I used to associate the word “Hero” with sports figures.
Note, I said I used to. After visiting Europe, walking the beaches at Normandy and the various military cemeteries in Europe, I am much more careful with the use of that word, “Hero.” I no longer use that word with people who play games for a living.
Having said that though, I’ve always had sports favorites.
In 1954 I was twelve years old and played my first organized baseball game/season as a member of the Ranes O’Daniel little league team in Terre Haute, Indiana. 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 overheard a conversation of a co-worker, and he said he was a very good friend of Joan Fox. Joan Fox had been Nellie Fox’s wife but at this time she was a widow. Sadly Fox died from cancer on December 1, 1975. In fact, my co-worker was from Fox’s hometown, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
My good friend and coworker Mike Butz had known the Fox family most all of his life. Sometime later I had the opportunity to meet Joan Fox as she visited our USGA office. She invited me to come to her home sometime saying she would love to share her memories and Nellie’s memorabilia with me. A few weeks later I found myself sitting 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 asked. “No, I don’t, I would love to have an autograph, but I don’t.” She got up from the sofa, went into another room and returned with a box. I could tell the box was full of papers. She told me that “During the baseball season and the years we were in Chicago, Nellie and I stayed in a hotel in downtown Chicago. Over the years I’ve kept all the canceled checks and I want to give you one.”
Today, framed and hanging near my framed Indiana State Larry Bird basketball jersey (#33), is a picture of Nellie Fox, one of his baseball cards and most of all a cancelled check that was made payable to the Piccadilly Hotel in the amount of $220 and signed: Nelson Fox.
You know, sometimes our childhood favorites don’t turn out to be what we had visualized them to be. They just don’t live up to the image that we gave them in our youth. On the other hand, in some cases, they and their families’ become even more than what we might have imagined; and they forever remain our favorites.
Thus, remains Nellie Fox.
September 4, 2014