Wednesday’s Book Review: “Jimmie Foxx: Baseball Hall of Famer, 1907-1967”

Jimmie Foxx: Baseball Hall of Famer, 1907-1967. By W. Harrison Daniel. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 1996.

In the small town of Sudlersville, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore there is life-size statue of Jimmie Foxx, one of the greatest players in the history of major league baseball (MLB). I know because I visited it. There we see Fox depicted as a baseball hero, swinging away for one of his career 534 home runs. There is no question that he was good at baseball; his career statistics included a batting average of .325 with a OBP/SLG/OPS slash of 428/609/1.038 and a career RBI number of 1,922 to go along with 2,646 hits and his 534 home runs. He played in the MLB for the Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, and briefly with the Philadelphia Phillies between 1925 and 1945. His three MVP awards and two World Series championships with the Athletics demonstrated his excellence as a baseball player. He entered the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

As good as he might have been on the diamond, Foxx was just that bad at life after baseball. His alcoholism ensured he could not hold a job, and was constantly maneuvering to return to baseball. Because of his legendary status as a player, Foxx even managed the Fort Wayne Daisies of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1953. Indeed, the Tom Hanks character in “A League of their Own” (1992) is based in no small measure on the life of Foxx, although you will not learn about that in this biography of the slugger. Foxx’s drinking problem led him to an early grave, before his 60th birthday.

W. Harrison Daniel has written serviceable biography of one of the tragic figures in MLB history. It takes a strictly chronological approach, tells the story without any flair whatsoever, and captures the general triumph and tragedy of this figure. It does not probe too deeply, and never transcends the sources to offer more cosmic understandings of the subject. I would like to know, for instance, more about the interrelationships and dynamics of those great championship teams that one three pennants and two World Series for the Athletics. I would like to understand better how and why Foxx got into managing in the women’s league, as well as how his story affected the Hanks character in the famous movie mentioned above.

It is hard to see this book as much more than a workmanlike biography. I can say that it is solidly researched and clearly written. It tells the story in a matter of fact manner. Adequate those it is, I would have liked much more.

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