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Reds pay tribute to 'The Ol' Lefthander'

Nuxhall on display in tribute exhibit

CINCINNATI -- A letter written by St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial is prominently displayed near the entrance of the newly-opened Joe Nuxhall exhibit at the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum.

"You always were a thorn in my side," Musial wrote to Nuxhall.

Although quite possibly the only negative words ever written about 'The Ol Lefthander,' even these were splashed with praise.

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"Maybe it is just as well I retired when I did," Musial continued in the letter, "because I'm sure glad I wasn't around last year when you made such a wonderful comeback."

On a drizzly, cool day in Cincinnati, fans filed steadily into the Reds Hall of Fame to pay homage to Nuxhall, and view many artifacts from his legendary career as both a pitcher and broadcaster.

The new exhibit, aptly titled 'The Ol' Lefthander: A Tribute to Joe Nuxhall', opened its doors to the public on Saturday morning. It is closed Sunday for Easter, but will come back Monday through the rest of the calendar year.

"I watched him as a player," said Tony Chaney of Middletown, Ohio. "I listened to him on the radio all these years, all his most famous calls. It'll be different to not hear him at all this season. It'll be strange."

Nuxhall, who passed away on Nov. 15 at the age of 79, pitched in the Major Leagues for 16 years, including 15 seasons with the Reds. On June 10, 1944, at the age of 15, Nuxhall became the youngest player to appear in a Major League game. He went 135-117 with a 3.90 ERA in 526 big league appearances.

One of the most beloved figures in Cincinnati sports history, Nuxhall began his broadcasting career in 1967, spending 31 seasons in the Reds radio booth alongside Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman.

Several thousand fans waited hours to pay their last respects at Nuxhall's funeral last November.

On Saturday, fans listened on headphones to more than 40 audio clips from Nuxhall's career, and watched a video compilation of his years as a player, broadcaster and cherished citizen. One female visitor wiped away tears as she watched the film.

The most noticeable display in the Nuxhall exhibit is a huge canvas wall adorned floor-to-ceiling with more than 50 quotes from Nuxhall fans and well-wishers. The messages recently were posted to Reds.com and a local newspaper Web site:

"He was everything a true human should be."

"Today I shed tears for a man I never met."

"He made an ordinary summer evening something to look forward to."

"Joe was the heart and soul of the Reds as my generation knew them."

"It's men like Joe that make the game so special."

The exhibit features many game-worn items, including caps from Nuxhall's stints with the Reds and Kansas City A's, and his Reds jerseys from 1953 and 1966, which are hung in a Crosley Field locker.

Also on display is Nuxhall's Reds Hall of Fame plaque, his golf bag, family photos from his youth, and many items depicting his high-spirited time in the booth with Brennaman, including an Elvis Presley bust and the bright yellow "Banana Phone" that was used to take calls during rain delays.

The Cincinnati chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America confers annually to a Reds player the Joe Nuxhall "Good Guy" Award. Last year's award, given to first baseman Scott Hatteberg, also is featured in the exhibit.

Melanie Owen, a Pittsburgh native who visited the Reds Hall of Fame on Saturday, became a Nuxhall fan shortly after moving to Cincinnati a decade ago.

Owen plans on listening to the Reds take on the Diamondbacks on Monday, March 31 on the radio. She is not sure how she'll react to not hearing Nuxhall's voice on Opening Day.

"It's quite emotional," Owen said. "Joe was a real person. I think that's why so many people connected with him. It'll be strange without him."

Jeff Wallner is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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