Nuxhall leaves behind many friends

Nuxhall leaves behind many friends

CINCINNATI -- Why is the death of Joe Nuxhall such a huge loss for the Reds?

When you consider that he had a 63-year association with the team as a pitcher or broadcaster, Nuxhall's legacy spanned multiple generations. With his passing from complications of lymphoma on Thursday, he left countless friends behind.

If you were a Reds player, a team employee or a media member, you likely crossed paths with him often and spent time talking. If you were a fan, you spent years of your life listening to him call games.

"This is a sad day for everyone in the Reds organization," Reds right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. said in a statement. Griffey grew up with the team while father Ken Sr. was a member of the Big Red Machine.

"I'm in shock," Griffey continued. "I've known Joe my entire life. He did so many great things for so many people. You never heard anyone ever say a bad word about him. We're all going to miss him."

When news of Nuxhall's death at the age of 79 was made public Friday morning, there were tears and long faces among those who gathered at Great American Ball Park. But the memories were all joyful.

"He meant so much to me," said Tom Browning, who pitched for the Reds from 1984-94. "I met him my first day here in the big leagues and we hit it off well. We played a lot of golf together, went on a lot of caravans together. I spent a lot of time with him. It's going to be tough not having him to run into anymore."

"You don't replace him," said Chris Welsh, a former Reds pitcher and currently a television broadcaster for the club. "Look how long it took for him to grow into what he was. It's like losing the biggest oak tree in your yard that's been there a century longer than any other tree. Now, all of a sudden, you have this barren spot. You fill it with memories of his voice."

After he played from 1944 and 1952-66, Nuxhall was a Reds radio voice from 1967-2004 -- including 31 years with Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman. Nuxhall worked some games in retirement the past three seasons. Overall, he played or called games in 59 Major League ballparks, and certainly had plenty of anecdotes or insight to share with fans.

"Marty and Joe became part of every Reds fans' summer nights as their banter filled the gaps between pitches and plays," Reds owner and CEO Bob Castellini said. "Joe's voice resonates with everyone. He was part of our childhoods and our adulthoods before there was air conditioning and cable TV, when families would sit out on the porch to stay cool and Joe would be on the radio."

Although he was an icon in Cincinnati and among Reds fans nationwide, Nuxhall never acted like an exalted public figure. Preferring to be a regular everyman, there was no big ego to encounter or any sort of intimidation.

"Nuxie just made you feel at ease, no matter what he was doing," Browning said. "It's just hard to fathom that he's not here. He was just a good man. He taught me how to hold myself up and how to deal with things. I thank him for allowing me to be a part of his life. He was awesome. I'm going to miss him. I love the man to death. He had a whole lot to do with my career, certainly with how I dealt with adversity and success as well."

"What you see is what you get. You always knew where you stood," Reds chief operating officer John Allen said. "You knew he was speaking from the heart. One of his secrets to success was he could deal with anybody. It didn't matter who you were, what you were or what you did, he got along with everybody. He's really going to be missed."

Few knew Nuxhall longer than longtime clubhouse manager Bernie Stowe. Their friendship went back about 60 years.

"You never got tired of hearing Joe. He was unbelievable," Stowe said. "On the road, the game would be over and he'd say, 'C'mon, let's get a couple of beers and a sandwich.' Sometimes, the couple of beers turned into a handful of beers. Joe liked his beer and I liked my beer and the Burger Beer liked us for drinking so much."

Whether or not he was calling games the past few years, Nuxhall was always a presence in the Reds' clubhouse. Even when his health began failing, it didn't take long for him to bounce back and head over to the ballpark. This past February when he was released from a hospital after being diagnosed with another case of lymphoma, he drove straight to the team's Spring Training complex so he could be around everybody.

Current Reds players are expressed their condolences over the loss of Nuxhall.

"Joe was a special person to have around," starting pitcher Aaron Harang said. "He loved baseball and all of the people around it. He was a special part of the Cincinnati Reds' legacy and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."

"I loved talking to Nuxy about the game back when he played," starter Matt Belisle said. "He had a true love of the game. He was a genuine character and Cincinnati icon who used his publicity to help area kids. Joe was one of the rare people whom you heard nothing but good things about."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.