Fox in about 1953
December 25, 1927|
St. Thomas Township, Pennsylvania
|Died: December 1, 1975
|Batted: Left||Threw: Right|
|June 8, 1947 for the Philadelphia Athletics|
|Last MLB appearance|
|July 24, 1965 for the Houston Astros|
|Runs batted in||790|
|Career highlights and awards|
Jacob Nelson "Nellie" Fox (December 25, 1927 – December 1, 1975) was an American professional baseball player. He played in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a second baseman on three teams, primarily the Chicago White Sox, from 1947 through 1965. He was the American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1959 and was an American League All-Star for 12 seasons (15 games). Fox was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.1
He began his career with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1947, though he was never a full-time starter during his three seasons with the team. Fox was a member of the 1949 Philadelphia Athletics team that set a major league team record of 217 double plays, a record which still stood as of 2012.3 He appeared in 77 games that season and contributed to 68 of the team's double plays.4
Traded to the White Sox October 29, 1949 for Joe Tipton, Fox's career took off. He spent 14 seasons with Chicago, making 10 All-Star teams. With the White Sox, Fox played next to a pair of slick-fielding Venezuelan shortstops, Chico Carrasquel (1950–55) and Luis Aparicio (1956–62). Fox won Gold Gloves in 1957, 1959 and 1960. He was baseball's first Gold Glove winner at second base. Between August 1956 and September 1960, Fox played a major league record 798 consecutive games at second base. In 1959 and 1960, the Aparicio-Fox middle infield duo each won the Gold Glove Award for their respective position, starting a select list of eight shortstop-second baseman combinations who have won the honor in the same season.
Fox's best season came in 1959, when the White Sox won their first pennant in 40 years. He batted .306, had an on base percentage of .380 and won his second Gold Glove. The Al Lopez-managed White Sox had the best record in baseball, going 94-60 to finish five games ahead of the Cleveland Indians and a surprising 15 ahead of the New York Yankees. It was one of just two seasons the Yankees did not win the pennant between 1949-1964.
In the World Series, Fox batted a team-high .375 with three doubles, but the Sox lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games. In Game 5 Fox scored the only run when Sherm Lollar hit into a double play in the fourth inning. (This was only the second time that a World Series game did not have an RBI.) It was Fox's only postseason experience, and the White Sox did not make it back to the World Series until they swept the 2005 World Series from the Houston Astros.
Fox played his final two seasons (1964–65) with the Houston Colt .45s and Astros.
Only 5-foot-9, he made up for his modest size and minimal power — he hit only 35 home runs in his career, and never more than six in a single season — with his good batting eye, excellent fielding, and baserunning speed. Fox was perennially one of the toughest batters to strike out, fanning just 216 times in his career, an average of once every 42.7 at-bats which ranks him 3rd all-time. He led the league in most at-bats per strikeouts a phenomenal 13 times in his career. A solid contact hitter (lifetime .288 batting average), he batted over .300 six times, with 2,663 hits, 355 doubles, and 112 triples. He also led the league in singles for seven straight years, in triples once, and in hits four times.
|Nellie Fox's number 2 was retired by the Chicago White Sox in 1976.|
After his playing career, Fox was a coach for the Astros (1965–67) and the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers (1968–72). After retiring from baseball, Fox lived in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and ran Nellie Fox Bowl. Fox died of skin cancer in Baltimore, Maryland on December 1, 1975. The cancer had been diagnosed in 1973.2 He had entered University Hospital in mid-October 1975 and the cancer was said to be widespread.5
After his death, former Washington manager Jim Lemon said that the cancer "had to be incurable - because if it wasn't, Nellie would have beat it."5 Former White Sox manager Al Lopez described how Fox had found success through hard work rather than natural ability: "He wasn't fast and didn't have an arm, but he worked hard to develop what he needed to make himself a good all-around ballplayer. If you had eight Nellie Foxes, all with his spirit and determination, I think you'd have a winning team."5 On May 1, 1976, his uniform number 2 was retired by the White Sox.
He was not selected to the Hall of Fame in his initial period of eligibility. In his final ballot cast by baseball writers (1985), he gained 74.7 percent of the vote, just shy of the 75 percent required for election by the Baseball Writers Association of America. However, in 1997, the Veterans Committee elected him. He had the required 75% of the committee's vote the year before, but the committee could only vote in one former MLB player and Jim Bunning received a higher percentage of votes that year.6 Prior to his Hall of Fame election, a group of fans formed the Nellie Fox Society to promote his case for induction. The group grew to as many as 600 members, including Richard M. Daley, James R. Thompson, George Will and several former MLB players.7
Bronze statues of Fox and Aparicio were unveiled on the outfield concourse of U.S. Cellular Field in 2006. Fox's statue depicts him flipping a baseball toward Aparicio, while Aparicio is depicted as preparing to receive the ball from Fox.
- List of major league players with 2,000 hits
- List of Major League Baseball players with 100 triples
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 runs
- List of Major League Baseball triples champions
- MLB consecutive games played streaks
- Chicago White Sox all-time roster
- "Nellie Fox at The Baseball Hall of Fame". baseballhall.org. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
- McLanahan, Bruce. "Fox, Jacob Nelson (Nellie)". Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
- "A Record with Legs: Most Double Plays Turned in a Season". philadelphiaathletics.org. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
- Macht, Norman (December 1989). "Old A's Were Masters of the Double Play". Baseball Digest (Books.Google.com). Retrieved 24 April 2011.
- "Nellie Fox dies from skin cancer". The Gadsden Times. December 2, 1975. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
- Parasiliti, Bob (March 5, 1997). "Nellie Fox voted into Hall of Fame". The Herald-Mail. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
- Mandernach, Mark (December 9, 1996). "Cooperstown or Bust". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
- Nellie Fox at the Baseball Hall of Fame
- Nellie Fox at Find a Grave
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Baseball Library
- Nellie Fox at the SABR Bio Project, by Robert W. Bigelow and Don Zminda, retrieved July 11, 2013, which originally appeared in the book Go-Go To Glory--The 1959 Chicago White Sox (Skokie, IL: ACTA Publishing, 2009), edited by Don Zminda.