I was watching the Cincinnati Reds clobber the San Francisco Giants last night, and it made me think how much I miss listening to Marty and Joe.
Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall called the Reds’ games on the radio when I was growing up and even after I’d grown up. Marty joined Joe in the booth in 1974, and they worked together for 30 years, until Joe retired. He passed away in 2007.
Marty and Joe talked about everything: tomato plants, movies, sometimes even the baseball game. I used to have a job where I had to drive halfway across the state and drive home at night, and in the summertime, if atmospheric conditions were right, I could tune in WLW-700 AM and listen to the Reds, not because I liked the team (although I do) because I liked listening to Marty and Joe.
Marty’s background was radio, but Joe’s was baseball, and here’s one of the coolest things about him:
He’s in the record books as the youngest player ever to appear in a major league game. He pitched two-thirds of an inning for Cincinnati in 1944, when he was 15 years old.
This was during World War II, and teams had to use players who were too young or too old for the draft or otherwise couldn’t serve. The Reds signed Joe when he was still in the 9th grade because he had an 85-mile-an-hour fastball.
Usually, he sat on the bench, but once, with the Reds losing 13-0 against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Reds’ manager, Bill McKechnie, decided to give Joe a shot.
It didn’t go well.
Joe quickly gave up 5 runs, but he did get to pitch against Stan Musial. Imagine being 15 years old today and getting to pitch in a major-league game against Albert Pujols or Alex Rodriguez. That’s what Joe Nuxhall did between his freshman and sophomore years of high school.
Joe returned to the team in 1952, and when he retired 15 years later, he became the Reds’ color commentator.
When he’d signed off, Joe would say, “This is the ol’ left hander, rounding home and heading for home.” When I’m in the car at night, I still try to find a baseball game to keep me company, but I don’t think I’ll ever hear a broadcast team that’s in the same league as Marty and Joe.