February 19, 1935 |
|April 20, 1957, for the Cleveland Indians|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 16, 1968, for the Boston Red Sox|
|Runs batted in||166|
Russell Eugene Nixon (born February 19, 1935) is a retired American catcher, coach and manager in Major League Baseball. A veteran of 55 years in professional baseball, Nixon managed at virtually every level of the sport, from the lowest minor league to MLB assignments with the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves. In the spring of 2008, Nixon, 73, was named a roving instructor in the Texas Rangers' farm system by its new club president, Nolan Ryan.
American League catcher
Nixon graduated from Western Hills High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, and also attended the University of Cincinnati. He batted left-handed and threw right-handed, and stood 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall and weighed 190 pounds (86 kg) in his playing days (1953–68). Nixon and his twin brother, Roy, an infielder, each signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1953. Although Roy never played Major League Baseball, retiring after five minor league seasons, Russ Nixon fashioned a 12-year MLB career with the Indians (1957–60), Boston Red Sox (1960–65; 1968) and Minnesota Twins (1966–67). In his best season, 1958, Nixon caught 101 games for Cleveland and batted .301.
Overall, he appeared in 906 games over all or parts of 12 seasons, and batted .268. He holds the record for most games played without ever stealing a base. In addition, Nixon was actually traded twice to the Red Sox in 1960. Cleveland initially dealt him to Boston on March 16 for catcher Sammy White and first baseman Jim Marshall, but White refused to report and temporarily retired, canceling the trade after Nixon appeared in five spring training games in a Red Sox uniform. Nixon returned to the Indians and started the regular season with them, appearing in 25 games, 21 as the starting catcher; then, almost three months after the original swap, on June 13, he was traded to the Red Sox a second time, with outfielder Carroll Hardy for pitcher Ted Bowsfield and outfielder Marty Keough.
National League coach and manager
His managing career began in the Cincinnati Reds' farm system in 1970 and in 1976 he was promoted to a coaching position with the defending World Series champion Reds, under Baseball Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson. In Nixon's first season, Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" dynasty reached its pinnacle with a second consecutive world championship, dispatching the New York Yankees in a four-game sweep in the 1976 World Series. However, the Reds' period in the sun began to dim with the advent of baseball free agency. Anderson was fired after the 1978 season, and Nixon remained on the Reds' staff under the new manager, John McNamara, in 1979.
After compiling the best overall record in the National League West Division during the strike-affected split season of 1981, the Reds unexpectedly unraveled in 1982, plummeting into the basement. McNamara was fired July 21 and Nixon took his place. Nixon was unable to right the ship, as the Reds went 27-43 the rest of way en route to what is still the only 100-loss season in franchise history. When the Reds finished last again in 1983, Nixon was fired. He then coached for the Montreal Expos (1984–85) before signing as a coach with the Braves. Nixon worked for an old Cleveland teammate, Chuck Tanner, in 1986–87 before his appointment as pilot of the Greenville Braves, the club's AA Southern League affiliate, for 1988.
While new general manager Bobby Cox had done much to rebuild the Braves' farm system, at the National League level Atlanta was in free fall. When the Braves dropped 27 of their first 39 games in 1988, Nixon was recalled from Greenville to succeed Tanner on May 23—a rare promotion of a manager from AA all the way to the majors. However, the losses continued to pile up. The 1988 Braves finished 54–106, the worst season in the Atlanta portion of Braves history and the franchise's worst since its struggles in Boston during the Great Depression. Nixon was unable to right the ship in 1989 and 1990, seasons in which the Braves lost 97 games each despite breaking in talented young pitchers such as Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery. On June 22, 1990, Cox fired Nixon and began his second stint as Braves field manager. Cox immediately reversed Nixon's disastrous effect on the Braves' performance and attendance. While the Braves finished last again in 1990, they rebounded all the way to first place in Cox's first full season—the first of 14 straight division titles.
Although Nixon's final Major League managing record was a poor 231–347 (.400), he remained in the game as a minor-league manager and instructor, except for 1992, when he returned to the American League to spend one year as a coach for the Seattle Mariners. At age 70, he spent the 2005 season as manager of the Greeneville Astros, rookie-level Appalachian League affiliate of the Houston Astros, and spent 2006–07 as a roving instructor in the Houston farm system.