Just some thoughts:
I used to use the word hero for sports figures.
After visiting Europe and walking the beaches at Normandy I am more careful with the use of that word “Heroes.” I don’t use it with people who play games.”
Having said that I have always had favorites. I guess my earliest and still to this day my favorite baseball player was one who played fourteen years in professional baseball. For twelve of those years he played with the Chicago White Sox’s. For various reason I identified with him. He was small, once described as “modest in size and minimal power” and yes a very good player. He was a “ballplayer’s ballplayer. His manager once said “If you had eight Nellie Fox’s on your team you would be a winner.” In 1997 Fox would be voted into the baseball Hall of Fame.
In 1954 I was twelve years old and played my first organized baseball as a member of Ranes O’Daniel little league team. I played second base and my running mate at shortstop was Dave Everson. In our minds we were the equivalent of the White Sox’s combination of Chico Carrasquel (later Luis Aparicio) and Nellie Fox.
Years later I would overhear a conversation a co-worker of mine was having only to learn that he was a very good friend of Fox’s wife who at that time was a widow. Sadly Fox died from cancer on December 1, 1975. In fact my co-worker friend was from Fox’s home town and had known the family most all his life. Sometime later I would meet Joan Fox as she visited our office. I was introduced to her and she invited me to come to her home sometime and she would share with me much of Nellie’s memobilia and memories.
Not long after that invitation found me in her living room. What I thought would be a short visit turned into hours of her sharing with me the life and times of my boyhood “favorite.”
“Larry do you have Nellie’s autograph” she ask. “No, no I don’t, I would love to have but don’t.” With that she got up from her chair went into another room and came back with a box. I could tell the box was full of papers. “During the baseball season and the years we were with Chicago we stayed in a hotel in downtown Chicago. What I did was I kept all those canceled checks over those years and I want to give you one.”
Thus today I have framed and hanging on my office wall a picture of Nellie Fox, one of his baseball cards but most of all I that check (canceled) made payable to the Piccadilly Hotel in the amount of $220 dollars and signed—Nelson Fox.
You know sometimes our heroes well sometimes they don’t turn out to be what we really thought they were.They just don’t live up to the what we thought of them in our youth.
And then…in some cases they and their families they become even more than what we might have imagined and they still remain our favorite.
November 7, 2013
Posted December 27, 2018