that he was better off finishing high school. Having regained amateur status he earned all-state honors in football and basketball. After graduating he returned to the Reds organization, appearing with the Lima Reds, Syracuse Chiefs, Muncie Reds, Columbia Reds, Tulsa Oilers, and Charleston Senatrs before rejoining the Reds team in 1952.
Return to the majors
Nuxhall spent almost 15 of his 16 major league seasons with Cincinnati, where he was a two-time National League All-Star and led the league in shutouts in 1955. He also played for the Kansas City Athletics and Los Angeles Angels in the American League before returning to the Reds. In 1965 he broke Eppa Rixey's team record of 440 games pitched; his final mark of 484 stood until Clay Carroll surpassed it in 1975.
Nuxhall retired from playing in April 1967, but continued to pitch batting practice for several years. Despite his lack of broadcasting experience, he immediately began his second career as a Reds broadcaster, serving as the familiar voice of the Reds for 40 years. He was was elected to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 1968, and officially retired from the organization on October 3, 2004, 60 years after his pitching debut. He continued to make guest appearances on the air until his death.
A statue of Nuxhall, and an inscription quoting his signature radio sign-off ("This is the old left-hander, rounding third and heading for home.") decorate Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.
He founded the "Joe Nuxhall Character Education Fund" in 2003 to support character development programs and projects for children. Proceeds from the sale of his biography, Joe: Rounding Third & Heading for Home, go to support the fund.
At his death in 2007, over 6,000 people paid their respects at a visitation at Fairfield High School. He is buried at the Rose Hill Burial Park in Fairfield. The Reds honored him throughout the 2008 season by wearing black patches with the name "NUXY" printed on them. On opening day of that season, they wore replica #41 jerseys during the player introductions.
- Hoard, Greg (2004) Joe: Rounding Third and Heading for Home. Wilmington, Ohio: Orange Frazer Press ISBN 1882203372
- Barra, Allen (2010) Rickwood Field: A Century in America's Oldest Ballpark. New York: W. W. Norton & Company ISBN 9780393069334