Russ Nixon was born in Cleves, Ohio on February 19, 1935 and passed away on November 9*, 2016 at the age of 81 in the same city that he was born. Nixon, a left-handed hitting catcher played in the big leagues for all or part of 12 seasons between 1957-1968 with the Indians, Red Sox, and the Minnesota Twins.
Russ Nixon attended Western Hills High School in Cleves and went on to attend the University of Cincinnati where he studied mechanical engineering. In 1952 Russ Nixon was selected as the American Legion ball “Player of the Year. Russ Nixon had a twin brother, Roy, a first baseman and each signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1953. Roy however; never played above class A ball and did not get to wear a major league uniform.
Russ Nixon made his major league debut with the Indians on April 20, 1957 at Briggs Stadium when he replaced starting catcher Hal Naragon in the seventh inning with the tribe trailing the Tigers 6-0. Nixon had one at bat in that game and he singled to right field off Tiger hurler Frank Lary and then was lifted for a pinch-runner. Russ was a good hitter and had a .268 average in 906 games but most of his career was spent as a back-up catcher and he only appeared on 100 or more games in 1958 and 1960 and never reached 400 at bats in any season.
The Minnesota Twins and Russ Nixon crossed paths when the Twins acquired Nixon and second baseman Chuck Schilling from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for pitcher Dick Stigman and minor league infielder Jose Calero on April 6, 1966. Calvin Griffith was hoping to strengthen his team by acquiring Schilling and Nixon but many wondered how acquiring two players from the ninth place Red Sox was going to help the defending American League champions. Both Nixon and Schilling were excited about being acquired by a club as good as Minnesota and looked forward to the 1966 season. Schilling was one of the final cuts before the 1966 final 25 man squad was finalized and refused his assignment to the minors and decided to quit pro ball at the age of 28 with five seasons in the big leagues under his belt rather than play in the minor leagues. Nixon, now at the tail end of his career played for the Twins in 1966 and 1967 and hit .244 in 125 games with one home run and that ironically was at Fenway Park off Red Sox starter Billy Rohr in a Twins 4-0 win. The Twins released Russ Nixon in April of 1968 and he signed with the Red Sox again and played one final season in the big leagues before hanging up his catching gear for the final time. But Russ Nixon couldn’t leave baseball, he went on to scout, coach and manage both in the minor leagues and the major leagues through 2008. Russ Nixon had a 231-347 record as a manager in the major leagues with the Cincinnati Reds in 1982-1983 and the Atlanta Braves from 1988-1990. Nixon called it quits after the 2008 season which was year number 56 in pro ball. Russ Nixon has the distinction of being active in Major League Baseball for 56 consecutive years in various roles.
Away from baseball in the off-season Nixon bred Arabian horses on his ranch. Here is a bit of baseball trivia that involves Russ Nixon that you may not know. Russ Nixon played in more (906) major leagues games than any other player and yet was never able to steal a single base, he did get caught stealing seven times.
The photo’s below are provided courtesy of Western Hills High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can click on the pictures to make them larger.
We at Twins Trivia would like to pass on our condolences to Russ Nixon’s family and friends and to thank them all for the great memories.
* = Some sources and obituary’s list date of death as 11/9/2016 while others had 11/8/2016, still doing some checking as I want to get it correct. UPDATE – I have confirmation from the family that Russ Nixon passed away on 11/9/2016.