When he retired in 1945, Jimmie Foxx had more home runs than any right-handed hitter in Major League Baseball history. He also had a record three MVPs, a batting Triple Crown and the third-highest OPS ever, trailing only Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Despite these accomplishments, few modern fans are aware of the original “Beast.”
The talented slugger from the farmlands of Eastern Maryland signed his first professional contract in 1924 at the age of 16. One year later, he made his Major League debut with the Philadelphia Athletics while still a junior in high school.
The 6’0,” 195-pound prospect was a rare specimen. Muscular and athletic, Foxx not only hit 500-foot home runs, he also possessed a keen batting eye, excellent speed, and the versatility to play multiple positions.
A catcher by trade, Foxx sat behind Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane before finding a permanent home at first base in 1928. The 20-year-old was impressive as a starter, hitting .328 with 13 home runs and 79 RBIs in 119 games for the A’s.
The next year would start a string of 12 straight seasons of at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs for Foxx, as he hit .354 with 33 home runs, 118 RBIs and 123 runs scored.
Foxx also led Philadelphia to its first World Series appearance in 15 years. The star-studded A’s, who also featured Hall of Famers Cochrane, Al Simmons and Lefty Grove, beat the National League champion Chicago Cubs in five games. Foxx was outstanding in the series, hitting .350 with two home runs, five RBIs and five runs.
The A’s repeated as World Series champions in 1930, this time beating the St. Louis Cardinals in six games. Foxx hit .333 with a home run, two doubles and a triple in the series. In the regular season, the star slugger hit .335 with 37 home runs, 156 RBIs and 127 runs.
Foxx and the A’s won their third straight AL pennant in 1931, while winning a franchise record 107 games. Philadelphia fell short of a World Series three-peat, though, losing to the Cardinals in seven games. Foxx once again had an excellent series, hitting .348 with a home run, three RBIs and a .483 on-base percentage.
Philadelphia failed to make the postseason in 1932 and 33, but Foxx had the two best years of his career. In 1932, the AL MVP challenged Ruth’s single-season home run record with a league-leading 58 round-trippers. He also led the AL with 169 RBIs, 151 runs, 438 total bases, a .749 slugging percentage and 1.218 OPS, while placing second with a .364 average and .469 on-base.
In 1933, Foxx became the first AL player since Ty Cobb in 1909 to win a batting Triple Crown, leading the league with a .356 average, 48 home runs and 163 RBIs. The back-to-back MVP also led the AL with a .703 slugging, 1.153 OPS and 403 total bases. In addition, Foxx was chosen for the first-ever MLB All-Star Game, starting a string of nine straight selections for the future Hall of Famer.
Foxx had two more highly-productive seasons in Philadelphia, hitting .334 with 44 home runs and 130 RBIs in 1934, and .346 with an AL-leading 36 home runs and 115 RBIs in 1935. In 1936, the cash-strapped A’s traded their star slugger to the Boston Red Sox for two players and $150,000.
Philadelphia fans were sad to see the popular Foxx leave, but Philly’s loss was Boston’s gain, as the All-Star first baseman quickly won over Red Sox fans, hitting .338 with 41 home runs, 143 RBIs and 130 runs in 1936.
The Red Sox were stuck behind the perennial champion New York Yankees in the standings during Foxx’s time in Boston, but the star slugger took a backseat to no one. He won his third AL MVP in 1938, hitting .349 with 50 home runs, 175 RBIs and 139 runs. He led the league in average, RBIs, on-base, slugging, OPS and total bases, and became the first player in Major League history to have a 50 home run season with two different teams.
In 1939, Foxx won his fourth home run title, leading the AL with 35 in only 124 games. In 1940, he had his last season with both 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, as he hit 36 long balls and drove in 119 runs.
The 1940 season also marked a major milestone for Foxx, as he became the second player to reach 500 career home runs. The 32-year-old was on pace to pass Ruth as MLB’s all-time leader, but his production would drop off following the next season.
After a solid 1941 in which he hit .300 with 19 home runs and 105 RBIs, Foxx hit a career-low .226 with only eight home runs in 100 games between the Red Sox and Cubs in 1942. The struggling Foxx sat out the 1943 season, due to lingering injuries and vision issues. The vision problem is thought to have stemmed from being hit by a pitch during an offseason barnstorming game in Canada back in 1934.
Foxx returned to the majors in a part-time capacity in 1944, playing an uneventful 25 games for the Cubs before returning to Philadelphia to play for the city’s National League team, the Phillies. The 37-year-old hit a respectable .268 with seven home runs and 38 RBIs in 89 games in his final season. The versatile Foxx also pitched in nine games for the Phillies, going 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in 22 2/3 innings.
The final numbers on Foxx put him in elite company. He ranks fourth all-time in slugging (.609), fifth in OPS (1.038), 10th in on-base (.428) and RBIs (1,922), and 19th in home runs (534). After 20 years of terrorizing Major League pitchers, “The Beast” was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951.