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Reds pay tribute to Nuxhall

CINCINNATI — When the Cincinnati Reds decided to pay tribute to the late Joe Nuxhall, it was a team effort.

The Cincinnati organization staged one of the most unique tributes prior to Monday’s opening day game as they remembered former Reds’ pitcher and long-time announced who died last Nov. 15.

During the introduction of the Reds’ team, every coach and player wore a jersey that bore their number on the front but the name “Nuxhall” and his number 41 on the back.

Starting pitcher Aaron Harang got special permission from Major League Baseball to wear the No. 41 for the game instead of his normal No. 39 jersey.

“They came to me and asked me if I wanted to wear (the jersey for the entire game),” said Harang. “Nuxhall is one of the better guys you’d ever meet. He’s a legacy in Cincinnati. Starting the season without him is a definite change.”

Nuxhall was the youngest player to ever appear in a major league game when he pitched for the Reds June 10, 1944, at the tender age of 15 years and 10 months.

He retired after the 1966 season and moved to the Reds radio booth as a color commentator and became a favorite of fans and players. He often pitched batting practice until his 60s.

“I got a chance to say good-bye (at the funeral),” said Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Jr.

“It’s tough. It’s not normal to not have him here. I can still hear his voice, encouraging me. ”

Outfielder Adam Dunn said not seeing Nuxhall going through his normal routines made him realize the old-lefthander was gone.

“I’m used to seeing him eating those hard-boiled eggs. Not seeing him was a wake-up call,” said Dunn.

Reds’ second-year general manager Wayne Krivsky admitted he had not known Nuxhall very long, but he was left with a lasting impression.

“Not being from Cincinnati, I don’t have the history with Nuxhall that many others had. It kind of hit us in spring training. I know he’s been brought up a lot today (Monday). He always put others first. He touched a lot of people.”

The Reds also unveiled a jersey painted on the outfield wall above the bullpen with Nuxhall’s name and number.

Besides Nuxhall, the Reds held a tribute to three other men who died during the past year that included Bob Howsan, the man who put together the Big Red Machine of the 1970s, pitcher Bob Purkey, and long-time scout Sheldon “Chief” Bender.

Before the game Team Lachey — winners of the NBC reality show “Clash of Choirs” — sang “Amazing Grace” as a tribute to the four men.