In the Eastern Shore town of Sudlersville, population just about 400, stands a modest statue to an all-but-forgotten giant.
The likeness of Jimmie Foxx—a muscle-bound homerun king from the Roaring 20s through the Great Depression—stands near the old train depot on Main Street. The station is a museum of all things Foxx and Sudlersville, a farm town founded on 800 acres deeded to Joseph Sudler in the spring of 1740.
Now that baseball season is well underway (with the Birds of Bawlmer reminiscent of grade-school report cards that say a kid isn't working up to potential), I travel to Queen Anne's County to pay respects to the ballplayer they called "The Beast."
Pitcher Lefty Gomez, a teammate on the New York Yankees, once observed that Foxx "has muscles in his hair."
Shadowed in baseball's early-20th-century golden era by the likes of Babe Ruth (whose statue at Camden Yards is—naturally—bigger) and Lou Gehrig (whose 1941 New York Times obituary Foxx contributed to), Foxx played his first major-league game at age 17 and was the American League's most valuable player three times.
Foxx was the second major leaguer, after Ruth (whom he somewhat resembled, both of them being round of face), to hit 500 homeruns. And his 50 bombs for the Red Sox in 1938 (when he drove in 175 runs and batted .349) were the most by a Beantown ballplayer until Big Papi smacked 54 for the Sox in 2006.
Yet it wasn't until 1997—90 years after his birth and three decades after his death—that a statue of Foxx went up at the intersection of his one-horse hometown, and that was only after a heap of prodding from Dan Tabler's IBM Selectric typewriter.
(Tabler has since moved on to an IBM "wheel writer," the office marvel of the mid 1980s.)
"I campaigned for it for quite awhile when I was editor" of the Queen Anne's Record-Observer, says the now-85-year-old Tabler, who lives a dozen-and-a-half miles south of Sudlersville in Centreville.
"He was just one of those Eastern Shore farm boys who never got much notice until he was signed by Connie Mack."
Mack managed the old Philadelphia Athletics in a suit and tie and a straw boater. He signed Foxx on the recommendation of another Marylander, Frank "Home Run" Baker (1886-1963), a Hall-of-Famer from Trappe who managed Foxx in the old Eastern Shore League when the catcher/first baseman was invited to the big show in 1925.
"Once Foxx left the Shore, he left," says Tabler, who still files a weekly "Writer's Notebook" column for the Record-Observer.
"He came back here for a few dinners, but I never met him. That man could hit a ball clean out of the park every time."
Foxx was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown on the first ballot of 1951; he died in Miami in 1967 at age 59. Once considered the most feared right-handed batter in the game, his skill and life are well documented in a Mark Millikin biography called The Pride of Sudlersville.
Today, in the age of Albert Pujols and a boy from Mount St. Joseph High School named Mark Texiera, the old "Double X" is familiar only to students of the game.
"My dad once wrote a column about Jimmie Foxx for our paper," says Denise Riley, executive editor of the Easton Star Democrat. "It's still on the wall of my step-mother's house."
More works by Rafael Alvarez can be found at his website www.alvarezfiction.com
He can be contacted via email@example.com