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WSI News - Season Features

August, 2000.  The authors of the new biography on Nellie Fox put some perspective on the 2000 championship race with memories of the Sox great.  

EXCLUSIVE to White Sox Interactive

Little Nel:  The Nellie Fox Story

by David Gough & Jim Bard

Authors of the new book of the same name, about the greatest of the Go-Go Sox, Nellie Fox.

 Nellie Fox, were he still alive, might speak of the long and winding road to Cooperstown.  After more than a quarter-century of detours and wrong turns, the premiere second baseman of the '50s finally received his just reward on August 3, 1997 when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  His selection rectified a baseball grievance that had been permitted to survive far too long.  No one had received more votes than Fox gotten from the voters and still not been allowed to enter the hallowed shrine...first by the baseball writers and later by the veterans committee.  When his selection was at last secured, newspapers in both his hometown and Chicago carried the one-word headline: "FINALLY."

Signed by Connie Mack for his Philadelphia A's as a sixteen-year-old in 1944, Fox made an immediate impact in every minor league city in which he played.  He made his major league debut on June 8, 1947 against Bob Feller in Cleveland's cavernous Municipal Stadium.  After only one full season in an A's uniform, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for catcher Joe Tipton in one of the most lopsided deals in baseball history.  On the south side of the Windy City, Fox blossomed into a perennial All-Star under the tutelage of Paul Richards, whom he later called "the most influential man in my development as a big leaguer." 
Known for the huge wad of chewing tobacco in his left cheek, a bright red bandanna that he often pulled from his back pocket, his ceaseless stream of infield chatter, his nonstop hustle and a relentless determination to win, he hit at or near .300 for ten straight seasons and was the winner of three gold gloves.
The pinnacle of his career came in 1959 when he led the White Sox to its first American League pennant in forty years and was selected as the American League's Most Valuable Player.  Although manager Al Lopez openly praised the man who more than anyone else epitomized the "Go Go" era of the White Sox, as a member of the Veterans Committee he was later suspected of subverting Fox's posthumous bid of finding a place in Cooperstown.  But just as opposing pitchers couldn't strike him out (he fanned only 216 times in more than nine thousand major league at bats), neither could the Hall of Fame.
Fox coached in Houston, Washington and Texas before leaving the game in 1973.  Cancer prevented him from enjoying much of a retirement.  He spent the last several weeks of his life in a Baltimore hospital before passing away on December 1, 1975, three weeks before his 48th birthday.
The role model of smallish, talent-challenged young boys who had dreams of playing in the big leagues, Nellie himself overcame all manner of adversity to become one of the game's most beloved and recognized players.  He never sought the spotlight, but responded in All-Star fashion when it shined upon him.  To most he was baseball's "mighty mite;" but to those who knew him best he was just a loyal friend and devoted family man.  In both roles he never quit until the final out.  Just as the hanging of his plaque in baseball's hallowed hall was long overdue, so has been the telling of his story.
David Gough and Jim Bard


You can learn more about Nellie Fox visiting David and Jim's website, Little Nel:  The Nellie Fox Story.


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