Monday, October 4, 2004

Marty, Joe bid tearful farewell

By John Erardi
Enquirer staff writer

Joe Nuxhall and Marty Brennaman each wept during an otherwise humor-filled "Star of the Game" show after Sunday's game.

Nuxhall tribute section
Rounding third and heading for home
An open letter from Marty to Joe
• Read the transcript from Friday's chat with Joe Nuxhall at Cincinnati.Com.

Joe Nuxhall retrospective
But it tells you all you need to know about their 31 years in the radio booth that they didn't cry at the same time. While one was getting choked up, the other came to his aid, keeping the show going, not missing a beat.

"It was harder than I thought it would be," Nuxhall said afterward of his final official Reds day. "It started when I walked in here (to the booth) today."

Nuxhall, 75, whose employment with the Reds began with a stint as a 15-year-old pitcher in June, 1944, retired Sunday after 60 years of service with the Reds, although he will broadcast a few games next season as sort of an icon emeritus.

"It's one thing I'm as proud of as anything - 31 years together," Brennaman said. "It's a record, and I don't think anybody will top it."

"Nuxie" had a good final, official, broadcast. He moved to the booth in spring training of 1967, after 15 years as a player, and had been there since. Brennaman came aboard in spring training of 1974.

"Back when I first started, I thought I had to talk on every pitch," said Nuxhall, laughing.

His only comment during Brennaman's first two innings of work Sunday was vintage, late-career "Nuxie," unabashedly critical and yet gentle in delivery. He observed that Reds left fielder Adam Dunn should have had Jack Wilson's double in the second inning, had Dunn not been drifting with the ball instead of charging to the spot and then waiting for it.

Later, "Nux" made a neat comparison of Pirates starting pitcher Oliver Perez to "a left-handed Juan Marichal," because the various arm angles he threw from during the course of the game. And when the subject turned to the expected wave of managerial firings in the next few days, Hamilton Joe was quick to point out that former New York Yankee great Casey Stengel had lost about 120 games his first season managing the expansion New York Mets.

"You gotta have the horses," Nuxhall said.

It was a prime-career Nuxie, typical of his work with Brennaman in the early 1970s, when Marty said he was often in need of anecdotal help from Nuxhall, who was always there to provide it.

In the bottom of the fourth inning Sunday, Reds shortstop Barry Larkin, still in full uniform, popped into the booth, having just come out of the game (maybe his last as a Red), and noted that he wanted to thank Nuxhall publicly for Nuxie's many years of service and status as most beloved Red. "Very nice of him - a class act," said Nuxie, after Larkin had left the booth.

The postgame show was the best.

Nobody knew what to expect, but Nuxie opened it by saying Brennaman had always been after him for a Montgomery Inn gift certificate that comes with a "Star of the Game" appearance, so now he would finally get it.

Marty laughed at that.

But Marty choked up as he was delivering this line: "We haven't talked about it all year - we chose not to - because we knew this day was going to come."

"It's here," Nuxie said.

Then, after they regaled one another - and listeners - with their tales of pranks and mis-steps and set-ups over the years, Nuxhall said, "What a great time we had," and then he choked up.

Brennaman immediately came to the rescue, talking about all the great memories Riverfront Stadium had provided them.

After "Star of the Game" was over, Brennaman left his seat and headed upstairs. But there was one piece of work left to be done by Nuxhall. Some people had forgotten about it. But not Nuxhall. He knew what was coming. He hoped he could get through it.

After doing a great job of thanking everybody, especially the fans, he began his wrapup.

"For the last time, it's the Ol' Left-hander," he started, then paused, picking it up in a frail, emotion-filled voice. "Rounding third, and heading for home."

But then Joe rallied, as no doubt everybody wanted him to.

Those who know him well, knew Joe would rally. It's what Joe does.

After a moment's pause, he was stronger-of-voice, ready as ever.

"Good afternoon, everyone."

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Marty, Joe bid tearful farewell
Nuxhall tribute section
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