Birthday Boy: Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx
PLUS: GRADING THE 2022 ATLANTA BRAVES
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Did you know…
Cleveland manager Terry Francona, who suffered foot problems that sidelined him for parts of two recent seasons, rides a scooter between the downtown ballpark and his Fourth Street home . . .
The Mets face the possible loss of seven veteran free agents, including centerfielder Brandon Nimmo, closer Edwin Diaz, starters Jacob deGrom and Chris Bassitt, and relievers Adam Ottavino, Seth Lugo, and Trevor May . . .
The New York Yankees led majors with 254 home runs, ranked second with 807 runs scored, placed third in earned run average at 3.30, and had the majors’ strikeout king in Gerrit Cole (257) . . .
Missing Tim Anderson (finger) and Michael Kopech (shoulder) hurt the Chicago White Sox but Dylan Cease had the second-best ERA by a ChiSox pitcher in his first 31 games since 1920, trailing only Wilbur Wood’s 1971 showing . . .
The other Sox, in Boston, continued to suffer from a bad sale as veteran southpaw Chris Sale spent most of the year sidelined and has now made 11 starts since 2019 . . .
More money wasted: Jose Berrios, signed by the Blue Jays to bolster their pitching staff, gave up more earned runs than any AL pitcher.
On this day…in 1907
By W.H. Johnson
His life story and his role in baseball’s history are as quickly recognized as much for the spelling of his surname.
Called “Double X” or “The Beast,” the nicknames and stories surrounding Jimmie Foxx and his legacy are legion. Born today, October 22, 115 years ago, his fame is secured, even as we collectively begin to forget all the real reasons for that measure of immortality.
Standing just under 6 feet tall, Foxx was a superb athlete with exceptional speed and farm-boy strength.
He joined Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics for good in 1927, at age 19, and proved an integral part of the team’s World Series streak (1929-1931, winning back-to-back in ’29 and ’30).
At age 24, the first baseman led the American League in 1932 with 151 runs scored, thanks to 58 homers and 169 RBI, and slugged a prodigious .749 (giving him an OPS+ of 207, better than twice the league’s average).
The next year, Foxx won the AL Triple Crown (.356/48/163). He wrapped up his major- league career in 1945 with totals of 534 home runs, 1,922 runs batted in, and a batting average of .325.
In 1938, perhaps his greatest overall season, Foxx hit .349 and drove in 175 runs — still the fourth-highest total in the history of the sport.
Baseball-reference.com lists Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, and Albert Pujols as the most similar batters.
His collection of two batting crowns, nine All-Star appearances, three MVP awards, and two World Series rings underscore just how magnificent a player he was. Still, there was more to Foxx than mere offensive excellence.
He was no prima donna, and both the press corps and the players around the league loved him.
The writers were the ones that dubbed him with the aforementioned nicknames. They were the ones that made a point of describing his impressive musculature, often noting that he wouldn’t wear sleeved uniform shirts so as to display his biceps to the opposing pitchers, and to the world (a fashion choice later mimicked by the Reds’ Ted Kluszewski, and echoed today by weight-lifting sluggers at every level).
Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Gomez said that “even his hair has muscles,” a line the writers were eager to quote when discussing Foxx.
Those same writers were also the ones who overlooked increasing bouts of excessive drinking in the latter years of his career, protecting their friend and his reputation as he tried to cope with – literally - the dizzying effects of an array of chronic pains.
His peers loved him too.
Hal Trosky was quick to credit Foxx with mentorship and friendship over their American League time.
Foxx played for the Red Sox in 1939 and mentored a young rookie outfielder named Ted Williams. Throughout his life, Williams had nothing but enthusiastic admiration for Foxx, and spoke warmly about the player and the man whenever the subject arose.
There were few, if any, who did not appreciate the big man.
In 1994, catcher Rick Ferrell (also in the Hall of Fame) told a story about a 1934 game.
Foxx, he said, came to the plate twice and Ferrell just chatted away at the first baseman, the distraction resulting in two fly-outs.
The third time Foxx came up, with Ferrell still yammering away, Double-X called time and warned the catcher to ‘shut up.’
“Sure, Jimmie,” Ferrell said, “didn’t realize you were in such a bad mood. Everything OK at home?”
Foxx evidently snorted a laugh, and then laced a single to center field. Of course, Ferrell started the banter as soon as Foxx came up for the fourth time.
“He was a truly good man,” Ferrell remembered.
Jimmie Foxx hit his 500th home run at the age of 32 but recorded only 34 over the next five years until his retirement in 1945.
Given the relative brevity of his fabulously-productive baseball career, it is easy to overlook his extraordinary accomplishments, video-game numbers so fantastic that they seem like they could have only been achieved with a cheat code. But they were real. And they were, to paraphrase Seinfeld, spectacular.
After retiring from the life of a big-league player, and remarrying after a painful divorce, Foxx lingered at the edges of baseball for the rest of his life.
He tried minor-league managing for a couple of seasons, and in 1952 managed the Fort Wayne Daisies of the AAGBPL for a year, but nothing ever stuck.
He drove trucks, distributed beer, sold cars, and even worked with troubled youth for a time. By 1957, he was broke, and finally got a job as a hitting instructor with the Red Sox’ AAA Minneapolis Millers.
By 1959, though, alcohol had dissipated Foxx’s verve and vigor, and he soldiered on until his sudden death in 1967.
It was, perhaps, that quiet and ignominious end of his life that has allowed the public memory to begin to forget the great baseball player who was Jimmie Foxx.
He hit more home runs than anyone during the 1930s and in his time was the youngest ever to reach the 100-, 200-, 300-, 400-, and 500-home run plateaus.
He was truly a phenomenal player by the standards of any era.
As an example, comparing the output of Foxx and Mike Trout from ages 23-28, Foxx wins in every batting category. Foxx played in 135 more games over the span but batted 35 points higher and outslugged the Angel .659-.605. None of this is to, even slightly, denigrate Trout, but instead to highlight Foxx’s enormous talent for the game.
It is Jimmie’s birthday today. He is long gone now but perhaps take a moment and think about his life and his contributions to baseball. That way, his legacy will remain alive and well.
IBWAA member W.H. “Bill” Johnson has contributed to SABR’s Biography Project, written extensively on baseball history, and presented papers at related conferences. Bill and his wife Chris currently reside in Georgia. E.mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grading the 2022 Atlanta Braves
By Dan Schlossberg
The new playoff systems that provides “byes” to the four teams with the best records was no godsend to the Braves, Dodgers, or Yankees. Only the Houston Astros advanced to the Championship Series (for the sixth straight season).
Atlanta appeared rusty rather than rested. Starting pitchers Max Fried, Charlie Morton, and Spencer Strider were patsies for Philadelphia hitters and the hitters failed to provide much support.
Losing three out of four to a team that finished third, 14 games off Atlanta’s 101-win pace during the regular season, left a sour taste that will linger well into the winter.
It also created questions that general manager Alex Anthopoulos must answer before calling the troops to spring training in North Port (or perhaps another destination less ravaged by Hurricane Ian).
As a Braves fan since 1957 and a professional baseball writer since 1969, here’s how I would grade the team as it prepares for free agent and trading season:
Kyle Wright (A+) — Only player who was great from the start, becoming Atlanta’s first 20-game winner since 2003.
Travis d’Arnaud (A) — Durable catcher who stayed healthy and hit when others quit.
Manager Brian Snitker (A) — Won career-best 101 games despite major injury wave.
Raisel Iglesias (A-) — Former closer was terrific set-up man until last playoff game.
Max Fried (A-) — Strong season but failed in the one game that counted most.
A.J. Minter (A-) — Durable southpaw set-up specialist was one of NL’s best.
GM Alex Anthopoulos (A-) — Jake Odorizzi was worthless, Robbie Grossman not much better, but Raisel Iglesias and Matt Olson swaps were gems, as were contract extensions of Austin Riley, Michael Harris II, Spencer Strider, and Olson.
Dansby Swanson (B+) — Powered critical Mets series but disappeared in playoffs.
Matt Olson (B+) — Strong start and finish for RBI bat but serious September slump.
Austin Riley greets writer Dan Schlossberg at the 2022 All-Star Game in Los Angeles.
Austin Riley (B) — Ice cold when All-Star performance stopped after Labor Day.
Michael Harris II (B) — Fleet Rookie of the Year contender also slumped at the end.
William Contreras (B) — All-Star in first full season, improved defensively, and surprised with 20 home runs.
Kenley Jansen (B) — Led NL in both saves (41) and blown saves (7) but finished strong.
Collin McHugh (B) — Atlanta native proved to be decent set-up guy.
Jesse Chavez (C+) — Strike-throwing reliever was oldest man on the roster at 39.
Ronald Acuña, Jr. (C) — Plagued by knee pain, he started late, missed time with assorted injuries, struck out often, and power was strangely absent (15 homers).
Orlando Arcia (C) — Solid utilityman who did best work in playoffs.
Dylan Lee (C) — Had his moments as lefty reliever.
Marcell Ozuna (C) — Despite sporadic use, platoon outfielder contributed 20+ homers.
Eddie Rosario (C-) — Never found NLCS MVP form of 2021 after early eye surgery.
Vaughn Grissom (C-) — Lost second base job after hot start.
Charlie Morton (D) — Bad year, bad finish at 38 but got new $20 million pact. Why?
Robbie Grossman (D) — Switch-hitter who couldn’t hit from either side.
Jake Odorizzi (F) — Braves would be crazy to bring this failed starter back.
Guillermo Heredia (F) — Just cheerleader and defensive replacement in outfield.
Ozzie Albies (I) — Fractured foot, then broke pinky with foolish head-first slide.
Adam Duvall (I) — Braves missed his power and left-field D after he broke wrist.
Darren O’Day (I) — Sidearm reliever spent more time on IL than varsity roster.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is covering the baseball postseason for forbes.com. He also writes for Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Memories & Dreams, and other outlets. E.mail him at email@example.com.
“He’s put himself in a good position. Good for him. And good for us. He helped us to bang the win column 99 times.”
— Yankees general manager Brian Cashman on MVP favorite Aaron Judge
Houston ace Justin Verlander had a miraculous season at age 39, going 17-4 with a 1.80 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and the lowest opponent OPS by nearly 50 points. He went at least 6 innings in more than 81.5 per cent of his starts. Although a calf injury killed his shot at 20 wins, he’s virtually certain to win his third Cy Young, making him the 11th man with at least three and, with Roger Clemens, the only pitchers to win the award 11 seasons apart and the fourth to win at 39 or older (also Clemens, Gaylord Perry, and Early Wynn).
The underpaid, over-achieving Guardians were a closely guarded secret, with 17 players making their major-league debut. The youngest team in playoffs since 1986 Mets, they struck out less than any team in AL and swiped 114 bases, second in league. They also tied for second with 66 runs saved.
The surprise NLDS elimination of the Atlanta Braves leaves the 1975-76 Reds as the only NL team to repeat as world champs in 100 years (since JohnMcGraw’s New York Giants of 1921-22).
Paul Goldschmidt, the National League MVP favorite, should win a Gold Glove too: he made one error all season.
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