Ted Cox occupies an interesting place in baseball history.
He’s a footnote in the record books, but to Cleveland fans, he’s probably best known for being part of one of the many deals in the 1970s that led Indians fans to smack their foreheads and go, “WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING?”
Cox, who died March 11 after a brief bout with cancer, was the 17th overall pick of the 1973 MLB draft, by the Boston Red Sox. Future hall of famers Robin Yount and Dave Winfield were taken third and fourth overall that draft, and the Indians, picking fifth, took … Glenn Tufts. (Len Barker and Eddie Murray were both taken in the third round; although both would play for the Indians eventually, neither were drafted by them.)
Cox made his debut four years later, going four for four in his first game, tying a major league record for a debut. He then singled twice the following day, starting his career with hits in his first six official at-bats (he’d walked in his first game), a major league record Cox holds to this day. (It was even mentioned in his obituary.)
Cox’s time in Boston was brief. The following March, he was dealt to Cleveland in the deal that sent Dennis Eckersley to the Red Sox. The sordid circumstances surrounding Eckersley’s departure have been well-documented, and I have no new ground to break in that. But Eckersley won 20 games that year for the Red Sox, who of course peed down their collective legs at the end of the year, losing a tiebreaker to the Yankees at Fenway Park. Eckersley would go on to a Hall of Fame career as a starting pitcher and then as a closer for the Athletics.
Cox bounced around the lineup for the Tribe, playing left field, right field and all four infield positions at one point or another in three seasons in Cleveland. He also entered the record book again in the spring of 1980. That year, the Elias Sports Bureau introduced a new statistic, the game-winning RBI. Cox, by then a member of the Mariners, got the first one against Dave Lemanczyk of the Blue Jays. The statistic turned out to be a controversial one – so much so that it was phased out after the 1988 season.
Cox’s big league career ended after the 1981 season and he spent time the next year in the Mexican League before returning to his native Oklahoma. He remained invested in baseball, doing charity work and serving as the United States Specialty Sports Association’s State Baseball Director in Oklahoma. He also coached little league and was a consultant for the “Nations Baseball” youth organization.
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project