CINCINNATI -- Five years ago on Thursday, the Cincinnati Reds lost one of their greatest icons. Joe Nuxhall was 79 and suffering from cancer when he died on Nov. 15, 2007.
"The Ol' Left-hander," as he was fondly known around Cincinnati, was a legend in more ways than one. Bryce Harper had nothing on Nuxhall, who made his Major League debut at age 15.
Nuxhall's legacy continued in the broadcast booth, where he and his iconic voice partnered with Marty Brennaman to create one of the most renowned radio tandems in baseball.
Nuxhall's trademark sign-off phrase -- "This is the Ol' Left-hander, rounding third and heading for home" -- can be recited by most Reds fans to this day.
In memory of "Nuxy," I'd like to share an essay I wrote about him for a local sports card store's contest. Then 11 years old, I answered the prompt, "Who is your favorite baseball player and why," with "Nuxy."
I've loved baseball from an early age, and I've read about many legends, but to me, one really stands out. That man is Nuxhall. I believe that Nuxhall was one of the greatest men to ever be associated with the game of baseball. He made many contributions to the sport.
One way Nuxhall contributed to baseball was as a pitcher. He made his debut with the Reds on June 10, 1944, when he was a mere 15 years old -- just a few years older than me. "Nuxy," as he was fondly nicknamed, was a two-time National League All-Star and led the league in shutouts in 1955.
After he retired in 1967, he became the Reds' broadcaster. Everyone loved to tune in to Joe and the Reds. Joe never said anything negative about anybody on the air. No matter how terrible the player was, he would always find something positive about each and every one of them. Reds fans will always remember his traditional sign-off line, "This is the Ol' Left-hander, rounding third and heading for home."
Another way Joe contributed to the game of baseball was as a promoter of good character. He formed the Joe Nuxhall Character Education Fund, which helps finance character development projects. My school, Freedom Elementary, had the honor of being the very first school to receive his award.
Joe helped set a good example for many kids. He was a kind man who was always willing to sign one more autograph or pose for one more picture. I actually got the honor of meeting him. Joe had offered to do a signing at my local Barnes and Noble, and once I heard about it, I immediately starting pestering my parents to take me. Of course, they agreed, and so my dad took me to meet Joe Nuxhall. He was very affable and signed my card. This would be one of my very first autographs and would help jump-start what turned into my extensive collection of baseball memorabilia.
That day, Joe had conversations with each person in line, always asking their name and how they were doing. He made sure to greet each person with a smile as they walked up, and to wish them well as they left.
Joe Nuxhall will be greatly missed by everyone. Not just Cincinnati, but all around the country, where many people fondly recall tuning in to the Reds game, with Joe's voice serving as their lullaby. I know I, for one, will. Being sad, of course, when I learned of his passing, I decided to make something to honor him. So I gathered all my Nuxy-related items, including my ball and card (both signed by him), a bobblehead, and his autobiography and made a little tribute to him with them. Every time I walked into my room, I would be reminded of what a great man he was.
Those are the reasons why I believe that Joe Nuxhall was one of the greatest men to ever be associated with the game of baseball. Even though Joe may have passed away, his spirit truly will live forever.
Megan Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest who earned the job of youth correspondent in 2011, is a reporter for MLB.com.