Jimmie Foxx pitched in for Phillies during war-torn 1945 season
By his mid-30s, Foxx’s playing career was in flux. A late-career stint with the Chicago Cubs had not gone well, and by 1944 it looked as though “The Beast,” the nickname for the muscular 6-footer, might have seen his last days as a player. He had spent the first few months of 1944 as a pinch-hitter with Chicago before becoming a manager with the Class B Portsmouth (Va.) Cubs of the Piedmont League for the final six weeks of the season.
“Foxx is in good shape,” said Phillies road secretary Jimmy Hagen. “We expect to see Jimmie playing a lot of ball in Shibe Park this season.”
Although Foxx’s best playing days were far behind him, during this time of manpower shortages he felt he could still hit wartime pitching.
“I’m not through. My legs are as good as ever,” said Foxx, who admitted he was only 10 pounds over his normal playing weight. “I think I’ll be able to give the fans and Herb Pennock something to be proud of.”
Despite the optimism, both the Phillies, longtime National League doormats, and Foxx suffered through another poor season. While the ‘45 Phillies ultimately finished last in the eight-team NL with a 46-108 record, their eighth last-place finish in 10 years, Foxx hit the comeback trail toiling at third and first base for the Phils, but by midseason, the player who hit at least 30 home runs in a season 12 times was little more than an afterthought.
“When the war’s over, I’m through,” said Foxx in June 1945. “If I were to quit today, I guess I’d have played enough.”
Foxx had often expressed a desire to be a pitcher, having been a star hurler in high school. His previous hill work included a one-inning scoreless stint as a member of the Red Sox in 1939 and a few appearances when he skippered Portsmouth in ’44.
So when it turned out Foxx would be a starting pitcher in a war-relief benefit game against the Athletics at Shibe Park on July 10, 1945, it was not unexpected. Though the strength of his eyesight and legs may have diminished over the years, Foxx still had a strong right arm, keeping the A’s scoreless through the first three innings before being knocked out of the box in the fourth.
Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum