One of the greatest power hitters in major league history, Foxx broke in as a catcher, won fame as a first baseman, and filled in elsewhere, including several turns on the mound.
Born at Sudlersville, MD, Foxx grew strong doing chores on his father’s farm. At age ten, he had had enough of farm life, and tried to join the army. Rejected by the military, he turned to sports, especially his first love, track. He played high school baseball and was soon demonstrating the power which would make him famous. His power displays caught the attention of Frank “Home Run” Baker, who was managing Easton of the Eastern Shore League. After being invited for a tryout, Foxx soon became Baker’s protege. Baker owed a favor to his old boss, Connie Mack, and recommended the youngster. Mack took the 17-year-old Foxx in 1925 and sat him next to him on the Athletics’ bench for several seasons. Mack had the young Mickey Cochrane at catcher, so he converted Foxx to first base, where he became a regular in 1928.
Before long, Foxx was being called “the righthanded Babe Ruth.” In virtually every AL park, there was a story to tell about a mighty Foxx homer. In Chicago, he hit a ball over the double-decked stands at Comiskey Park, clearing 34th Street. His gigantic clout in Cleveland won the 1935 All-Star Game. In Yankee Stadium, his blast high into the left field upper deck had enough power to break a seat. In St. Louis, his ninth inning blast in Game Five of the 1930 Series just about clinched it for the A’s. In Detroit, he hit one of the longest balls ever, way up into the left field bleachers.
At bat, Foxx presented a menacing picture. A strong, powerful man, he held the bat at the end and stood fairly deep in the batter’s box, using a wide stance and a full stride into the ball. As the pitch approached, his powerful arm muscles flexed visibly before he hit the ball. Like many sluggers, Foxx struck out often, and he led the AL seven times.
Perhaps more impressive than his homers was his record as an RBI man. Like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, he drove in over 100 runs in 13 seasons. Also hitting for average, he won the Triple Crown in 1933 (.356, 48 HR, 163 RBI), one of three seasons he led the league in RBI; his best RBI mark was 175 in 1938, when he would have captured his second Triple Crown if not for Hank Greenberg‘s 58 HR. He was the HR champ four times despite competition from Ruth, Gehrig, Greenberg, and DiMaggio.
In 1932 Foxx hit 58 homers; he might have hit more than 60 if not for a spell in August when he suffered from an injured wrist. Five times he hit the right field screen in St. Louis; the screen was not there when Ruth hit 60 HR in 1927. Also in 1932, a screen that Ruth hadn’t had to contend with was erected in left field in Cleveland. Reportedly, Foxx hit that at least three times.
Foxx never made big money with the financially troubled Athletics, and he had to be unloaded to Tom Yawkey‘s Boston Red Sox, where he was paid well. A good-natured and well-liked man, he became an immediate favorite. He also took a young slugger under his wing. “I truly loved Foxxie,” said Ted Williams some 40 years later.
Foxx was sent to the Cubs in 1942. He retired in 1943, but came back to play a few games during WWII with the Cubs and Phillies. His exceptionally strong throwing arm even enabled him to pitch in nine games for the Phillies in 1945, including two starts. The BBWAA elected him to the Hall of Fame in 1951.
A friend to all, Double X was always picking up the check. He drank heavily, saw several business ventures fail, and what little money he had made in baseball disappeared. He managed in the minors, coached at Minneapolis (American Association), and took a turn in the Red Sox radio booth in 1946. In July 1967, at age 59, he choked to death on a piece of meat while dining with his brother. Foxx is still ninth on the all-time HR list (534), sixth in RBI (1921), and fourth in slugging percentage (.609).