Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 10, 1959: Nellie Fox Breaks Out The Big Stick On Opening Day

     On April 10, 1959, on Opening Day in Detroit, White Sox second baseman and future Hall of Famer Nellie Fox began his MVP season by going 5 for 7 which included a game winning home run in the 14th inning to give Chicago a 9-7 victory over the Tigers.

     More than 38,000 fans packed Briggs Stadium in hopes of seeing their hometown boys bring home a winner. They were witnessing a seesaw battle that had the score knotted at 4 until the seventh inning, when one of the Tigers newest additions Larry Doby dropped a line drive with the bases loaded that allowed all three runners to score. Chicago was up 7-4 until the bottom of the eighth when Charlie Maxwell, who had lost in spot in left field to Doby came up big with a pinch hit three-run shot to tie it back up.

     As the battled entered extra frames the Tigers had several opportunities to win the ballgame. Their best shot at victory came in the bottom of the 10th when they loaded the bases with no outs. The White Sox pitcher Gerry Staley picked up an out on a fielders choice at the plate, then induced third baseman Eddie Yost into an inning ending double play. And the beat goes on.

     The two teams went back and forth failing to score a run until that 14th inning rolled around. Don Mossi was on the bump for the Tigers and retired the first two batters he faced in quick succession, before Sammy Esposito lined a single into left. Esposito was only in the game after being called on to pinch-run in the eighth. Then came the hero of the day Nellie Fox who pounced on the second offering by Mossi and knocked it over the wall in right. The Sox still had work to do in the bottom of the inning, and they called on Ray Moore to get the job done. After issuing a leadoff walk, Moore set the next three men down to secure the White Six victory.
   
     The Opening Day heroics by Fox were something that had to be unexpected to say the least. He had come to the plate 623 times in '58 without connecting on a big fly, then in his seventh at bat of the '59 season he put a charge into it that led to victory. The beginning of that season marked an MVP campaign with Fox and the Sox in  the World Series. While he only hit 35 bombs in his career, Fox was considered to be one of the best defensive players in the game. He took home the first ever Gold Glove Award at the second base position which was something he would do two more times that included the MVP campaign in '59.  Over the course of 19 seasons Fox picked up 2,663 hits. During that time he led the American League in hits four times, had the fewest strikeouts 10 times. My favorite number when it comes to his resume is in 9,232 trips to the plate he only stuck out 216 times. Unfortunately, Fox didn't see the day was enshrined, however, he will live forever as a member of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Check out the box score: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/DET/DET195904100.shtml
Fox's career numbers: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/f/foxne01.shtml
And last but not least, if you would like to know more about the life and career of Nellie Fox you can read about it here: http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/46572ecd

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