Teenager Sees Reds
June 10, 1944: Fifteen year old Joe Nuxhall steps up to the mound. World War II was in full swing and there was a shortage of baseball players back in the US. The year before, scouts for the Reds had visited Hamilton, Ohio to try to sign up Orville Nuxhall, Joe’s father. Orville refused to sign a baseball contract, citing his duty to his five children. Joe was the biggest kid in his ninth grade class at 6′ 2″ and weighed 190 pounds. The left-hander played baseball and basketball. After his high school basketball season, Warren Giles, general manager for the Reds, signed the teen to the team on February 18, 1944. He intended to wait until school was over, but even more players were drafted into the service.
The Cincinnati Reds needed a pitcher for the ninth inning of a game against first place St. Louis Cardinals. Joe was called to the mound and retired his first batter on a groundout. He was then faced with a series of batters who intimidated the teen. He gave up five walks, two hits, and five runs and also hit a batter before he was relieved. After the game, he was sent down to the minors where he continued to play. He was just 15 years and 316 days old during his first run with the majors.
After his big debut, he regained his amateur status and played football, basketball, and baseball for his high school teams. After graduating, Joe played in the minor leagues with several different teams. Finally, in 1952, he was once again called up to the majors and once again played for the Reds. He played 16 years in the big leagues with 15 of them for the Cincinnati team. He pitched 484 games, a record which stood until Clay Carroll passed it in 1975. After retiring from playing ball, he moved on to announcing the game, again for the Reds.
During his career, he had 1,372 strikeouts and had a 135-117 win-loss record. He played with the Reds from 1952-60, then played with the Kansas City Athletics and Los Angeles Angels before returning to Cincinnati in 1962 where he played until he retired in 1966. He had an earned run average (ERA) of 3.90. An earned run in this sense, is any in which the pitcher is held accountable (not an error by the fielding players). The number of runs are based on pitching nine innings. The lowest ERA record is held by Chicago White Sox pitcher Ed Walsh with a 1.82. Anything less than two is considered exceptional with 2-3 being excellent and 3-4 being better than average.
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 and the likes. It was a very scary situation. – Joe Nuxhall
From the first day I walked on the field at spring training in Tampa, Joe was always there to help with whatever. He just oozed Reds baseball. He’s a lovable guy. – Johnny Bench
Joe was one of the most competitive guys I played with. You think you are going to beat him? The hell you are! And he was like that until the very day he took off the uniform. – Pete Rose
I played behind Joe for many years here in Cincinnati. He was always one of the best, both on and off the field, and that hasn’t changed. – Leo Cardenas
Also on this day:
Friends of Bill – In 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous is formed.
US Naval Academy – In 1854, the first class graduated from USNA.
Oxford v. Cambridge - In 1829, the first Boat Race between the two schools took place.