Friday, November 16, 2007

Another little piece of my youth leaves today...

No, I'm not a Cincinnati Reds fan by any stretch, but I AM a baseball fan since birth. In the summertime, when either living in the Midwest or the Mid-South, you always knew you could pick up 700 WLW at night, and hear Joe Nuxhall broadcasting the Reds, his calm, comforting voice offsetting the manic calls of Marty Brenneman. The Ol' Lefthander was an icon, not just in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, but throughout the Midwest and wherever WLW blasted through the Eastern US.

In Cincinnati itself, he was the most popular sports figure, bigger than Bench, Rose, Morgan, Bob Huggins, Ken Anderson, or any of the others who populated the town. He first gained legend as being the youngest player ever to play in the modern-era Major League Baseball, appearing in 1944 for the Reds at the tender age of 15. After that appearance, he went back to school in Fairfield, OH, but wound up back with the Reds in 1952, staying with them for all but a year through the end of his baseball career in 1966, which I am old enough to remember.

Then, he began the broadcasting career that cemented his hold over the area, working first with Waite Hoyt and then Marty Brennaman. He retired in 2004, but continued to work a few home games with Marty through this past year.

The Ol' Lefthander rounded third and went home for good last night, the victim of cancer. He was 79, and the Midwest, and all of baseball, mourns this good man who made you feel like his next-door neighbor while you listened to him. WLW is streaming right now, and it is wall-to-wall memories of Joe, who was on the air for 37 years. If you are familiar with Joe and the Reds, you may want to go there just to listen, and remember, because baseball on radio will not quite be the same ever again.