What a sad day... never again will we hear a Reds game described by Marty & Joe, with the passing late last night of Joe Nuxhall. Where do I begin? He was my summer soundtrack for 40 years....
As a Reds fan, you always knew something exciting was happening, or the ball could be a home run, by how excited Joe was. I'll miss that. Sure, sometimes you couldn't understand what exactly had happened -- a fly ball to left-right-center field? -- but we'd figure it out sooner or later. We loved Nux, that was all part of his charm.
I'll never forget his excitement when Joe Oliver singled in Billy Bates from third base in Game 2 of the 1990 World Series at Riverfront, when the Reds were sweeping Oakland. I thought Joe was going to jump out of the booth! I heard that call on the radio driving in to work today. Still makes me smile.
That's what I'll remember most about Joe. He made me smile. He made all of us smile. He made thousands or millions or gazillions of Reds fans smile from his pitching (135 wins), his hitting (15 HRs and 78 RBIs in 16 seasons, good enough to pinch-hit occasionally. As he liked to say, "If you swing the bat you're dangerous!") and his broadcasting. He also made tons of kids smile through the Joe Nuxhall Character Education Fund started with his son, Kim, in Fairfield schools, and giving out about $450,000 in scholarships to about 400 high school seniors, and his campaigning for school levies and school construction. Or helping Santa pass out candy at Fairfield City Hall, after the tree-lighting ceremony.
I was fortunate enough to be with him many times. One of my favorite memories was interviewing him at his home in 1996, where he has photos framed and signed balls in his basement den. It was like a Nux Hall of Fame. In a nearby storage room, he found a Wiedemann Beer poster from his first year on Reds radio in 1967... One like it is in the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum now, but it was a special thrill to see it stashed away at his house years ago.
In recent years, when I needed to interview him, I'd head to the Bob Evans in Fairfield for breakfast. He was always there at 7 a.m. to eat at the front counter with his son and three pals. I felt so honored when Kim would hold the 6th seat at the counter for me, and I'd slide in next to Nux. Wow, I felt I was being admitted to a special inner circle.
Looking back, I'm also proud to have done stories about Nux's generosity, with the character and scholarship funds and raising money for the One Way Farm home for abandoned and abused kids.... so people outside Butler County could understand what a totally selfless man he was. The only person I'd met like that was Mr. Rogers. Our conversations at Bob Evans always would be interrupted by folks wanting autographs. He always smiled and signed. He never turned anyone away.
Here are my favorite quotes about Nux from Marty Brennaman:
--About his endless charitable nature: "They (people) don't know about it because he doesn't talk about it. He doesn't do things and then pat himself on the back and make sure everybody in captivity knows what he's doing. He legitimately would not care if anybody ever knew about it, because he derives enough satisfaction by himself, in doing what he does, that he doesn't need everyone to know about it... Honest to God, I've never known a person with a measure of celebrity who has zero ego like he does. I've never known anybody! I mean, we are in a business that breeds egomaniacs.... I've been blessed because I've been associated with him for all of these years. He taught me a helluva lot about humility, because I've got a pretty good ego. I've learned a lot from him. And when the day ever comes that I walk away from this business, the one overriding thing that I will be thankful for is the fact that I spent 30 years in radio booth with him." (2006)
--On Nux being an instutitution: "People talked about Pete Rose being the sports institution in this town, but Pete Rose didn't hold a candle to Joe. I've never heard anyone in my 23 years ever utter a negative comment about him. So if we're talking institutions, Joe is the No. 1 sports institution in this town. Pete Rose is not even in the same league with him." (1996). Just last March, Brennaman put it this way: "With all due respect to Pete Rose, there is no bigger figure in City of C
When I heard that Nux died, I hustled over to Bob Evans this morning. Check out my story posted on the web.
If you have some favorite Nuxhall memories, feel free to add them here. I'll try to post them when I can... but I'll be busy the next few days helping out on our Nuxhall coverage. And check out our Nuxhall stories, photos and videos at Cincinnati.com.
Thanks Joe for helping us enjoy life... and showing us how to live it.