Inside Pitch

Oct. 19, 1949: White Sox acquire future Hall of Famer Nellie Fox from the A's


By CHRIS DUFFY

October 17, 2011


COOPERSTOWN, NY- Baseball trades can impact franchises greatly. Even acquiring just one player can quickly reverse the fortunes of any team.

The Chicago White Sox experienced a renaissance after acquiring second baseman Nellie Fox from the Philadelphia Athletics 62 years ago this week. After six straight losing seasons to close out the 1940s, Chicago's destiny changed with the arrival of Fox.

Nellie Fox was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Born on Christmas Day 1927 in St. Thomas, Pa., Jacob Nelson Fox debuted with the A's on June 8, 1947. Batting just .247 in 98 games over three seasons, Fox was shipped to Chicago for catcher Joe Tipton on Oct. 19, 1949.

The deal's consequences were extraordinary. In the same decade that Elvis rocked the jailhouse, "Nellie" became a perennial All-Star and drove the White Sox into a new era of prosperity.

Despite his small size, Fox was a potent offensive threat. His first big year was 1951, when he batted .313 with 189 hits in 147 games. From 1951 through 1960, he led the American League in hits four times and had at least 175 hits each season. In 1959, Fox became the first White Sox player to win the MVP Award while posting a .306 batting average, 70 RBIs, 34 doubles and 191 hits.

With Fox at second base from 1950 to 1963, Chicago finished at least eight games over .500 for 13 seasons in a row. In an era dominated by the New York Yankees, the White Sox finally captured the AL pennant in 1959 and met the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

Fox hit .375 in the Fall Classic and was a key part of the "Go-Go" White Sox attack. In Game 5, he scored the only run, leading the White Sox to a 1-0 victory. Despite Chicago's best efforts, the Dodgers won the series 4-games-to-2.

On Dec. 10, 1963, Fox was traded to the Houston Colt .45's, where he played two more years before retiring in 1965.

In 19 seasons, Fox amassed a .288 batting average, 2,663 hits, 12 All-Star seasons, three Gold Glove Awards and a stellar .984 fielding percentage.

He was also known for his low strikeout totals. He never struck out more than 18 times in a season. In his career, he whiffed only 216 times – seven fewer than the current single season record.

In 1975, Fox died at the age of 47 from skin cancer. Dozens of posthumous tributes were given by fans and players alike. In a letter to Fox's wife Joanne, Robin Roberts wrote "Nellie wasn't Babe Ruth but Babe Ruth wasn't Nellie either. In their own way, they both were a big part of Baseball."

After missing Hall of Fame election by two votes in his final year on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot in 1985, Fox was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1997.

Fox's wife delivered a moving induction speech, paying tribute to her late husband and his love for the game. As she put it, "He played the game with all his heart, all his passion and with every ounce of his being."

Chris Duffy was a public programming intern in the Class of 2011 Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program

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