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By John Bennett
As he had done many times in recent years, Jimmie Foxx chose to spend the afternoon of July 21, 1967, with his younger brother, Sam. The two men lived close by one another in Miami, and often got together to reminisce about the elder Foxx’s legendary baseball career, in which he slugged 534 home runs, won three MVP awards, and was elected to the Hall of Fame. Foxx’s second wife, Dorothy, had passed away in 1966 and his family saw him becoming more lonely and depressed. More and more, the time with his brother seemed to be the only thing to bring a smile to a man renowned for his generosity and good nature.
During dinner, Jimmie Foxx collapsed with an apparent heart attack (he had suffered two others in recent years) and was rushed to Miami Baptist Hospital, where attempts to revive him failed. An autopsy later revealed that Foxx had choked to death, in a fashion similar to that of his wife several months earlier. Broken-hearted, Sam Foxx died just a few weeks later. The sad end to Foxx’s life does not diminish what is in many ways a classic American story. He rose from a Maryland farm boy who came from little to reach the heights of fame, and fell back to earth again. However, throughout it all he was able to retain the personality and appeal that still drew praise from his former teammates long after they played with him.
James Emory Foxx was born in Sudlersville, Maryland, on October 22, 1907. His parents, Dell and Mattie, were moderately successful tenant farmers. Dell Foxx had played baseball for a town team in his youth and instilled a love for the game in his eldest child (brother Sam would arrive in 1918). According to family legend, Jimmie attempted to run away and join the army at the age of 10, after hearing about his grandfather’s military exploits in the Civil War. Young Jimmie did reasonably well in school, but truly excelled in athletic pursuits, including soccer and track as well as baseball. His many hours of work on the family farm would build up a fabled physique that belied his average-sized 5 foot 11’frame. He set a number of local records in track events as a schoolboy, and always retained deceptive foot speed; teammate Billy Werber, an ace base stealer himself, maintained that Foxx was always one of the faster runners in the league.
In 1924 the expansion of the Eastern Shore League brought a team to nearby Easton. The franchise attracted additional attention due to its player-manager, Frank “Home Run” Baker, a future Hall of Famer and local hero from Trappe, Maryland. Foxx’s baseball exploits for Sudlersville High quickly came to Baker’s attention, and he invited Foxx for a tryout. Showing up in a pair of overalls, the high school junior told Baker he could catch for him if he needed him to do so, and was signed for a salary estimated at between $125 and $250 a month. Foxx played for Easton throughout the summer, hitting .296 with 10 home runs. At the end of July, the Philadelphia Athletics purchased his contract, and he even went up to the big club to watch the end of the regular season from the bench. After the season, he returned to Sudlersville and his senior year of high school—after all, the young slugger was only 16!
The schoolboy athlete did not finish that senior year, leaving in the winter to attend spring training with the Athletics. Foxx stuck with the team as a pinch hitter and reserve catcher, singling in his major-league debut against Washington’s Vean Gregg on May 1, 1925. To get him some more playing time, manager Connie Mack sent Foxx to Providence of the Eastern League, where he hit .327 despite missing time with a shoulder injury. He returned to the team in September, although injuries continued to keep him on the bench. Still, he had a nifty .667 batting average in his first 10 major-league games, certainly an auspicious debut. He stuck with the Athletics for the 1926 season, but again saw little playing time. The team already had a gifted young catcher in Mickey Cochrane, which relegated Foxx to pinch-hitting and spot duty in the outfield.
By 1927 Connie Mack was beginning to build a powerhouse. The Ruth/Gehrig Yankees still reigned supreme, and the Athletics were only able to finish a distant second that season. Mack had carefully acquired younger players such as Foxx, Cochrane, pitcher Lefty Grove, and outfielder Al Simmons, and brought in veterans Ty Cobb (in 1927) and Tris Speaker (in 1928)to provide experience and guidance to his youthful stars. Foxx again spent most of the season on the bench, hitting .323 in a limited role. However, this season was significant in that he began playing first base most of the time. Foxx settled in at first base for the bulk of his career, and was an underrated fielder with better than average range. He also caught occasionally and sometimes manned third base, a position he played in several All-Star games because of the presence of Lou Gehrig at first. In 1928 the A’s, a mixture of young stars and old, gave the Yankees everything they could handle before falling just short of the pennant. Foxx became a regular at last, playing first and third and getting off to a torrid .407 start by June. He cooled off in the second half of the season, settling for .328, but was now clearly a rising star. In the offseason he celebrated the turn in his fortunes in two ways He bought his parents a new farm outside Sudlersville, and he eloped with girlfriend Helen Heite, with whom he would have two sons and a tempestuous 14-year marriage.
In 1929 the Athletics blossomed into a legendary juggernaut, romping to an easy pennant, finishing 18 games ahead of the Yankees. Foxx, playing mostly at first base now, had his first wonderful season. Throughout August, he was leading the league in hitting at .390 and running neck-and-neck with Ruth and Gehrig for the lead in home runs. A September slump cost him the batting title to Lou Fonseca (Foxx ultimately finished 4th), but he still pounded the ball to a .354 tune with 33 round-trippers. His on-base percentage of .463 led the league. The A’s advanced to the World Series to face the Chicago Cubs.
Foxx’s first child, Jimmie Jr., was born just before the Series and he told the press that he would hit a home run for him. He kept that promise by homering for the A’s first run of the Series in Game One, and also went deep in Game Two. Foxx delivered a key single in the famous 10-run rally that won the fourth game, and the A’s went to win the Series in five games. The championship season brought plenty of attention to the 21-year-old slugger, and he was feted royally in Sudlersville in celebration.
The 1930 season brought more of the same to Foxx and the Athletics. The team took a bit longer to put away its competition, this year coming from Washington, but it repeated as American League champions. A torrid early season was again the fashion for Foxx, as he hit 22 home runs through June and had a 19-game streak in July when he hit .446. He finished the season with a .335 average and 37 home runs, and was one of four A’s players to have an on-base percentage over .420.
The 1930 World Series pitted the A’s against the St. Louis Cardinals, and they battled to a 2-2 tie going into Game Five at Sportsman’s Park. The game was scoreless into the top of the ninth inning. With one on, Foxx announced to his teammates that he would “bust up the game right now”. He then proceeded to hit a Burleigh Grimes pitch in the left-center-field bleachers, giving the A’s the win and providing the impetus for them to wrap up the Series in Game Six. The game-winning home run gave Foxx one of his proudest moments and he later cited the blow as one of the greatest moments of his career.
Off the field, Foxx continued to enjoy his favored childhood pastimes of hunting and fishing. He often took extended hunting forays with his teammates in the offseason, between barnstorming trips. Some newspapers reported Foxx to be a moderate eater who watched his diet during the season, but he also was known to tip the clubhouse boy famously for bringing him huge meals before and after games. When he returned home to Maryland, he frequently indulged in backwoods country feasts, including lifelong passions for Virginia ham and home-made peach ice cream. He enjoyed movies and collected autographed photos from his favorite stars, with Katharine Hepburn tops on the list. (In 1996, a Philadelphia newspaper ran an article linking Foxx romantically to actress Judy Holliday, but this was later revealed to be a hoax.)
The press took a liking to Foxx, dubbing him with various nicknames-“Double X,”-“The Maryland Strong Boy,” or simply “The Beast.” He was often depicted as a simple country boy, unaffected by the bright lights of the big city. Nonetheless, he did develop some expensive big-city habits. Foxx spent large sums on the best clothes money could buy, a tendency shared by wife, Helen. He also had a fondness for personal grooming, frequently visiting his manicurist during the season. As his salary grew, so too did his generosity and profligate spending. The star slugger gave handsome tips to everyone from the bellhop to the batboy, and he insisted on picking up the entire tab at every dinner and outing. He was known to literally give the shirt off his back if someone asked him for it. Many years later, Foxx’s former teammates and opponents still spoke with reverence of his personal kindness and good will.
After winning consecutive World Series, the Athletics had an even better regular season in 1931. The team won 107 games and cruised to the pennant easily despite competition from a Yankees team that scored nearly seven runs per game. Foxx continued to play a key role, but was hampered by serious knee and foot injuries, as well as the beginnings of sinus trouble that would haunt him in later years. Still, he hit 30 home runs and had 120 runs batted in, the third of 12 consecutive seasons of over 30 home runs. In the World Series, the A’s again faced the Cardinals, but this time Philadelphia was upset mainly because the storied exploits of Cards outfielder Pepper Martin. Foxx hit .348 in the Series and smashed a ball completely out of Shibe Park in Game Four. In his three postseason appearances, Foxx hit .344 with four home runs. However, the 1931 World Series was the last one for Foxx and the Philadelphia Athletics.
The 1932 campaign did not bring another pennant to Philadelphia, but Foxx thrilled fans home and away by making an epic run at Babe Ruth’s single-season record of 60 home runs. By the first week in May he had belted 19 round-trippers, and he reached 41 by the end of July, a month ahead of Ruth’s pace. In August, Foxx injured his thumb and wrist in a household accident, and although he played through the injury it hampered his power output. Going into the last weekend of the season, Foxx had hit 56 homers, and he tried his best, hitting two more in the final two games. His total of 58 fell just short of the Babe’s mark—but it is important to note that conditions for Ruth were a little easier in 1927. In the intervening five years, screens had been erected in St. Louis, Cleveland, and Detroit that reduced the number of home runs in those ballparks. In an interview with Fred Lieb after the season, Foxx stated that he had lost 6 home runs to the screens in St. Louis alone. In any event, 1932 stands as the peak year of Foxx’s career. Aside from his 58 round-trippers, he led the league with 169 runs batted in and narrowly missed the batting title with a .364 mark. After the season, he was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player.
After the season, Mack began the dismantling of his championship team. Declining attendance and personal financial woes due to the Depression left Mack desperate for money, and he was forced to sell off the only valuable asset he owned: the stars of his ballclub. Al Simmons was the first to go, followed by Grove, Cochrane, and other starters from the three pennant-winning teams. Only Foxx remained through the first three seasons of Mack’s fire sale, and he put up three more great seasons throughout it all. In 1933, the Athletics still had enough left to finish third, helped in large part by Foxx’s second straight MVP campaign. Playing through a series of leg ailments, Foxx hit 48 home runs with a .356 average and 163 runs batted in, giving him the Triple Crown that had narrowly evaded him in 1932. He was selected to play in the first All-Star game, and he hit for the cycle against Cleveland on August 14. After the season, Foxx battled with Mack over a pay raise (he eventually received a slight increase, to $18,000) and published a book, How I Bat. The ghostwritten volume attributed his batting success to developing his wrist muscles and getting plenty of practice.
The Athletics further eroded in 1934, but again Foxx provided them with most of their season’s highlights. For the third straight year, he hit over 40 home runs, and even stole a career high 11 bases. The most significant events of 1934 for Foxx came after the season. In an exhibition game in Winnipeg, a pitch thrown by minor-leaguer Barney Brown struck Foxx on the forehead and knocked him unconscious. He spent four days in the hospital and was considered “recovered” when released. However, he suffered from sinus problems for the rest of his life, which in turn led to extreme difficulties on and off the field. Despite this setback, Foxx was allowed to accompany Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and other all-stars on a historic tour of Japan in November.
To help cover the loss of Cochrane, Foxx returned to his original position behind the plate to start the 1935 season. He had a strong arm and by all accounts handled pitchers well, but eventually moved back to first and third because of injuries to other players. The Athletics fell all the way to the cellar, but not without another strong year from its last remaining star. Foxx tied Hank Greenberg for the league lead with 36 homers and finished only three points behind in the batting title race. After the season, the long-rumored trade of Foxx finally came to fruition. Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, who had already purchased Grove from Philadelphia and player-manager Joe Cronin from Washington in recent years, paid Mack $150,000 for Foxx and pitcher Johnny Marcum (two minor players, Gordon Rhodes and George Salvino were also included in the deal). Foxx reacted positively to the deal, no doubt helped by a $7,000 increase in salary.
The highlight of Foxx’s first season in Boston came on June 16, when he hit a ball completely out of Comiskey Park. (In later years, pitchers Lefty Gomez and Ted Lyons enjoyed spinning yarns about the tape measure shots Foxx hit off them.) This was one of 41 home runs that season, and although he did not lead the league in any of the power categories, Foxx’s performance was one of the bright spots of a disappointing season for the Red Sox. In 1937, sinus problems brought his performance down dramatically. Foxx went through homerless streaks of 16 and 24 games, and hit a mere .285, the lowest average of his career up to that date. Although he topped his Comiskey Park blast by hitting a ball out of Fenway Park to the right of the center field flagpole against the Yankees on August 12, speculation began that his career was on the downslide.
In 1938, Foxx silenced his critics with one of his greatest seasons. He proved that his power had not diminished by hitting five home runs in the last week of the exhibition season. In May, he hit 10 home runs and drove in a whopping 35 runs. Other highlights followed, including a game on June 16 in which he was walked six times, tying a major league record. The Yankees eclipsed the Red Sox in the standings, and Foxx’s home run totals came in second to Hank Greenberg’s run at Ruth’s record. Still, when the dust had settled over the 1938 season, Foxx had won two-thirds of another Triple Crown, batting .349 and driving in 175 runs, the fourth highest total all time. Thirty five of Foxx’s 50 home runs were hit at friendly Fenway Park, establishing what was then a record for homers hit at home. His RBI totals still stand as a Boston Red Sox team record, and his home run total was not surpassed by a Red Sox player until David Ortiz in the 2006 season. After the season, Foxx beat out Greenberg in the voting to take home his third American League MVP award.
The 1939 season brought a new star to the Red Sox, a raw rookie named Theodore Samuel Williams. Williams had boasted to his new teammates, “Wait until Foxx sees me hit!”- but he also looked to the veteran slugger as a mentor and even a father figure. In later years, Williams told his younger teammates stories about Foxx’s slugging, and pointed out places in ballparks where Foxx had hit tape-measure home runs. The friendship between the two men lasted until the end of Foxx’s life, and Ted remained close to his teammates’ family until his own death in 2002. Together the two sluggers formed a powerful left/right combo that brought the Red Sox into pennant contention for most of the 1939 season. Foxx enjoyed another superb season, batting .360, second in the league, and leading the AL with 35 home runs. His great year concluded a remarkable decade in which he was arguably the game’s dominant hitter. From 1930 through1939, Foxx slugged 415 home runs and drove in 1,403 runs.
During his years with the Red Sox, Foxx moved into a hotel and was separated from his family for long periods. It was during this period that the first signs of his drinking problems appeared. Although known to imbibe occasionally, he was never reported to be a heavy drinker during the early years of his career. After his beaning, his sinus problems brought him acute pain -- a pain that subsided with alcohol. Roommate Elden Auker recalled several nights when Foxx would be plagued by severe nosebleeds. His ample free time in Boston led to increased after-hours activities, and he bragged to Ted Williams about the amount of scotch whiskey he could consume without being affected. A teammate with the Chicago Cubs remembered that a walk back from the ballpark to the team hotel with Foxx was fraught with dangerous opportunities, as the veteran enjoyed visiting each of his favorite taverns along the way.
Although his drinking problem is a matter of record, it is important to point out that Foxx was never noted for violent or aggressive behavior. To the contrary, he was known as a gentle peacemaker, often mediating disputes in card games and making sure rookie roommate Dom DiMaggio got to bed on time. Tom Yawkey enjoyed Foxx’s company and shared many of his favorite activities. According to one story, the player avoided a fine from Joe Cronin for missing a curfew when he returned to the hotel lobby in the early morning with the owner in tow. Some have surmised that the length of Foxx’s career was curtailed by his drinking, and it certainly did not help. It seems much more likely that it was a diminished batting eye caused by the beaning and related sinus problems that led to his decline. Foxx also frequently played through injuries that would have sidelined other players, and eventually this took a toll as well.
Foxx remained an all-star slugger in 1940 and 1941, driving in over 100 runs both years and hitting a total of 55 home runs. His triple allowed longtime teammate Lefty Grove to win his 300th game in 1941. Foxx had been eclipsed by Williams as the team’s star and was showing signs of slowing at the plate and in the field. His sinus problem became more acute, and he began to wear eyeglasses off the field to combat a decline in his vision. In addition, he grew more critical of player-manager Joe Cronin. Although Foxx got along well with everybody, he never had the respect for Cronin that he had for Mack, and some tension developed (to his credit, Cronin interceded in Foxx’s life in later years with offers of employment and financial assistance). When the 1941 season ended, it was no secret that Foxx’s days with the Red Sox were coming to an end.
Off the field, Foxx’s marriage to Helen had unraveled. According to Elden Auker, she constantly harassed Foxx via phone over financial issues, while all the time carrying on an extramarital affair. Their divorce became final in early 1943, with Helen accusing Foxx of selfishness and other forms of mental cruelty. The acrimonious divorce resulted in a long estrangement between Foxx and his two young sons, James Emory Jr. and W. Kenneth. Both were sent to military schools, and seldom if ever spoke to their father. Kenneth did not reunite with his father until his stepmother’s funeral in 1966, and Jimmie Jr. essentially disappeared in the 1950s after serving in the Korean War. For many years his family believed that he was deceased; however he resurfaced in the Philadelphia area and renewed contact with his siblings just a few years prior to his death in 2006.
As the 1942 season began, Cronin told Foxx that he would have to win the first base job from young Tony Lupien. Despite breaking a toe in spring training, Foxx outhit Lupien and started the season as a regular. Just as he was beginning to hit again, a freak batting practice injury resulted in a broken rib. On June 1, the Red Sox placed Foxx on waivers, and he was sold to the Chicago Cubs for a mere $10,000. The move caused great regret and sadness for both Boston players and fans, but Foxx’s days as a productive player were over. He hit only .205 for the Cubs the rest of the year, and announced his retirement at the end of the season.
He stayed out of baseball during 1943, a year highlighted by his second marriage, to Dorothy Yard. Foxx and Dorothy enjoyed a warm and committed relationship through thick and thin until her untimely death in 1966, and he became a true father to her two children, John and Nanci, as well. In 1944, Foxx volunteered for the military, but was rejected due to his sinus condition. He returned to play a handful of games as a player-coach for the Cubs and also became interim manager of Portsmouth in the Class B Piedmont League.
The final go-round for Jimmie Foxx’s major league career came in the city where he had starred for so long- Philadelphia. This time it was with the Phillies, who were looking to fill out their roster in the tight wartime era. Foxx was invited to spring training and after hitting several long home runs made the team as a pinch-hitter. By this time, he was having increasing difficulty with his eyes, and also suffered from shin splints and bursitis. Tony Lupien, who had followed Foxx at first base for the Red Sox, also played for the Phillies in 1945 and remembers Jimmie as being particularly down on himself in this period. However, another teammate, Andy Seminick, remembers Foxx as his usual fun-loving, generous self all year, often inviting Andy to his home for big fried chicken dinners.
Foxx hit the last seven home runs of his career for the Phillies, but what made his final season unique was his turn on the pitching mound. Volunteering to help the team out in any way he could, Foxx pitched 23 innings, with a 1-0 record and 1.59 ERA. His high point on the mound came in the second game of a doubleheader on August 19, when Foxx pitched five no-hit innings in an emergency start. (He had pitched once very briefly while with the 1939 Red Sox.) His last major-league at-bat came against the Dodgers on September 23. At the close of the season Foxx retired for good, with a .325 lifetime batting average, 2,646 hits, and 534 home runs—a total that was second only to Ruth until 1966. His total of 1,922 runs batted in still ranked as 8th all time in 2008.
The end of his playing career represented a dramatic transition in Foxx’s life. He was now happily remarried with a new son, also named Jimmie Jr., but his divorce from Helen had been damaging to his finances, and he had lost thousands in an investment in a Florida golf course that closed because of World War II restrictions. For the rest of his life, he struggled mightily at times to find a steady career outside baseball, yet his teenage rise to the majors had left him with little preparation to do so. He took a turn in the Red Sox radio booth in 1946, but his Maryland accent did not win over many listeners. He also spent brief periods as a minor-league manager and coach in St. Petersburg in 1947 and Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1949, and worked for a trucking company and beer distributor.
Foxx had received Hall of Fame votes as far back as 1936, when active players were eligible (he came in fourth then among active players behind Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Cochrane , and Lou Gehrig.) However, he fell short of the needed vote totals in six other regular and run off elections until 1951. Foxx was named on 79.2% of the ballots, and earned election along with leading vote getter Mel Ott. In a brief speech, he merely noted that he was proud to be a member, and proud to have his old manager, Connie Mack on hand. After the ceremony, he spent most of his time under a tree signing autographs. Foxx generally enjoyed giving autographs throughout his life, although toward its end he sometimes had to use a rubber stamp to keep up with all of the many requests forwarded to his home. His family remembers frequent occasions when he would leave the table at restaurants to accommodate his fans.
Foxx got back into baseball in 1952 in an unusual manner when he was invited to manage the Fort Wayne Daisies-a team in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. He succeeded fellow Hall of Famer Max Carey, who had become the league president, and was offered a $3,600 salary with bonuses. By all accounts, Foxx’s time with the Daisies was an enjoyable one. With daughter Nanci helping out as a batgirl, the team had improved attendance and made the playoffs. In 1992, the film A League of Their Own based the team's manager (played by Tom Hanks) loosely on Foxx, although the women who played for him remember him only as a true gentleman in every way. Foxx did not return to the Daisies for the 1953 season, with his only complaint being the many long bus rides.
After his turn with the Daisies, the retired slugger continued to drift from job to job. At various times, he worked as a car salesman, for an oil company, and even as a coal truck driver. An ambitious venture in which Foxx was to do public-service work with inner city youths failed to get off the ground. In 1956, he returned to Florida and spent two seasons as a head baseball coach at the University of Miami and as a hitting instructor for the minor league Miami Marlins. After the 1957 season, he was let go from both positions, and found himself bankrupt and unemployed. Invited to speak at the Boston Writers Dinner in January 1958, Foxx admitted that he was broke and unable to pay his way there. All his baseball earnings, he announced, were long gone. After his financial problems were disclosed, Foxx received many offers of employment and even cash donations (which he then donated to the Jimmy Fund). Soon, a good fit was found. After a meeting with Cronin in Boston, Foxx accepted a job as the hitting instructor for the Red Sox’s Triple A farm team, the Minneapolis Millers.
Although he seldom took batting practice, saying that he “couldn’t do it” anymore, Foxx was well liked and admired by the Millers players. One player he befriended was Bill Monbouquette, a young pitcher on the brink of a solid major-league career that included a no-hitter for the Red Sox in 1962. Monbouquette remembers Foxx as a generous and giving man, “one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.” Both pitchers and hitters picked his brain constantly for tips and advice, and Foxx was always glad to advise. During the season, Foxx surprised Monbouquette’s parents with a visit to their home in Massachusetts while on the way to a Fenway Park old-timers game. “I just wanted to let them know you were doing okay,” Foxx told the young pitcher on his return.
However, Foxx’s tenure with the Millers lasted only a single season. Art Schult, the Millers catcher, recalled that the players “idolized” Foxx, but that he did not get involved in the politics of the game with management. During the season, he was twice hospitalized with high blood pressure and other ailments. Expecting to return to the Millers for 1959, Foxx was instead given his release by the Red Sox at the end of the 1958 season. The official reason given was that the team, for financial reasons, wanted to hire someone to do double duty as a player and coach.
The real reason, however, had more to do with Foxx’s off-the-field habits. Gene Mauch, the Millers’ manager in 1958, recalled jumping at the chance to hire Foxx, a boyhood favorite, and felt he could help out the team’s hitters. Sadly, things did not go as planned. According to Mauch, “By then, Jim had a bad drinking problem, and was seldom at the park on time to be of help. I idolized the man, and kept him away from scrutiny. At the end of the season, Cronin gave him his money and sent him home—it was so sad.” Foxx’s drinking habits were also rumored to have led to the end of his coaching in Miami and may have affected his employment elsewhere. His alcohol use may have stemmed from his sinus injury, and been worsened by his good-time lifestyle in Boston. However, at this point Foxx’s drinking was related as much as anything to the loss of his baseball career. Daughter Nanci believes his drinking problems had a lot to do with the emptiness he felt in adjusting to normalcy once his playing days had ended.
The ill-fated season in Minneapolis was Foxx’s last job in baseball. He did occasionally appear at old-timers’ games, and was interviewed when Willie Mays passed him on the all-time home run list (Foxx applauded Mays, saying it was great to see it done by a fellow right-handed hitter). A restaurant bearing his name in Illinois quickly went under, and he continued to move around, bouncing from work with a sporting goods store in Lakewood, Ohio, to several part-time jobs in Florida when he returned there for good in 1964. His son, Jimmie Jr. II, stayed in Ohio to pursue an athletic career at Kent State University. Health problems continued to plague the elder Foxx; he suffered two minor heart attacks and his mobility was lessened by a back injury suffered in a fall.
In May 1966, he suffered a terrible personal blow when his wife, Dorothy, died of asphyxia. Throughout the good years and bad, the two had a strong and devoted marriage, and after her passing, depression seemed to get the better of Foxx. He returned to Maryland one last time in August 1966 to surprise a fan, Gil Dunn, who had written him concerning a memorabilia display in his drugstore near Sudlersville. The aging slugger gave Dunn a variety of uniforms, equipment, and trophies, and with brother Sam in tow made the rounds of his old hometown one final time. The locals had turned a cold shoulder to Foxx in his retirement years; a strong indication of this came when several local establishments refused to cash a $100 check, later proven good in a neighboring town. Less than a year later he was dead at 59, and was buried next to Dorothy in Miami’s Flagler Memorial Park Cemetery.
In the years since Foxx’s death, a gradual re-appreciation of his achievements has elevated his status. As a member of baseball’s 500 Home Run Club, Foxx memorabilia fetches top dollar on the collector circuit. The Babe Ruth Hall of Fame and Museum has devoted exhibit space to Foxx, thanks in part to donations from Gil Dunn. In the past few years, Foxx has been honored by the Oakland Athletics and was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame, each time with daughter Nanci proudly on hand to accept for him. He was one of the first players chosen by old teammate Ted Williams to be enshrined in his own Hitters Hall of Fame. Foxx even made it on to a U.S. postage stamp in the summer of 2000. In September 2006, Foxx returned to the Fenway limelight once again. David Ortiz, another perpetually smiling Red Sox slugger, broke his 68-year team home run record with Nanci in attendance.
Perhaps the greatest tribute though, came from his hometown of Sudlersville, Maryland. A monument to Foxx was erected in celebration of his 80th birthday in 1987, and after 10 years of fundraising, a bronze life statue was unveiled on October 25, 1997 in the center of his hometown. The Maryland Strong Boy had come home for good.
This biography courtesy of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) BioProject, http:/bioproj.sabr.org/?m=5&s=192
My research on Jimmie Foxx’s life began about the same time I joined SABR in 1993. Writing this biography entailed the use of primary, secondary, and interview sources. In addition, I am grateful to the assistance of Mark Armour, Harrison Daniel, Peter Golenbock, Bob Gorman, Mark Hodermarsky, Bill Nowlin, Fred Schuld, and Dick Thompson (among others) in the preparation of this narrative.
Auker, Elden. Sleeper Cars and Flannel Uniforms. Triumph Books, 2000.
Canaday, Nanci (as told to John Bennett). “My Dad- Jimmie Foxx”, The National Pastime, Number 19, 1999
Daniel, W. Harrison, Jimmie Foxx: The Life and Times of a Baseball Hall of Famer. McFarland, 1996
DiMaggio, Dominic and Bill Gilbert. Real Grass, Real Heroes: Baseball’s Historic 1941 Season. Kensington, 1991.
Golenbock, Peter. Fenway: An Unexpurgated History of the Boston Red Sox. Douglas Charles, 1991.
Hall of Fame Files, Jimmie Foxx (volumes 1, 2, 3), National Baseball Hall of Fame and Library, Cooperstown, New York.
Gorman, Bob. Double X: The Story of Jimmie Foxx, Baseball’s Forgotten Slugger. B. Goff, 1990
Linn, Ed. The Great Rivalry. Ticknor and Field, 1991
Millikin, Mark. Jimmie Foxx: The Pride of Sudlersville. Scarecrow Press, 1998.
Williams, Ted, with John Underwood. My Turn At Bat: The Story of My Life. Fireside, 1988.
Werber, Bill. Memories of a Ballplayer. SABR Press, 2001.
In particular I wish to cite the three biographies of Jimmie Foxx, all of which have their own special strengths. They were extremely useful resources and should be the first place for a Foxx enthusiast to go.
I was able to interview the following former players by phone or mail, and/or in person between 1993-2000, several of whom are directly quoted within:
David “Boo” Ferriss
Last and certainly not least, I wish to personally note and thank the assistance of Jimmie’s daughter, Nanci Foxx Canaday, who has been instrumental in my research on Foxx for 10 years now. Along with her husband, Jim, she welcomed me into her Florida home for an interview on June 30, 2000, and continues an annual correspondence. Nanci provides living proof of Jimmie’s best qualities, and none of my work would have happened without her help.
Contributed by: Society of American Baseball Research
Submitted on: 01/29/2011
Copyright: John Bennett