On June 10, 1944, Joe Nuxhall — the eventual Reds Hall of Fame pitcher and announcer from Hamilton — made his Major League debut with the Cincinnati Reds at 15 years, 10 months and 12 days old against the St. Louis Cardinals.
He remains the youngest to play in the major leagues.
This week, Hamilton officials discussed their efforts to continue honoring Nuxhall by installing a historical marker and naming a park after him. That brought to mind the historic game that helped define Nuxhall’s legacy.
Here are 5 things to know about Nuxhall and his record-breaking appearance first appearance:
1. World War II forced Reds to look for local talent
Nuxhall was signed his contract with the Reds on Feb. 18, 1944. Reds General Manager Warren Giles hoped to wait until after Nuxhall was out of school, but too many players were inducted into the military during World War II. Nuxhall was in uniform on Opening Day in 1944.
2. Great start, rough finish
Nuxhall entered the ninth inning in the game against the Cardinals. The first batter he faced was shortstop George Fallon, whom he forced into a ground out. However, he also gave up five walks, two hits, threw one wild pitch and gave up five runs.
3. Nuxhall’s memory of that first game
During the 50th anniversary of that first outing, Nuxhall told the Associated Press in 1994, “I was pitching against seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders, kids 13 and 14 years old … All of a sudden, I look up and there’s Stan Musial and the likes. It was a very scary situation.”
4. Youngest MLB player, but not pro
Nuxhall is the youngest person to ever play in a Major League Baseball game. It was believed 14-year-old Fred Chapman pitched in a game in 1887, but in 2009 baseball researchers found his name and age were incorrect. He was actually Frank Chapman and was 25 years old. However, a 12-year-old bat boy, Joe Reliford, was put into a Class D game in 1952, which made him the youngest person to play in a professional baseball game.
5. No. 43
Nuxhall was best known for two uniform numbers — 39 and 41 — during his Reds career, but in 1944 his jersey number was 43, according to the Baseball Almanac. He wore 39 for Cincinnati from 1952 until 1960. After brief stints with the Kansas City Athletics and Los Angeles Angels, he returned to Cincinnati in 1962 where he wore 41 until the end of his playing career in 1966.
COLUMN: Joe Nuxhall was ‘one of us’