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The Youngest Pitcher Of Them All:

 JOE NUXHALL   

         

    It is unlikely that anyone as young as Joe Nuxhall will ever pitch in the major leagues again. He was a 15-year-old junior high school student from Hamilton, Ohio, a city about 25 miles north of Cincinnati, when he pitched his first game for the Cincinnati Reds in 1944.

The date was June 10. It was a hot, steamy afternoon at Crosley Field and the Reds were playingthe St. Louis Cardinals - the mighty Cardinals who would go on to win the National League pennant.

 

America was at war and major league rosters were filled with players too old for military service, players who had a physicalproblem that prevented them from military service, or players who were too young to be drafted. Left-handed pitcher Joe Nuxhall, IS years, 10 months, and 11 days old, was one of the youngsters.

 

Nuxhall was a sensation on the playgrounds in Hamilton. His fast­ball was fast. His curve ball was good. He was big for 15 years of age and he was better than any of the other kids in Hamilton.

 

     He came to Cincinnati for a tryout. The Reds, needing fresh young players, signed him to a major league contract. But Joe never thought he would be used in a game. He figured he was just getting some experience on the big league level before he would be sent to the minor leagues.

    How wrong he was. "I thought Mr. McKechnie (manager Bill McKechnie) was kidding," Nuxhall said on the 30th anniversary of his first major league appearance. "But he wasn't."

It was the ninth inning and the game was hopelessly lost. The Reds were trailing, 12-0. It was time to take a look at that gangly kid from Hamilton.

    "Warm up, Joe," McKechnie said. The manager had to repeat himself. Joe thought McKechnie was kidding. But the manager was serious and out to the bullpen trotted Nuxhall.

"I felt fine warming up on the sidelines," Nuxhall recalled. "It didn't get to me until I went out to the mound to start the ninth inning."

 

 

About 3,500 fans were on hand and they cheered when Nuxhall went onto the field to start the ninth. They cheered louder when he struck out the first batter. He walked the next man, then struck out the next. But it would take him some eight years to get his third out in the major league.

 

Before Nuxhall was removed, the Cardinals had scored five more runs. He walked five, hit a batter and allowed two hits as the Cardinals engineered the worst major league runaway, 18-0, since 1906.

 

Nuxhall doesn't remember what McKechnie said to him when he removed him from the game in favor of Harry Eisenhart. "I know he said something, but I was so numb emotionally I can't recall a thing," Nuxhall said.

 

The historic moment was not even mentioned in the next morning's paper. No headlines reported Nuxhall as the youngest player ever to pitch. The morning paper in Cincinnati simply stated, "Five Redleg hurlers served 'em up and ducked in the two hour and 23 minute clambake."

         
       

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