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Seaver, Brock, and Double X

September 7, 2020

Hugh Atkins

I remember when Jimmie Foxx died. I was eight years old, and one of the television networks reported his death in a news update during a break in their evening programming. I was too young to remember anything about Foxx as a player. In fact, the news of his death may have been the first time I had even heard of him. But the passing of Foxx saddened my dad, because he remembered him as one of the great ballplayers of his youth. I experienced this same sadness twice this week with the deaths of Tom Seaver and Lou Brock.

© T.C.G.

My dad remembered Jimmie Foxx as the most prolific home run hitter this side of Babe Ruth. Foxx hit 534 home runs, and at the time of his death–22 years after his playing career ended–he was still behind only Ruth and Willie Mays in career homers. Not counting the players known to have used performance-enhancing drugs, still only 12 other players have hit more home runs than Foxx. No wonder Dad had fond memories of Double X.

Both Seaver and Brock stand out to me because of specific memories I have from their playing days. On May 25, 1967, Brock hit the first home run I ever saw in person at a Major League Baseball game. My parents, my two older brothers, and I traveled to Atlanta to watch the St. Louis Cardinals take on our favorite team, the Atlanta Braves. With the Braves trailing 1-0, Brock hit a solo homer off lefty Dick Kelley in the top of the third inning. Although Brock had over 3,000 hits, he is best known for his stolen bases. At that same game, I saw Brock steal a base in the top of the fifth. The Cardinals went on to win the game 5-0, but it was an exciting evening nonetheless.

© T.C.G.

In 2011 Brock was on hand signing autographs before a game at Turner Field. My son and I stood in line in the August heat to get a couple of signatures. When I handed Brock a printed photo of his 1966 Topps card, he grinned and thanked us for stopping by to see him; he was so polite and unassuming. When I told him that he hit the first home run I ever saw, he asked, “When was that?” When I said, “May of 1967,” he said, “That was a long time ago.”

I never saw Tom Seaver pitch in person, but I loved watching him on television. His smooth windup, delivery, and follow through were as fundamentally sound as anyone who ever threw a pitch. Seaver is perhaps best remembered for leading the Miracle Mets to the World Championship in 1969. One of my first memories of Seaver is from Game 1 of the National League Championship Series from that year. The Braves and Mets were tied 4-4 with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning. Henry Aaron came to the

plate and hit a home run off Seaver to give the Braves the lead. Seaver completed the inning, but I figured that if the Braves could score five runs off Seaver in Game 1, then they were good shape for the remainder of the Series. But the Mets scored five runs in the top of the eighth, Seaver ended up getting the win, and the Mets dispatched the Braves in three straight.

As I get older, more of the players from my youth will die, and I will have that same sad feeling my dad experienced when he heard the news that Jimmie Foxx had passed away.

(All statistics are from Baseball ReferenceGame details are from Retrosheet.)

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