07/23/06 4:43 PM ET
Aparicio, Fox honored with statues
Legendary middle infielders memorialized by White Sox
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Aparicio and his wife, Sonia, who have been together 52 years, walked toward one of the statues as the countdown began to lift the cloth over the expertly crafted sculptures. But the statue he originally moved in front of was the one done of Fox.
So, Aparicio was quickly redirected, and the moment awaited by the dignitaries in attendance and the fans overlooking the ceremony in the right-center field concourse finally arrived. The statues featured Fox flipping a baseball to Aparicio, who was depicted with his glove outstretched, waiting to catch the baseball.
The Aparicio-Fox tandem statues marked the fourth in the series as commissioned by the White Sox. They follow Charles Comiskey, Minnie Minoso and Carlton Fisk, whose likeness was unveiled last year.
"They were due," said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, explaining the reasoning for the selection of Aparicio and Fox. "You can make a case for them even being earlier, if you want to do it chronologically.
"The Roman [Comiskey] had to be first, and Minnie spans all the ages. Fisk is the most recent of the heroes, so now we can go back in time a little bit."
Larry and Karen Rodriguez, Aparicio's daughter and her husband, also attended Sunday's pregame ceremony, as did Luis Aparicio Jr. Joanne Fox, Nellie's widow, represented the Fox family, and their daughters Bonnie and Tracy also were on hand.
Joanne Fox was visibly moved after she lifted the cloth off the statue, touching the replica of her husband's face and also touching his outstretched hand. In a speech following the unveiling, Fox became emotional as she thanked the White Sox fans and organization for still remembering her husband after all these years.
"It touches our hearts, the way you have remembered Nellie in Chicago, the fans and the organization," Fox said. "It is amazing. All the time, I get letters from fans who remember Nellie from the '50s. They remember the team, but he had a lot of followers."
Fox and Aparicio found their greatest fame during the White Sox 1959 World Series appearance, when Fox was named the American League's Most Valuable Player. Aparicio was wearing his 2005 World Series ring on Sunday, while Joanne said she paid close attention to last year's championship run.
In fact, Fox said the 2005 White Sox recreated the atmosphere of the Go Go White Sox from 1959.
Aparicio and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen also have a strong connection. Both are from Venezuela, and Guillen first started in baseball while playing for Aparicio's uncle.
"It's nice for the organization to do this for the guys that deserve to be there. They earn it," Guillen said. "Believe me, Luis is not an easy man to get out of Venezuela."
"This is my biggest moment in baseball," added Aparicio, who finished with 506 career stolen bases, 10 All-Star appearances and nine Gold Gloves. "I thank the White Sox organization for giving me the opportunity to play baseball, and I thank God for giving me the ability to play this game. The only thing I can say is baseball is so much of me, I even met my wife playing baseball."
Guillen also caught the game's first pitch from Aparicio, a special moment for both. They are part of the legacy of great All-Star Venezuelan shortstops, which includes the late Chico Carrasquel, Davey Concepcion, Omar Vizquel and even Alex Gonzalez. Guillen believes that Aparicio's No. 11 should be retired at every level of baseball competition in Venezuela, and a baseball field should be named after him.
Of course, Aparicio and Fox already have their numbers retired by the White Sox and both are members of baseball's Hall of Fame. But as Aparicio and Joanne Fox mentioned, Sunday's event just might top both of those previous honors.
Reinsdorf said that a new statue probably would be unveiled each year, but he wasn't sure. Future candidates would have to include franchise legends such as Billy Pierce, Harold Baines, Robin Ventura, Frank Thomas and Guillen and Reinsdorf themselves.
On Sunday, though, the focus was on possibly one of the greatest double-play combinations in not just White Sox history, but in the history of baseball.
"I remember the way they worked together and played together," Reinsdorf said. "You didn't think of one without the other. They were the ultimate double-play combination."
"[Nellie] would have been happy, you can see in his wife's face," added Aparicio of Fox, who retired with 2,663 hits, a .288 average and 1,279 runs scored. "I miss him. The White Sox miss him. I think he was a great ... for me, playing the game he was playing, [he] encouraged me. I learned a lot from him."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.