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Today in White Sox History: December 25

A signing that was supposed to signal an embarrassment of riches would turn very sour

The parrot would appear just 10 times for Edwin Encarnación in an ill-fated 2020 season.
| Ron Vesely/Getty Images
Brett Ballantini started at South Side Sox in 2018 after 20 years of writing on basketball, baseball and hockey, including time on the Blackhawks and White Sox beats. Follow him on Twitter @BrettBallantini and email your site feedback to brettballantini@yahoo.com

1927

Nellie Fox — the second-best second baseman, fourth-best hitter, and 11th-best player in White Sox history by WAR (47.4) — was born in St. Thomas, Pa.

Although certainly more in line with players of his time, Fox was an undersized 5´9´´, achieving his stardom with the grit that came to personify the Go-Go White Sox teams of the 1950s. More astounding than his lack of power (88 career home runs, .363 slugging) was his uncanny batting eye (216 career strikeouts in 10,351 plate appearances, for a 2.1% rate, and never more than 18 Ks in a single season).

Fox was a 12-season/15-time All-Star who won three Gold Gloves. He beat out four teammates (Luis Aparicio second, Early Wynn third, Jim Landis seventh, Sherm Lollar ninth) to win the 1959 MVP, but that was no fluke; the second sacker also finished in the Top 10 six times and as high as 26th on 10 occasions. He was clearly an elite American Leaguer throughout the 1950s.

Fox also gave back to the game as a coach. After being traded from Chicago to Houston, he mentored future Hall of Fame second sacker Joe Morgan. And after serving on Ted Williams’ coaching staff with the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers, Fox was recommended by Williams to succeed him as manager (but an offer never came).

Nellie fell short of election to the Hall of Fame 15 times, most infamously in 1984 when he earned 74.7% of the vote but the number was not rounded up to 75%; he ended up two votes from enshrinement. It has been said that Fox was one of the former players manager Al Lopez had a grudge against, actively campaigning against Fox’s election. However, in 1997 Fox reached Cooperstown, recognized by the Veterans’ Committee.

Nellie came to his end far too young and 22 years after his election, having succumbed to skin cancer at age 47.

And finally, some Christmas Day birthday trivia: Born in Chicago in the midst of Fox’s greatness as a White Sox player, on Christmas Day 1958 was the man who would go on to become the most dangerous leadoff hitter in baseball history, Rickey Henderson.


2019

Capping a productive offseason that included the free agent signings of Yasmani Grandal before Thanksgiving and Dallas Keuchel just four days before Christmas, reports from the Dominican Republic added DH Edwin Encarnación to the haul (the deal was made official on Jan. 9, 2020).

The 37-year-old was paid $12 million for the pandemic-shortened year, in which he’d play 44 games and struggle to a -0.3 WAR an .157/.250/.377 slash. He’d have just 15 extra-base hits all season (10 homers, five doubles) and end up at a 70 OPS+. Unsurprisingly, the White Sox refused Encarnación’s option for 2021 and took the L on a terrible acquisition.


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