In this installment of the Players You Forgot Were Astros series, we look at the career of Hall of Famer Nellie Fox.
We just looked at the best individual seasons by second basemen in Houston Astros history, and it’s a list filled with some of the best to ever play the position. But interestingly, there’s another Hall of Fame second baseman who manned the position for the Astros, and it was none other than Nellie Fox.
Fox spent almost his entire career with the White Sox. By the time he was traded to the Colt .45s in Dec. 1963, he was about to turn 36 and had his best years behind him. He played one full season as the Houston’s starting second baseman and hit .265/.320/.319 with only 18 extra-base hits, none of which were home runs.
He returned for part of the 1965 season, hitting just .268/.286/.317 in 21 games. That would be his final season in the majors, but it concluded a decorated career that would see him enshrined in Cooperstown.
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Fox spent 14 of his 19 seasons as the starting second-sacker for the White Sox, and he racked up the accolades. He was a 15-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner, and recipient of the 1959 AL MVP award. He also had five other top-10 MVP finishes.
His numbers aren’t anything special, though, at least when viewed through a modern lens. He was a career .288/.348/.363 hitter. He had basically no power, as he hit only 35 home runs in his 19 major league seasons, and his 355 doubles were also relatively low for someone with more than 10,000 plate appearances.
He was durable, however, leading the league in games played, plate appearances and at-bats five times. His 2,663 hits are a solid, if unspectacular total, but what’s really interesting are his strikeout numbers. By that, I mean he rarely struck out.
His career high in strikeouts in a season was just 18, which came in 692 plate appearances in 1953. He didn’t walk an exceptional amount, and his stolen base attempts resulted in him being caught more than him being successful, but he was next to impossible to strike out. His 216 career strikeouts were only four more than Chris Carter had in 2013 alone.
All this goes to say that Fox was simply a different type of player from a different era. He was a throwback who played in the Astrodome in its inaugural season, helping serve as a bridge between the old and the new.