Since I have been working at the Reds Hall of Fame, I’ve had the opportunity to meet both current and former players. One of my favorite Hall of Famers is a big part of Reds history – Chuck Harmon. He may not be a name you recognize as easily as Bench, Morgan, Rose, or Perez but believe me his part in the history of Reds baseball made the biggest long term impact.
For those of you still wondering, in 1954 Chuck Harmon became the first African-American to play for the Reds.
There is a wonderful book titled “The First Black Red” written by Marty Ford Pieratt. Recently I was visiting with Chuck and he told me he had just finished reading the book. So naturally I asked his thoughts and he smiled and said, “I had to call my son a few times while I was reading and ask him who in the hell are they talking about in the book? I didn’t remember some of the things in there. See I was a poor man from a small town, less than 10,000, in Indiana. I didn’t make history.” Continue reading
How many of you know the real story of Joe Nuxhall? Sure you know he was the major leagues youngest player at 15 but lets go behind the story. Joe was born in Hamilton, OH in 1928. He was a very gifted athlete and loved playing the big three sports – baseball, basketball, and football.
In 1944, while the men were off fighting the war, the Cincinnati Reds like most teams were scouting any and all local players to fill out their roster. They had been watching Orville Nuxhall, Joe’s father, who was a very good pitcher in his own right. Orville made it clear to all teams who contacted him that he was not interested in signing a professional contract as he had five children he was providing for.
The scouts then became interested in the son, who was only 14 at the time. After waiting until the following year’s basketball season was over,
Nuxhall signed a major league contract with the Reds on February 18, 1944. General manager Warren Giles intended to wait until school was over in June to add him to the team, but more of his players were inducted into the service in the spring. With a permission note signed by his parents and his high school principal, Joe was on the bus from Hamilton to Crosley Field to be in uniform with the team on Opening Day. Continue reading
At the end of last season, all the talk in baseball surrounded the Nationals decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg. Baseball writers, managers and fans all weighed in with their views, which basically weighed up the advantages of protecting a young pitcher’s reconstructed elbow with the disadvantages of crippling the post-season chances of the Washington Nationals. For the record, I agreed with the decision of Nats GM Mike Rizzo, but that is a discussion for a different day. The reason I bring this debate up, is because it’s equivalent in the pre-season is the Reds decision to move Chapman from the bullpen to the rotation.
The debate has not been as heated as the Strasburg debate was, at least not yet, but as opening day approaches, the arguments are gathering momentum.
In 2012, Aroldis Chapman was good. In fact, he was historically good. He had always had the 100mph+ fastball that made fans stay to the end, but he began to perfect the finer arts of pitching, notably location. In 2011 he walked 41 batters in 50 innings, which contributed to a good-but-not-great 1.30 WHIP. In 2012, he walked just 23 guys in 71.2 innings, and although the hit rate remained remarkably consistent, he was able to transform his WHIP to an otherworldly 0.81. Continue reading