Saturday, November 17, 2007

Nuxhall's death signals the end of an era
Joe Nuxhall may be remembered by as the 15-year old kid that pitched a Major League game during the War. He may be remembered by others as the Reds' announcer, the voice of baseball in Southern Ohio.

I have yet to think of how I'll remember Nuxhall. I only know Reds games on the radio can never be the same without him.

One thing I haven't heard to many people say is the rather remarkable character Nuxhall showed early in his life. At 15, he was on the mound facing Stan Musial. That went about as well as one might expect. Many -- I would say most -- would be so horrified by the experience that they would never so much as look at a glove again.

The remarkable thing is Nuxhall went to the minor leagues, and eight years later, he returned to the Reds. Not only that, but Nuxhall went on to record 135 wins over a 14-year career.

All of that happened before I was born. My memories of Nuxhall come from the mid-to-late 1980s, when I was first falling in love with baseball.

My father was born in southern Ohio. He grew up a Reds fan. He was about as old as I am now when the Reds one back-to-back championships in the 1970s.

Those years were gone by the time he had two sons, but despite living in Cleveland, he still followed the Reds. My memories of long car rides often revolve around my dad tuning in to 700 WLW to hear Joe and partner Marty Brennaman tell the stories from Riverfront Stadium.

Through the pops and buzzes that came with the static, I remember Nuxhall not so much for his own calls, but for his reactions when he wasn't calling the game. If Eric Davis, Dave Parker or Barry Larkin hit a long drive, you would hear Brennaman calling the play, and Nuxhall next to him.

"Get Out. Get OUT!!!"

When you heard that, you knew something important was happening in the game.

In later years, I listened more and more on my own. Now, I probably no more about the Reds than my dad, who switched over to the Indians in the mid-1990s.

I soon realized you could usually tell how the Reds were playing by the way Nuxhall was calling the game. If he was upbeat and excited, the Reds were winning. If he sounded like someone had just run over his hat, the Reds were getting pounded.

What I remember most, though, was the warmth in his voice when he called the game. Nuxhall loved baseball and loved the Reds. He loved Cincinnati, and Cincinnati loved him.

Nuxhall was not unlike former Indians' announcer Herb Score in that way. When you listened to the game, it's like you were hearing the action from an uncle or an old friend.

Nuxhall's death closes the door not only on a remarkable man and a remarkable career. It ends an era. Sure, Nuxhall had done fewer and fewer games in past years, but you could always hope, even assume, he'd be back where he belonged soon enough.

Nuxhall used to close the postgame show with a signiture line:

"This is the old left hander, rounding third and heading for home."

It may be a while before Reds' fans really feel at home, again.

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