Larry Cox looked like he was going to become a baseball lifer. Maybe Cox was destined to be a major league manager. But either way, he was compiling one of those coaching resumes that he was going to be ubiquitous in the baseball landscape.
His baseball life ended when his own life stopped.
The Ohio native signed with the Phillies as an 18 year old high school grad in 1966. He would log 8 years in the minor leagues before finally playing one single game for the major league Phillies in 1973.
Along the way, the young catcher played in Huron, Spartanburg, Tidewater, Raleigh-Durham, Reading, Eugene and Hawaii before getting the call. He was living the Johnny Cash song “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
A few cameos with the Phillies over 1974 and 1975 interrupted stints in Toledo and ultimately played for the Twins team in Tacoma.
Cox was part of the original 1977 Seattle Mariners where he was Bob Stinson’s backup. That winter he was traded to the Cubs for minor leaguer Steve Hamrick, resulting in this airbrushed hat for his 1978 Topps card.
They could have kept the hat intact because Cox was traded BACK to Seattle the next year.
In 1979 and 1980, Cox played 100 games each year but could not make much of an impact with his bat. On June 14, 1980, he had one of his best overall games, reaching base 4 times and hitting a critical 3 run homer to give the Mariners a 9-8 win over the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles.
Soon he added a cool beard to go with his bad ass 1970’s mustache in time to be thrown in with Rick Honeycutt and Willie Horton in an 11 player deal to Texas involving Richie Zisk.
He played only 5 games in Texas and in 1982 played a pair of games for the Cubs before retiring and focusing on coaching.
Like his playing days, Cox bounced around the minor leagues as a manager. He remained a skipper in the Cubs organization until Don Zimmer, another baseball lifer, made him part of the major league coaching staff in 1988.
Cox was a big league coach when the Cubs won the 1989 National League East but fell short in the NLCS to the San Francisco Giants.
But all the knowledge of catching in the minors and big leagues and managing in the farm was coming to fruition. Larry Cox was in his 40’s and established as a major league coach. Who knows how many more coaching staffs he would have been a part of, like Zimmer who coached deep into his life. Maybe a big league club would have given Cox a shot as an interim manager.
Think of all the catchers, like Torre, Scioscia, Bochy and Melvin, who become managers in the show. Many people who did not make much of an impact in the majors became legendary managers like Lasorda, Weaver and Leyland.
Could that have been Cox’s fate? We will never know because he died of a heart attack shortly before spring training of 1990. A baseball life was cut short but worth at least a salute on this blog.