Year Inducted: 1997 (Veterans Committee)
The city of Chicago certainly has had luck with double play tandems and the Hall of Fame, haven’t they? Not only was a poem written about them, but the Cubs’ Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers both received the call for the Hall of Fame in the same year (along with first baseman Frank Chance), despite all 3 possibly not being the best choices for induction. Likewise, on the other side of the city and 50 years later, the Chisox had their own double play tandem that would eventually be inducted. At the keystone position was today’s entry, Nellie Fox.
Fox quietly had a very solid career. He hit .288/.348/.363 for a wRC+ of 96 in a career spanning 19 seasons. Fox collected over 2600 hits in the Show, including 355 doubles and 112 triples. It doesn’t seem like much, does it? But, it’s important to keep in mind that the average second baseman in his career hit .258/.325/.357, a line that Fox was significantly ahead of. He also scored almost 300 more runs than the average second baseman did, and collected almost 700 more hits than the typical second baseman. Offensively, he was ahead of the curve.
But, like most second basemen, he was looked at more for his glove than his bat. With the glove, he was excellent. Fox was worth almost 179 runs defensively in his career. At the time of his retirement, only 3 people had more defensive runs than he did at second base, and they all are Hall of Famers themselves.
Fox serves as a good comparison to Bill Mazeroski, another great fielding second baseman in the Hall of Fame. The reason that Fox ranks higher than Maz mostly comes down to their offenses. Fox was a much closer to league average hitter than Mazeroski was, and it helped him to be a much more valuable player as well.
Sometimes it can seem like baseball fans over-glorify the “scrappy middle infielder”. For reference, see David Eckstein. To a degree, fans have more recently become jaded about how valuable a truly gifted fielder at a difficult position can sometimes be, even if he isn’t an entirely league average hitter. Fox was a great player, and an important part of the White Sox for many years. He definitely is a good fit in the Hall of Fame.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 9/15/16, we go back out to Philly to examine this center fielder’s candidacy.