Today June 10 2014 marks 70 years since Joe Nuxhall made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds as a 14 year old schoolboy. Back in 1944, talent was a little thin, owing to the fact that everyone was fighting Hitler and Tojo. So the Reds decided to try out a guy who was too young to go to the Army. Joe came from Hamilton High, where my Dad and many other friends and family members also attended. Joe was a big strong farm kid, and threw very hard. What the heck, lefthanders don't grow on trees!
Joe got into a game when the Reds were being slaughtered 13-0. He only lasted 2/3 of an inning giving up two hits and five walks. After that they sent Joe down to the minors and the following year he returned to high school.
After completing High School, he persevered in the minor leagues for a few and made it back to the bigs in 1952. He played ball for 16 years at the Major League level, and then he was the Red's announcer for many years. I remember he was also the batting practice pitcher for the Big Red Machine, and could throw for hours every day.
One time I used Joe as a sermon illustration to tell the story of David and Goliath. My point was that a farm kid with a good arm is not to be trifled with, and thus the Biblical account is not so ridiculous. I figured that David knew what he was doing, selecting aerodynamically smooth stones from a brook rather than rough stones from the ground. He could probably sling those stones at 120 miles per hour or so, enough to fracture a person's skull. David was probably aiming for his nose and missed by four inches, hitting him in the forehead. Goliath had no chance!
I used to like it when The Old Lefthander would interview a new player being brought up to the big leagues for the first time. It was kind of like a Dad interviewing his son. Joe would give fatherly advice, in the form of an interview question. Like,
"Do you have to just relax and let your natural abilities take over?"
"Do you need to trust in your catcher and let him call the game for you?"
"Are you going to enjoy every minute of your Big League career?"
I always thought they should have put Joe's statue in front of the stadium. He was not the best player in Red's history, but I believe he was the most loved.