A Foxmas Story: Nellie Fox's day of rest

Nellie Fox's 1955 Bowman

At one point in his career, the White Sox's Hall of Fame second baseman played in 1,027 games out of a possible 1,028. Here's the exception.

For fans of the Go-Go Sox in the 1950s, this box score from Aug. 6, 1955, looked very, very strange ...

Batting AB R H RBI BB SO PO A
Minnie Minoso LF 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0
Gil Coan LF 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Bobby Adams 2B 3 0 0 0 1 2 2 4
Jim Rivera CF 4 0 0 0 0 1 2 0
Walt Dropo 1B 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 0
Ron Jackson 1B 2 0 0 0 0 1 10 0
Bob Nieman RF 4 0 0 0 0 0 2 0
Bob Kennedy 3B 3 1 3 1 1 0 0 0 HR,CS
Chico Carrasquel SS 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Jim Brideweser SS 2 0 1 0 1 0 2 3 3B
Sherm Lollar C 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Les Moss C 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
Jack Harshman P 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Fornieles P 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
George Kell PH 1 0 0 0 0 0
Sandy Consuegra P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
Team Totals 30 1 4 1 4 5 24 13

... for Nellie Fox's name appeared in 274 consecutive box scores before this one, and it appeared in 798 consecutive box scores after this one, but it's nowhere to be found in this one.

You see, Marty Marion wanted to give his second baseman the day off.

Marion hinted at the notion a couple days before. In a Chicago Daily Tribune story from Aug. 4, 1955, Marion called his team a "tired team," adding:

"A lot of guys there need rest; they're dragging," said Marty. "I don't want a tired team on my hands. I'd like to rest Lollar [Sherm], Dropo [Walt], and Busby, even if Jim is paying a great defensive game. Those three guys have lost the steam in their bats. Even Nellie Fox looks like he needs some rest."

Marion had his reasons. Fox was hitting a remarkable .335/.394/.472 entering July, but cooled off with a .248/.317/.272 line over the following month. The arrival of August didn't change his fortunes, and the White Sox scuffled along with him. They lost three straight from Aug. 3-5, falling into a three-way tie for first with the Yankees and Indians with 50 games to go.

On top of it all, the Sox were in the middle of a 19-game road trip that took them from the Bronx to Washington to Boston to Baltimore to Kansas City to Detroit before they could get back home to Chicago.

So you could see why Marion thought resting Fox and would serve everybody well. The Sox players disagreed, and Marion decided to only rest Lollar on Aug. 5, giving his other players the benefit of the doubt. Alas, after the Orioles beat the Sox in extra innings, 2-1, Marion made good on his threat. Fox and Busby didn't start on Aug. 6, and after the Sox fell behind 6-0 to Baltimore after three innings and failed to score in the top of the fourth, Marion pulled his other regulars -- not just Busby and Lollar, but also Chico Carrasquel and Minnie Minoso -- when the Sox took the field in the bottom of the fourth.

The Sox ended up losing, 8-1, but they held onto their share of first place. The next day, prefaced by a big Tribune headline reading, "SOX RESTORE LITTLE NELL TO 2D TODAY," Fox returned to the lineup, and both sides were grateful, according to his SABR bio:

Giving Nellie a day off did not sit well with Fox. While Nellie referred to it as "the most miserable day I ever spent in baseball," Marion said, "It was the most miserable day of my life too – having to listen to him gripe from the bench."

Marion defended his decision, telling reporters, "Just one day's rest will do wonders for a player who wants to play." However, the brief respite didn't break his slump. Fox went a mere 1-for-6 in his first game back, then followed that up by going hitless over his next 21 plate appearances.

Nellie eventually found his footing with two hits against Detroit on Aug. 13. From that point on, he finished the year hitting .356/.384/.431 while starting all 44 games. And he ended the season with hits in his final nine plate appearances, including a pair of 4-for-4 days.

All in all, Fox finished with a season that fits right in with the rest of his resume, one befitting of the American League's best second baseman during that decade.

Marion's decision didn't have much of an effect, for better or for worse. It didn't fix him immediately, but it left him no worse for the wear. He still led the league in games played with 154, and he went on to set the record for consecutive games played by a White Sox and any MLB second baseman by appearing in the next 798. He still owns those honors today.

He would have played in 1,027 straight if it weren't for Marion's decision (a virus ended his second streak in 1960), but you can't assume the same, health-allowing events would have transpired. While it's neat to break 1,000 games, the Sox received the services of a Hall of Fame-caliber second baseman every day but one over a six-year period. That's pretty much the best-case scenario, so in the end, all Marion really did was piss Fox off.

Star-divide

Today would be Nellie Fox's 85th birthday, so even if Santa isn't a part of your holiday season, White Sox fans still have something to celebrate today. Merry Christmas and Nellie Foxmas, everybody!

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