The more that I collect catchers, the more that I dig into the history of the position. I have discovered a lot about those who have worn the “Tools of Ignorance.” One of the aspects of my research that I have enjoyed the most, is learning about players that were known for playing a certain position (like OF) but started out as a catcher.
For this series of posts, I will focus on a well-known player that debuted as catcher, but later had success at a different position. I will try to stay away from the more obvious references like Craig Biggio.
On May 1, 1925, at the age of 17, James Evory Foxx was called on to pinch hit for the Philadelphia Athletics. In that first plate appearance, the young man who would come to be known as “The Beast” hit a single. It would be the first of 2646 hits in a career that spanned 20 years.
That first year, Foxx played in 10 games, had 9 plate appearances, and hit safely 6 times. Each of those 9 at bats was as a pinch hitter, which means he didn’t play the field, as he usually was called upon in the 9th inning. He did, however, take the field for the first time as a catcher on May 26, 1925, though he only played in the bottom of the 9th.
Just as a side note, Foxx did play 41 games of AA ball in 1925, 17 of which were as catcher. Even more noteworthy though, is the fact that at the age of 16, he played 76 games for the Easton Farmers, a D League team. That year he hit .296 with 10 HR’s.
Over the course of the next 19 years of his career, Foxx played 108 games as catcher. 1935 was the year that saw Foxx spend the most time as catcher, during his time with Philadelphia. He played 26 games wearing the Tools of Ignorance.
His most prominent year as a catcher came in 1940, when at the age of 32, Foxx played 42 games at catcher for the Boston Red Sox.
While Double X is largely regarded as one of the best first basemen of all time, he started out as a catcher. It should also be noted that he played at almost every position on the field at sometime in his career:
1st base: 1919 games
3rd base: 141 Games
Catcher: 108 Games
Centerfield: 21 Games
Left field: 12 Games
Pitcher: 10 Games
Right Field: 10 Games
Shortstop: 1 Game
His had a brilliant career, and had it not been for Lou Gehrig playing right down the road, Foxx would undoubtedly be known as the greatest first baseman of all time.
Recently, I have made a point of picking up Foxx’s cards whenever I can. He has been included in a number of recent releases, so these cards cost nothing compared to original cards.
This photo is a common one, as is the pose. But it shows him with a catcher’s glove which makes me happy.
Thanks to Photoshop, the same image that was used above has been used again. This time it is used for 2010 Topps Triple Threads, numbered 0726/1350.