March 23, 2017

Jimmie Foxx Pitching in 1945: A Surprising Story

February 26, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

Back in July 1980, the Boston Globe recalled that Jimmie Foxx’s “final appearance in the majors was as a pitcher.

“In 1945, when he was 37, Foxx had slipped badly and was hanging on by his fingertips with the Phillies. One day, Ben Chapman, Phils’ manager, came to Jimmie.”

Chapman told Foxx, “We’re desperate. Would you mind getting yourself into shape to pitch? We don’t have anyone who can get the ball over the plate.”

Foxx’s answer, according to Arthur Daley’s book, Kings of the Home Run: “I couldn’t go nine innings under any conditions, I’m not even sure I could get anyone out.”

And Chapman’s response: “Just hang in there as long as you can. If by some miracle, you could last five innings, that’s all I’ll ask. I’ll take you right out.”

Foxx did better than that against the Cincinnati Reds: at the end of five innings, he had a no-hitter. So of course Chapman left him in the game.

But, Daley wrote that “in the sixth, Jimmie’s arm was as dead as a dinosaur, and he felt just as heavy. The Reds nicked him for a hit and that was it. He [Chapman] yanked Foxx while he was still a winning pitcher and brought in a reliever to preserve the victory.

“It was to be the last appearance of James Emory Foxx in a major league box score.”

In August 2000, after Brent Mayne, normally a catcher, got a win in relief for the Rockies, Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News noted that “the last position player to be a winning pitcher as a starter was Hall of Fame slugger Jimmie Foxx. In 1945, Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman asked Foxx, near the end of his career, to start the second game of a doubleheader against Cincinnati. . . Foxx went 6 innings, struck out six and gave up four hits [not one], winning 4-2.”

I haven’t tried to find the box score for this start to check for more details of how or why Foxx pitched, or what the newspapers had to say about him pitching. But, his SABR bio says he made the start on August 19, 1945: Foxx’s last game came on September 23. In any case, Foxx actually pitched in 22 2/3 innings over nine games in 1945, starting twice, and allowing just 13 hits and four runs (and no homers), while striking out 10 and walking 14.

Despite what the Boston Globe said, in ’45 Foxx was still putting up good offensive numbers over a half-season’s worth of at-bats against the depleted wartime pitching ranks of the National League. But his pitching performance that year was more impressive than his hitting performance.

As a postscript to this theme: In 1991, a letter from Louis Jay Herman to the New York Times noted:

“A number of batting greats have taken a turn or two on the mound. Stan Musial, who pitched regularly (and well) in the minors for three years, threw an incomplete inning for the Cards in 1952. Ted Williams yielded three hits and one run in two innings in 1940. Jimmie Foxx (534 career home runs) pitched a perfect inning for the Red Sox in 1939 and then, winding up his career with the Phillies, threw 23 innings in 9 games in 1945, for a earned run average of 1.52 for his career.

“Going further back, Ty Cobb gave up six hits and two walks in four innings in 1918 and pitched a perfect inning seven years later. Truly impressive was the St. Louis Browns’ George Sisler, a kind of Ruthian double-threat man who twice hit over .400 and yet managed to pitch 111 innings in 24 games between 1915 and 1928, posting an e.r.a. of 2.35 for his career.”

Arne Christensen runs Misc. Baseball, a blog assembling eclectic items about baseball’s history, and 1995 Mariners.

Comments

3 Responses to “Jimmie Foxx Pitching in 1945: A Surprising Story”
  1. Devon Young says:

    I never knew that about Foxx. That’s so cool! You got me looking for that boxscore & I found the boxscore in an old newspaper. The article says Foxx only gave up 3 hits (after 6 2/3). Another article, from the day of the game itself, had a bit more to say about Foxx’s previous pitching efforts.

  2. Arne says:

    Thanks; interesting to see that he’d managed and pitched in Portsmouth in ’44. I’m sure the Philadelphia and/or New York papers covered Foxx pitching some more, but I haven’t looked there. Despite what’s in Daley’s book, he must have been pretty confident of his abilities to volunteer to start. I know Ruth started two games for the Yankees after the mid-’20s. I don’t know if these superstars pitching says more about their versatile athletic abilities, to be able to switch over to the mound, or about the lack of sophistication of MLB at the time shown by teams risking injury to their big players.

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  1. […] have any fresh arms to pitch the 2nd game. The following is from a Boston Globe article in 1980 via Seamheads: In 1945, when he was 37, Foxx had slipped badly and was hanging on by his fingertips with the […]



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