Baseball Starts with Billy Fox
On this date in 1915, baseball fans were abuzz as spring training began in Grand Forks. William "Billy" Fox had freshly taken up the role as manager of the Flickertails of the Northern League. Two games in, news reports boasted that he had a very strong team, one that showed improvements over the prior year.
Although he had not been involved with the team previously and was not from the area, a good number of locals had met Fox through baseball, and knew him by reputation. He had played in the Major Leagues with the Washington Senators and the Cincinnati Reds.
One man was quoted as saying, "Fox is a gentleman. Baseball is a business proposition with him and he runs it as any other business – honorably, cleanly, and with a view of making it appeal to all. He is a wonderful leader and always has the respect of his men, which tells a whole lot."
He was also described in newspapers as a "thorough baseball manager. He knows the game from every angle, and has the faculty of getting the best out of his players … He is an excellent strategist, and his baseball judgment and experience undoubtedly will be one of the greatest assets Grand Forks has."
He even became the deciding factor in a grade school game. He ruled that an umpire had made a wrong decision during a game, which led to the teams re-playing the last three innings!
Playing and managing baseball was not Billy Fox's only business, which ultimately led to his departure. In early July, he sold the rights to "an anti-bulging dress shirt to the United Shirt and Color company" in New York. In addition to shirt design, Fox also dabbled in baseball inventions, having come up with
“a number of improvements for baseball equipment," for which he was currently receiving "a handsome royalty from the A. G. Spaulding company."
With Billy departing for his home in Minneapolis, the Grand Forks team disbanded, with some players going back to their homes in other states, and others catching on with other teams.
Billy died in 1946 at the age of 74 in Minneapolis.
Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker
The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, April 21, 1915, p3; April 12, 1915, p3; March 5, 1915, p3
The Grand Forks Daily Herald, Monday Evening, April 12, 1915, p3; April 20, 1915, p8; April 26, 1915, p5; May 1, 1915, p6; May 10, 1915, p12; July 6, 1915, p5
Bismarck Daily Tribune, March 7, 1915, p8