… and heading for home. Joe Nuxhall died today. Now, I’m not a huge baseball fan. I could be said to have a passing interest at best. I don’t think I watched a single game this year on television, and it seems like we only get to the ballpark to see the local minor league team every couple of years. So the only reason that it seems significant to me is that it’s another part of my youth gone.
One of my first jobs was at WBIW, inserting local commercials into sporting events, including Cincinnati Reds games. Many, many nights, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons, I sat in the control room, wanting to spin records, instead listening to Marty Brenneman and Joe Nuxhall calling Reds play-by-play. Marty was usually all business. Joe was the ultimate homer. Joe called the 3rd, 4th, and 7th innings of the games, and I think the rest of the time he sat in the boot and drank Hudepohl. By the time he got to the 7th, he often SOUNDED pretty blasted, whether he was or not. But when he wasn’t calling the plays, he was cheering for his Reds.
See, Joe first played for the Reds back in the 1944, when the war was on and there were precious few baseball players available to make up the league. baseball-reference.com has this quote from Nuxhall:
“Probably two weeks prior to that, I was pitching against seventh, eighth and ninth graders, kids 13 and 14 years old. All of a sudden, I look up and there’s Stan Musial . . .” – Joe Nuxhall, about his first game as a 15-year-old major leaguer.
I think he must have been in his 60’s back when I was listening to him, and you’d think he still put on the uniform. He encouraged every long ball to “get outta here!!” as it flew towards the warning track. Top of his lungs, with no thought for the supposed decorum of the press box. Joe wanted the Reds to win, and he didn’t care who knew.
After the game was his post-game interview with which ever player performed particularly well. His signature SOQ was “This is the old left-hander, rounding third and heading for home.” At that point, I always knew it was time to start getting together the few records I’d play that day.
Riverfront Stadium, the old ’70s design dogbowl stadium where the Reds and Bengals played, was torn down a few years ago. It’s where I saw both my first professional football and baseball games. Now, the old left-hander has rounded third for the final time.
While spending hours listening to the Reds didn’t instill in me a particular love of the game, I do remember the formatics became so ingrained in me that one night, sitting on the deck at KenRay Lake with Myron Rainey (the station sports director), drinking a beer, smoking a cigarette, and listening to the game, we both reached for the cart machine button when we heard Marty say “Let’s pause 10 seconds for station identification … this is the Cincinnati Reds Baseball Network”.
I don’t know why, of all the celebrities or near celebrities that have died in the past, this one has just made me think. I’m not even particularly sad, but maybe it’s because I spent more time with Joe than just about anyone else in that way. A lot of afternoons and a lot of nights listening to him just talk about baseball. Rest well, Nuxie, and thanks.
It was a nostalgia night. VH1 played two hours of Led Zepplin concert videos. No documentary interviews and such … just rock and roll in one of it’s purest forms. There’s not a metal band from the past 20 years that can hold a candle to Zepplin, IMHO. I only wish I could have played like Jimmy Paige.