White Sox: The Mount Rushmore of second basemen

Phil Watson
Nellie Fox of the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images)
Nellie Fox of the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images) /
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Mount Rushmore of White Sox second basemen: Nellie Fox

Nellie Fox wasn’t a power-hitting behemoth. In 19 years in the majors, Fox hit only 35 home runs. He wasn’t blessed with blazing speed — he stole 76 bases and was caught more often than he succeeded.

But Nellie Fox was a great ballplayer, the backbone of the Chicago White Sox 1959 AL pennant winners and eventually a Hall of Famer. Fox was American League MVP in 1959, when he led all of baseball with 717 plate appearances, a category he led the AL in five straight seasons from 1956-60.

In the 1959 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Fox hit .375.

He also led the AL in hits four times — 1952, 1954, 1957 and 1958 — and topped the circuit with 10 triples in 1960. Fox was selected to 15 All-Star Games in his 14 years with the White Sox (twice each from 1959-61), won three Gold Gloves and finished fourth in the MVP race in 1957.

Chicago got Fox in a straight-up trade with the Philadelphia Athletics for catcher Joe Tipton in October 1949, claimed the starting second base job in early June 1950 and kept it for more than a decade.

Philadelphia had signed Fox at spring training in 1944, when his father drove him to the Athletics’ camp in Frederick, Maryland, and he had a successful tryout for the club at age 16.

In December 1963, the White Sox traded Fox to the Houston Colt .45s in a three-player deal. He retired as a player after being released by Houston, by then known as the Astros, in July 1965.

He stayed with the club as a coach through the 1967 season before joining the Washington Senators coaching staff in 1968 and remaining with the club through its move to Texas to become the Rangers. Despite being recommended by Ted Williams, who was retiring after the 1972 season, Fox lost out to Whitey Herzog for the manager’s job in Texas and retired from baseball.

With the White Sox, Fox hit .291 with a .717 OPS over 14 seasons, 2,115 games and 9,493 plate appearances. He cracked 335 doubles and 104 triples with 740 RBI and 1,187 runs scored.

He died from cancer in December 1975 at the age of 47 and was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1997.

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