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Russ Nixon

Russ Nixon

Russell Eugene Nixon (born February 19 1935 in Cleves, Ohio) is a former catcher, coach and manager in American Major League Baseball. A veteran of a half-century in professional baseball, Nixon has 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.

Nixon was a left-handed hitting catcher in his playing days with the Cleveland 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.

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, from 1979 on.

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. The team lost 101 games, and won only 27 of the 70 contests Nixon managed. 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.

Despite the progress made by new general manager Bobby Cox in rebuilding their farm system, at the NL level Atlanta was in free fall, and by 1988, Tanner could not rouse them from their doldrums. When the Braves dropped 27 of their first 39 games, Nixon was recalled from Greenville to succeed Tanner May 23, but the team continued to lose. The 1988 Braves finished 54-106, the team's worst season since its struggles in Boston during the Great Depression. In 1989 and 1990, they continued to flounder, losing 97 games each season despite breaking in talented young pitchers such as Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery. On June 22, 1990, Nixon was finally fired and Cox, a former Atlanta manager, came down from the front office to succeed him. Although Nixon's final major league managing record was a poor 231-347 (.400), he has remained in the game since as a minor-league manager and instructor. 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.

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