My wife gave birth to our first kid a few days ago on July 30. The boy is a few feet away, sleeping. I have no idea how to write about how he makes me feel. So here’s a baseball card. It features Joe Nuxhall, who was also born on July 30. Joe Nuxhall was nearing 37 and had played his last game when this card of him as a gray-haired hurler in what looks to be a rubber undershirt came out. It appeared the year before I was born, so I wasn’t familiar with it until I got it along with some other old cards as a gift from my wife’s mother a few years ago. But when I was a kid I knew about Joe Nuxhall as the youngest to ever play in a major league game, making his debut as a 15-year-old. I remember holding on to that image of him as he was on his first day in the majors, everything in front of him, even as I learned about his actual career, a good one and a long one but one without that purity of a boy standing on a big league mound, readying to fire his first pitch.
After his playing career ended, Joe Nuxhall served as a broadcaster for many years, becoming arguably the most beloved figure in the world of the Cincinnati Reds. My boy has some Reds blood in him, his mother born in Cincinnati to a large clan of rabid Reds fans. His first live baseball game, which he snuck into inside his mother’s belly, was a Reds victory over the Cubs at Wrigley earlier this year. Below is a picture of his first contact with baseball outside the uterus. The Red Sox were in town, so the hospital room picked up the local coverage. I whispered into my son’s tiny ear. Youk, I whispered. Yooooouuk.