Joe Nuxhall mural in Hamilton: He would have loved it, family says

Iconic Cincinnati Reds player and broadcaster Joe Nuxhall died nearly 10 years ago — Nov. 15, 2007 — and one thing that has touched his son, Kim, is the outpouring of love he has felt a decade later from the world and here at home, including a new mural featuring Joe as a 15-year-old Reds pitcher and later as a team announcer.

“It’s just, wow,” said Kim Nuxhall. “When I first saw it, obviously tears of just the overwhelming feeling of really what Dad would have thought of it. He loved Hamilton, Ohio, was so proud to tell everyone all over the country and world he was from Hamilton, Ohio.”

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“It would have stirred some serious emotions for him as well,” Nuxhall added. “Here we are, 10 years out, nearly, from his passing, and to see something like this come up is pretty overwhelming, quite frankly.”

The brightly colored mural, which has the 3-D effect of the young lefthanded pitcher extending his arm with an autographed baseball toward the viewer, is on the northern exterior wall of Clark’s Sporting Goods at 15 South B. St., where many motorists each day cross the High-Main Bridge.

“I knew how much he cared about people and his fans, and it’s coming right back here, 10 years later, and I think that’s what would be so touching, and is to our family,” Nuxhall said.

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The mural was designed by Paul Loehle, local artist and Hamilton High School art teacher.

“It is a serious piece of artwork,” Nuxhall said. “I’m so impressed with the quality of it, and I’m so glad I got a chance to meet Paul, the artist, and a couple of his helpers. That’s the first thing I said: What a detailed job they did. It’s fantastic.”

“I’m so fortunate to have Mom, she’ll be 89, and we brought her by, and again, she was very touched. My brother’s seen it. I’m getting Facebook messages every day by someone who’s come by. My buddy came up from Atlanta, who worked at Clark’s, on the other side of this wall, and he was just blown away by it.”

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The mural appears to be helping business inside the building it is painted on, which appropriately enough sells baseball and softball gloves, bats, uniforms, and other sporting goods.

“The customers are coming in, everybody says they love it,” said Dave Maffey, manager at Clark’s. “A lady called on her cell phone, she was coming down (Ohio Route) 129, and she says, ‘I have no interest in sports whatsoever, but your mural on the wall is amazing.’”

Also: “I had a lady come in yesterday who’s opening a business, and she wanted to know the company that painted that mural, because she wanted a mural doing on her business,” Maffey said. “Everything’s been positive. People are really pleased with the way it turned out. These artists, they’re amazing. They got it done in about two weeks’ time.”

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A side benefit: “The easiest thing is giving directions. Because everyone knows where the mural is,” Maffey said.

Nuxhall, a pitcher who enjoyed going to bat, hit 15 career home runs, perhaps the most impressive against Whitey Ford of the New York Yankees on June 10, 1961. Judging by the enthusiastic, spontaneous applause this year when the mural design was unveiled at Hamilton City Council, the mural may be as big a hit as that.

Nuxhall lived most of his youth near Pine and Vine streets, across from Greenwood Cemetery, and near Ford Fields, about three blocks from Joe Nuxhall Boulevard. He became modern baseball’s youngest player in 1944, during World War II.

“Kind of, in a way, he’s looking out over Hamilton there, where he grew up, and the great people that gave him the great life that he had.”

“It’s hard not to be emotional about it, because, like I said, I know how he would feel about it.”

His father’s signature looks “pretty good,” Nuxhall said. “That unique J — I always tried to copy that, and I never could.”

The likenesses of his Dad, he feels, are “right on — especially the younger one,” he observed.

“I noticed a little break in the brick there (where there apparently once had been a window. “It kind of looks like a tear, and I thought, you know? That’s kind of appropriate: Dad would be tearing up if he saw this.”

“He had an amazing, amazing life, and I think this image kind-of sums that up, really,” Nuxhall said.

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“It seems like everything’s on the upturn now,” Maffey said, noting that his store’s former longtime warehouse, at the southwest corner of Main and B Streets, is on its way to becoming a brew pub and restaurant operated by Oxford-based Quarter Barrel.

“It seems like Hamilton has turned the corner,” he added.

Or as Joe Nuxhall himself would say to end a Reds radio broadcast, “Rounding third and heading for home….”

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