baseball

Nellie Fox

Nellie Fox

The late Jacob Nelson Fox, who was better known as Nellie Fox, is the only former Jamestown professional player ever to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and now to the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.

After several years of being a strong candidate for the Baseball Hall of Fame, Fox was finally chosen on March 5, 1997 for his outstanding 19-year career as a second baseman with the Chicago White Sox, the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Athletics.

During that span, with most of the time spent with the White Sox, Fox batted at a .288 clip in 2,367 games with 2,663 hits, 355 doubles, 112 triples, 35 home runs and 790 RBIs.

Fox scored 1,279 runs and was a top-notch fielder with a .984 percentage, including 6,102 putouts, 6,385 assists and only 209 errors.

Of course, the greatest achievement by Fox is that while with the White Sox for 14 years he set a major league record with 11 seasons of having the fewest strikeouts.

He once went 98 games without striking out with that string ended by New York Yankees Hall-of-Famer Whitey Ford in 1958.

The totals are incredible considering the strikeout totals of the current major leaguers. He led with 11 strikeouts in 1951, 14 in 1952, 12 in 1954, 15 in 1955, 14 in 1956, 13 in 1957, 11 in 1958, 13 each in 1959 and 1960, plus 12 apiece in 1961 and 1962.


Nellie Fox, 1944

courtesy of the Post-Journal

Fox was the third son born to Jacob and Mae Fox on Christmas Day 1927 in St. Thomas, Pennsylvania, near Chambersburg. He was a very hefty 11 pounds at birth and on that day it is believed his Dad went out and bought him his first baseball glove. Fox started playing with a ball even before he could walk and at 6 was the bat boy and mascot for the St. Thomas town team of which his dad was a member.

When he was only 10, Fox persuaded the manager to let him pinch hit against one of the top pitchers in the area and he stunned everybody by hitting a single over a drawn-in infield. This was the start of his baseball career.

By the age of 13, Fox was playing on the St. Thomas High School squad that was running up football-like scores and saw action at second base and centerfield.

At 16, he went to a tryout camp in Frederick, Maryland, and was signed to a professional contract by legendary Hall of Famer Connie Mack, the manager and owner of the Philadelphia Athletics.

On May 3, 1944, he made his debut for the Lancaster Red Roses in the Class B League and recorded a single in three plate appearances at Wilmington, Delaware. Fox played first base for the most part, although he did perform in the outfield at times. He batted .325 in 24 games with six doubles among his 25 hits.

However, Fox was a player without a position as being only 5-foot 4 meant he wasn't a first baseman. So, it was decided that he needed to play all the time and he was sent to Jamestown of the New York-Penn League.

He joined the Falcons in the midst of a pennant race that eventually saw Lockport win out. Manager Ollie Carnegie decided with his speed that he would be a good lead off man and centerfielder.

Over those 56 games, Fox came through with a .304 batting average with 70 hits, 40 runs, 11 doubles and 18 RBIs. He made only three errors and had 114 putouts and three assists.

Fox became a teammate of another Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame pitcher, Lyle Parkhurst, and that duo helped lead the Falcons to the playoff championship over Lockport.

In the post season, Fox overall batted .333 on 10-of-30 and hit .389 on 7-of-18 against Lockport in the final series.

Fox went back to Lancaster in 1945 and became a full-time second baseman where he hit .314 with 180 hits, 128 runs scored with 19 triples and 19 doubles.

After being in military service in 1946, Fox returned to Lancaster with a .281 average in 1947. That same year, he made his major league debut with the Athletics against Cleveland Indians ace Bob Feller and grounded out while pinch-hitting.

Fox played most of 1948 at Lincoln, Nebraska, and batted .311, then, was called up to the Athletics again and had his first major league hit, a single, off Dick Weik of Washington.

After batting .255 in his first full year with the Athletics, Fox was traded in the off-season to the Chicago White Sox for catcher Joe Tipton.

There, he began a star-studded career that included the Most Valuable Player in 1959 when he led the White Sox to the American League pennant.

That same year, he was named The Sporting News Player of the Year after hitting .306 with 34 doubles, six triples and two home runs while driving in a career-high 70 runs.

Nellie Fox died in 1975. He was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.


video courtesy Greg Peterson

video courtesy Greg Peterson

 

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