Friday, November 16, 2007

Joe Nuxhall

To understand how the love of Hamilton, his hometown, and the love
of baseball, which took him far beyond it, were intertwined in Joe
Nuxhall’s heart, you had to be in Hamilton’s Schwarm Stadium on a sunny
Sunday afternoon last August.

The West Side All Stars, a team of
12-year-old baseball players, had just come home from Williamsport,
Pa., where the boys fell short of their goal of winning the Little
League World Series but won the hearts of everyone back home.

parade carried the West Side All Stars through the streets of Hamilton,
ending in Schwarm Stadium, home of Hamilton High’s “Big Blue.”

Nuxhall, of course, rode in the parade, waving to the crowds that lined Main Street from the backseat of an open-top Corvette.

could hardly celebrate baseball in Hamilton without him – the greatest
ballplayer of all the great ballplayers to come out of this hard-nosed,
blue-collar town. A town where there is no such thing as “recreational
sports” – just hard, sweaty, mud-on-the-jersey play on the diamond, on
the gridiron, on the court.
When the parade pulled into Schwarm
for a ceremony honoring the West Side boys, the pint-sized ballplayers
clambered onto one set of bleachers while the politicians, the big
wigs, the men in suits sat themselves down on the other side of the
speakers’ podium.

Nuxhall veered away from the politicians and sat himself down among the boys.
He sat with the ballplayers. Where he belonged.

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