Apr 13, 200910:32 AM
The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

Errol Laborde: Nellie Fox and Life's Curveballs

Errol Laborde

Baseball season, having begun anew, brings to mind Nellie Fox, who once played second base for the Chicago White Sox. Fox was distinguished for the wad of tobacco that puffed one of his cheeks. I know, because as a kid, I had his baseball card in my collection. In later years, he would be remembered for something else among men of my generation. The Topps company produced the cards that had an action shot of the player in front and then trivia and statistics on the back. Included in the package was a slab of pink chewing gum. Enough gum and we too could puff out our cheeks, just like Nellie Fox.
Since the card came wrapped there was always a bit of mystery to which player we would get. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays cards were off the charts in schoolyard trades. Then there were the players whose caps were tilted back on their head. Word was that the Topps people took two pictures of each player; one with the cap positioned so that the team logo would be prominent, another with the logo obscured in case the player got traded during the course of the season. Clever, but they could not fool us.
Across the nation there were probably billions of baseball card stacked in millions of shoeboxes and stored in thousands of closets. Most of the boxes, I suspect, eventually disappeared at the hand of the same powerful force: Moms.
I am not sure when my collection met its demise but it must have been when I was away in college and my parents moved to a new house.
Today whenever I hear mention of the baseball players from my youth I remember them best if I had their card - such as Nellie Fox's.
I was in college when I heard the news that the former infielder had died of cancer. I was stunned. I had never thought about my baseball card players being mortal.
A few years ago I was in a bookstore in Chicago where I saw a history of the White Sox. I glanced through the pages and stopped when I saw a section about Fox. The author's statement stunned me: To a whole generation of boys, he wrote, Fox's death was their first experience with the passing of a player from their youth.
I hadn't realized that what I thought was a personal sentiment was shared by males across the country. We were collectively hit in the face with the same splash of reality.
An earlier generation that saw the great Lou Gehrig succumb to a disease that would be named after him must have felt the same way.
In 1997 the late Nellie Fox was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. That will certainly add value to his baseball card among vintage collectors. Future generations will be able to know about him in the way that they should - for how he lived.

Let us know what you think. Any comments about this article? Write to errol@renpubllc.com. For the subject line use CURVE BALLS. All responses are subject to being published, as edited, in this newsletter. Please include your name and location.
Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival- Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via e-mail at gdkrewe@aol.com or (504) 895-2266.


Reader Comments:
Apr 13, 2009 06:12 pm
 Posted by  bizisphoto

I remember Nellie Fox but being a girl, I did not collect cards. My father, a Holy Cross Boy, played baseball in the Evangeline League. He spent his "good years" in the Navy....playing ball in Pearl Harbor during the the war.
His name was Weldon "Gus" Ploger and when his playing days were over, I can remember sitting at his feet listening to him tell stories about players he had met and played with over the years. I would fall asleep there at the foot of my Dad and his friends. Even now I can hear them laughing.
I can not watch any baseball movie without crying...as in Field of Dreams, I wish I could say "Dad, you want to have a catch?"

Susan Guidry

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The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde


Errol LabordeErrol Laborde holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New Orleans and is the editor-in-chief of Renaissance Publishing. In that capacity he serves as editor/associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and editor/publisher of Louisiana Life magazine.

Errol is also a producer and a regular panelist on Informed Sources, a weekly news discussion program broadcast on public television station WYES-TV, Channel 12. Errol is a three-time winner of the Alex Waller Award, the highest award given in print journalism by the Press Club of New Orleans. He also received the National and City Regional Magazine Association Award for Best Column for his New Orleans Magazine column, beating out 76 city magazines across the country. In 2013, Errol received the award for the "Best News Affiliated Blog," awarded by the Press Club of New Orleans.

Errol’s most recent books are Krewe: The Early Carnival from Comus to Zulu and Marched the Day God: A History of the Rex Organization. In his free time he enjoys playing tennis and traveling with his wife, Peggy, to anywhere they can get away to, but some of his favorite spots are the Caribbean and historic locations around Louisiana. You can reach Errol at (504) 830-7235 or errol@myneworleans.com.




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