John Kiesewetter shares conversations with Reds legend Joe Nuxhall
Joe Nuxhall was a Cincinnati sports icon.
Popular as the Reds pitcher, loved as the Reds broadcaster. His statue throws a throw outside the Great American Ball Park. Its slogan “Go to third and come home” is inscribed on the side of the stadium. Nuxhall is still anchored in the identity of the city 14 years after his death.
But John Kiesewetter knows stories about Nuxhall you’ve never heard before. Stories from Nuxhall’s gaming days as well as his 37 years of calling games for the Reds radio network on 700 WLW – heard by the man himself.
Kiesewetter followed The Old Lefthander for 29 years as a TV / radio columnist for The Enquirer and a lifetime as a fan.
“There’s a lot about Nux that we don’t know,” said Kiesewetter, who now covers media for 91.7 WVXU.
Kiesewetter dived into his boxes and boxes of audio cassettes to unearth his recorded interviews with Nuxhall dating back to the 1980s for his new book, “Joe Nuxhall: The Old Lefthander & Me – My Conversations with Joe Nuxhall About the Reds, Baseball & Broadcasting.” “
Former Inquirer designer Jim Borgman designed the cover for Kiesewetter by recording one of Nux’s stories.
“I loved going to listen to Nux talk to groups… and he would go on for an hour, an hour and a half, without notes, just telling us great stories,” Kiesewetter said. “When his book came out, his biography with Greg Hoard, none of those great stories was in it. So I started collecting the recordings I had and subsequent interviews over a 20-year period.”
Whenever Kiesewetter has had the chance to interview Nuxhall over the years, he’s got him to tell a couple of those stories.
“I just thought these great stories should be preserved, passed on and cherished. It was the impetus for the book, ”Kiesewetter said.
Nuxhall knew how to tell a good story. Ask anyone who’s heard Nuxhall talk about his unhappy debut at the age of 15, or dive into his bag of baseball memorabilia.
In the book’s preface, Marty Brennaman, Nuxhall’s radio partner for 31 years, called him “one of the best storytellers of all time.”
And he was still natural himself, with occasional tongue mutilation and nuxisms like “definitely”, “I guess you would say” and “Get out of here!” “
“As I tell people, I’m not a student of English,” Nuxhall told Kiesewetter in 1986. “All I want is for you to understand it. It might sound a little different, but so much. that you understand that is what concerns me. ”
“Let me tell you about Joe Nuxhall”
Kiesewetter also includes his own memories as a fan. Nuxhall was his favorite player. He put his baseball card in a gold frame and kept it on his dresser. He still has it.
“I grew up in Middletown as a Reds fan and I’m left-handed,” Kiesewetter said. “The big pivotal year for me was when the Reds went to the World Series in ’61. I was eight years old. And the next year the Reds had a winning record, but they were like fourth place because the Dodgers and Giants were so good. In July, they brought in this pitcher named Joe Nuxhall, and he’s going 5-0. And I thought he was a young stallion… My dad said, ‘No, no, no. Let me tell you about Joe Nuxhall.
As older Reds fans know, Nuxhall was the youngest person to ever play in Major League Baseball. By 1944 many of the game’s best players had gone to fight in World War II, so baseball teams got creative. Nuxhall was 15, pitching at Wilson Junior High School in Hamilton, Ohio, and was drafted to pitch for the Reds.
Nuxhall’s beginnings were horrible. On June 10, 1944, he arrived at the mound in the ninth inning of a resounding defeat, and then made matters worse. He allowed five runs on five walks, two hits and a wild pitch in the 2/3 of an inning.
He didn’t play in the majors for seven years.
Then Nuxhall built up a pretty good 16-year career, almost entirely with the Reds. In 1967, he retired to the broadcast booth, joining Al Michaels. In 1974, Brennaman was hired and the Marty and Joe duo became the Cincinnati legend.
“The nicest guy in the world”
The book includes stories of Nuxhall facing the great Stan Musial on his first run, throwing a spittoon at Willie Mays and initiating a Big Red Machine batting practice.
There are also the pranks Brennaman played on “the nicest guy in the world with the shortest temper on Earth”, their Kroger and David Letterman commercials about listening to Nuxhall play-by-play back in the years. 1970.
Or the moment the Reds got angry when Nuxhall told Sports Illustrated he followed the broadcast of every game eating a piece of cheese and drinking Michelob – but Stroh’s Beer was their sponsor.
In 2006, Kiesewetter asked Nuxhall to pick their own Reds player hall of fame at each position. His choices had some surprises. His first choice for the outfield was George Foster, who was the National League MVP in 1977 with 52 home runs.
“Kindly, Foster could have hit 55 or 60 at the Great American Ball Park,” Nuxhall said. “He would hit them off the scoreboard, I guarantee that. I would bet my life he would.
Kiesewetter creates a full portrait of the man, having spoken at length with Nuxhall’s sons, Kim and Phil, and his wife, Donzetta, including his charitable work and legacy.
Nuxhall considered himself to be an ordinary Joe and was genuinely surprised that so many people cared about him.
Brennaman told Kiesewetter in 2015, “It never occurred to him that he talked about the kind of love he had from people.”
“Joe Nuxhall: The Old Lefthander & Me” is available on tvkiese.com, Joseph-Beth Booksellers and the Reds Hall of Fame. One dollar from every book sold goes to the Nuxhall Foundation, which operates Miracle League Fields, a baseball center for children and adults with disabilities.