by Jim Riggs
March 3, 1997
City's "Adopted Son" Selected For Baseball Hall Of Fame
The history of professional baseball in Jamestown reached a milestone Wednesday with the election of Nellie Fox, a former member of the Jamestown Falcons, to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Fox, former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and Negro League shortstop Willie Wells, Sr. were selected by the Hall's Veteran's Committee.
The trio will be inducted on August 3rd, along with knuckleball pitcher Phil Niekro, who was selected in January by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Making it to the Hall was a long haul for Fox, who played for the Falcons during the 1944 PONY League season.
Twice before he missed induction by narrow margins.
Fox, who died of cancer in 1975 at age 47, missed election in 1985 by two votes. Last year he narrowly missed again.
Fox received the required 75 percent of the vote, but was named on one ballot less than pitcher Jim Bunning. The Veterans' Committee rules state that only one former major leaguer can be selected each year, so Fox was denied one more time.
Fox's career batting average was .288 and he batted over .300 six times. He was a 12-time All-Star during his 19-year career. He spent 14 of those years with the Chicago White Sox.
The highlight of Fox's career came in 1959 when he helped lead the White Sox to their first pennant in 40 years and he was named the American League Most Valuable Player.
Fox played 798 straight games at second base, which is still a record. He struck out only 216 times in 9,232 at bats for a percentage of .023, third best in modern baseball history.
"Fox is well deserving," said Lyle Parkhurst this morning. "If anyone should have been there, he should have been there, and now he is."
Parkhurst, a Jamestown native, was a pitcher on the 1944 Falcons and he said he knew then that Fox would be a success.
"He was a good ballplayer mentally, as well as off the field, and that means a lot," Parkhurst said. "He was good, down-to-earth ballplayer."
And also versatile.
"He played everywhere but pitcher and catcher," Parkhurst pointed out. "When they needed someone to fill in, he could fill."
Fox played centerfield for the '44 Falcons and Parkhurst was happy to see him out there.
"There were plenty of times I plastered him against the centerfield wall," the former pitcher said with a laugh.
With Fox hitting .304 and Parkhurst winning 20 games that season, Jamestown, a Detroit Tigers farm club, finished runner-up in the PONY League, but won the Governor's Cup playoffs.
The next season Parkhurst went up to Buffalo for the International League and Fox went to Lancaster of the Inter-State League, but they still met during the off-season. Parkhurst recalled Fox and his wife, Joanne, coming up from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania to visit him and his wife.
Their paths crossed again in professional baseball in 1948 in the Western League when they were opponents. Fox played for Lincoln, Nebraska and Parkhurst for Pueblo, Colorado.
As were many others, Parkhurst was always puzzled why Fox was not in the Hall of Fame.
"I never understood why Luis Aparicio made it into the Hall, but Fox never did, because he was the other half of that White Sox double play," he said.
The last time they met was when Fox was a speaker at a dinner here years ago.
In 1989 a group of Chicago area lawyers, doctors, clergymen and baseball fans from just about every other occupation imaginable, formed the Nellie Fox Society. The group expanded to over 400 members with the sole purpose of getting Fox inducted into the Hall of Fame.
"These guys are serious," Peterson said.
Peterson read about the group in the ABA Journal in 1990 and because Fox played here, he and Diethrick joined.
"We are now referred to as the Jamestown Chapter of the Nellie Fox Society," he said with a smile. Diethrick was a supporter of Fox's induction because, "Not only was he a great ballplayer, but he also had some local connections that kept it in your mind every day. He was sort of a favorite adopted son."
So, Diethrick and Peterson began digging through their files and they submitted clippings, photos and even a video about Fox's playing days in Jamestown, which the Nellie Fox Society forwarded to members of the Veteran's Committee.
"We just sent them stuff we had that would bolster the rationale that he should be in the Hall of Fame," Diethrick said.
Peterson pointed out, "We were even asked to call members of the Veteran's Committee."
The members he placed calls to were former major league manager Birdie Tebbets and radio announcer Red Barber.
On Wednesday, Peterson and Diethrick joined the other society members in celebrating Fox's induction.
So what does the Nellie Fox Society turn its attention to now?
"Their next focus is Billy Pierce," Peterson said referring to the former White Sox pitcher the group believes belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Pierce played with Fox and had back-to-back 20 wins seasons in the 1950s.
"I think he has the numbers," Diethrick said.
Fox leads the roster of former Jamestown players who have moved to the major leagues. Many are playing today. They range from Florida Marlins manager Jim Leyland, who played for the Jamestown Tigers in 1965, to current major leaguers such as Marquis Grissom, Andres Galarraga and Randy Johnson, who played for the Jamestown Expos.
Now area baseball fans are awaiting the first Jamestown Jammer, possibly Bubba Trammell, to make it to the big leagues with Detroit.
The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.