Of all the accomplishments in Major League history, it is unlikely that anyone will displace Joe Nuxhall as the youngest player ever to appear in a game. History was set in motion on this day in 1944, when the Cincinnati Reds signed the 15 year old to a contract.
During World War Two, teams were scrambling to find players to fill out their rosters at the Major League level. The Cincinnati Reds were just like every other squad then, going around and scouting amateur players in the hopes they would find a diamond in the rough. As it turns out, on one of those forays, they did find someone to contribute, just not the player they expected.
The Reds scouts had traveled to Hamilton Ohio to scout a player named Orville Nuxhall, hoping that he could become a part of their roster. Instead, they came away impressed by his 15 year old son, Joe Nuxhall. On this day in 1944, Cincinnati signed Nuxhall to a contract worth $175 per month, which would go into effect when the school year ended.
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Nuxhall would spend much of his time on the bench once he got to the Reds, except for one game on June 10. With the Reds trailing the Cardinals 13-0, manager Bill McKechnie became curious about what they had in the youngster. He entered the game in the ninth, becoming the youngest player ever to appear in the Majors, given the questions about how old Billy Geer actually was when he first played.
Although the final results looked about as good as one could have imagined from a 15 year old, Nuxhall actually started his debut relatively well. He retired two of the first three batters he faced, working around a walk, and appeared to be in line for more work as the season progressed. The he looked up, and saw Stan Musial on deck.
That is where everything fell apart. Nuxhall would not retire another batter, as he allowed five runs from that point, giving up two hits and walking four. He had gone from facing high school kids just a few weeks before to playing against one of the greatest players of all time, making his meltdown understandable.
Fortunately, Nuxhall was able to bounce back from that outing. He spent the next seven years in the minors, but came back to the Reds for good in 1952. Nuxhall would go on to make two All Star Games, and lead the National League in shutouts in 1955. After his playing career ended, he spent 37 years as a broadcaster for the Reds, continuing his relationship with the team through 2004.
Joe Nuxhall cemented his place in baseball history when he debuted at just 15 years old. That moment was set into motion on this day in 1944, when the Cincinnati Reds inked the young lefty to a contract.