This Day in Baseball History: February 18th, 1944

Do you think some teams would like to give Bryce Harper a crack at something like this?

On February 18, 1944:

The Cincinnati Reds sign 15-year old Joe Nuxhall.

At the time, WWII raged, and major-league teams had lost players to the war effort. The Reds were in search of players, and they began monitoring nearby semi-pro leagues. One person of interest was Orville Nuxhall, but because he had five children, he refused to consider signing a contract. While scouting him, however, scouts began to notice his 14-year old son who was playing on the same team. At 6’2″ and 190 lbs., Joe Nuxhall was the biggest 14-year old in his school, and his fastball was very promising. The problem was his control and his attending school, but when more Reds were drafted, the Reds needed Nuxhall on the Opening Day roster. The principal cleared Nuxhall, and he was on the team on Opening Day.

At age 15, Joe Nuxhall made his major-league debut becoming the youngest player in the modern era to make his debut (14-year old Fred Chapman was technically the youngest in 1887) on June 10, 1944. Trailing 13-0 in the ninth, Joe Nuxhall came into the game. The appearance started off well by getting the first batter out, but it would spiral after. He walked five (remember the warning about his control?) and gave up two hits before being relieved after two-thirds of an inning. The young man wasn’t ready for the major leagues, and he spent the rest of the season in the minors.

Nuxhall came to Spring Training the next season, but he chose to go back to high school and finish school. After graduating, he came back to the minor leagues and spent five seasons before coming back to the majors. As a major-league pitcher, Nuxhall wasn’t particularly effective, but he could have been worse. He finished his career with a 135-117 record and a career 3.90 ERA (ERA+ of 101). However, he would make his biggest impact later as a broadcaster for the Reds and was eventually added to the Reds Hall of Fame.

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