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Brennaman looks back on Nuxhall

Brennaman looks back on Nuxhall

CINCINNATI -- Marty Brennaman was the new kid of the block in 1974 when he was signed to call Reds games on radio for WLW.

His partner was Joe Nuxhall, the former longtime Reds pitcher, who became a team broadcaster seven years earlier. The two met in Dayton, Ohio, on Feb. 1, 1974, at a photography studio to have their publicity shots taken.

"The first thing I said to him upon shaking his hand was, 'I have your baseball card,'" Brennaman recalled. "From that day forward, it was a relationship in our profession that people only dream about."

For the next 31 seasons, they became known simply as "Marty and Joe," and were fixtures for fans that listened to Cincinnati Reds games. Nuxhall worked full-time until 2004 and called some games in retirement during the past three seasons.

Meanwhile, the two became close friends.

"You could count on one hand the number of times we were upset with each other," said Brennaman, who is in the Hall of Fame as a 2000 Ford C. Frick Award winner.

When Nuxhall passed away late Thursday from complications of lymphoma, Brennaman was vacationing on a cruise ship off the Pacific coast of Mexico. He was asleep when the text message of simply "911" arrived on his cellphone from media relations director Rob Butcher. By 6:15 a.m. Friday, a friend had reached Brennaman with the news.

Nuxhall had been in ill health for years, with problems that included a heart attack, prostate cancer, pneumonia and several bouts with lymphoma. But he always bounced back and forged ahead. This time he didn't and Brennaman was stunned.

"Even with all he's been through, it never dawned on me that Butch would say he passed away," Brennaman said. "Time ran out for him. It's just sad."

Brennaman remembered his friend as a generous person without an ego and the kind of guy that could get along with anybody.

"In 34 years, not one person ever said anything negative to me about him -- not one person," Brennaman said. "Everybody had wonderful things to say about him. That was the essence of Joe Nuxhall.

"He was unbelievable. I never saw him act like he didn't have time to be with a person or a group of people. He dedicated time to people that came up to him or talked to him. It was as consistent as the sun coming up every day. He was very approachable."

As revered as he was, Nuxhall never let it go to his head, Brennaman said. Six years ago, when Nuxhall was hospitalized after a heart attack, fans sent cards and letters wishing him well. They continued to do so during his most recent health scares.

"He was genuinely shocked by the way people felt about him," Brennaman said. "I said, 'Joe, you've got to be kidding me.' He said, 'No, I'm totally overwhelmed by this.'" He never came to grips with the fact that so many people loved him in the manner of which they did."

When away from the ballpark, Brennaman and Nuxhall, and their families, would often have dinner together. They hung out on the road. Once, Brennaman picked up the golf bug, about 12 years ago, and the two would hit the links every day while on trips out of town.

Fittingly, the last time the two were together was last Friday on a golf course. It was during a charity event at Kenwood Country Club.

"He was there in a golf cart and I think he took just five swings and stopped. He was having trouble breathing," Brennaman said. "I told him to go in, but he stayed for the whole round of golf. He said, 'I'm tired of lying around.' Even though he was struggling, he could laugh and converse with everybody."

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

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