Today, Major League Baseball will play a regular season game in Europe for the first time ever when the Yankees take on the Red Sox at London Stadium. The game starts at 12:10 CST. According to the Boston Globe, the concession stands will sell meat pies, Scotch eggs, and sausage rolls. Fans will be entertained by a between innings race around the warning track featuring mascot versions of Winston Churchill, Freddie Mercury, Henry VIII, and the Loch Ness Monster. A good time will be had by all.
The people in charge of this game missed a cracking opportunity to honor one of the best English players in the history of baseball. They opted for any old Tom, Dick, or Harry to throw out the first pitch. However, they could have chosen former Cardinal Danny Cox, England’s Cy Young. I’m not taking the piss here. Let’s have a gander at some numbers.
Using Baseball Reference’s play index, we can find the career leaders in Wins Above Replacement for pitchers born in the United Kingdom. You can find that list here. You’ll see that Danny Cox comes in third behind Jim McCormick and Ted Lewis. However, if you look at the birthplace locations for those players, you’ll see that McCormick was born in Glasgow and Lewis in Machynlleth. Aye, there’s the rub! McCormick is Scottish and Lewis is Welsh. If we limit our search strictly to pitchers born in England, here’s how the top ten looks:
Career bWAR, Pitchers Born in England
There it is- a 10.5 bWAR, best in baseball history, and Bob’s your uncle. Danny Cox is England’s version of Cy Young. It turns out the best pitcher born in England in the modern history of the game has something in common with England’s most famous Shaun. He has red on him, although in this case it’s via birds on the bat rather than blood and red ink stains. Hand that man a celebratory Cornetto.
There’s a lot going on here. First, Cox isn’t even the only modern day Cardinal on the list. Second, Lance Painter is the second best pitcher on the list and is another former Cardinal. He can have a Cornetto too.
As for Cox, he only lived in England for two years. His father was a master sergeant in the Air Force and was stationed there when his son was born. If you’ve seen Cox in an interview (like this one) or heard his radio show on KTRS, you know he is a much better fit for a Bass Pro advertisement and a day out on the lake fishing with Whitey Herzog than he is afternoon tea and Sunday roast. I find the juxtaposition of Cox and his English background to be hilarious.
Now seems like as good a time as any for a refresher course on Danny Cox. He was a stalwart of the Cardinals mid-80s rotations. In many ways, he was the 1980s version of Lance Lynn– a durable, better-than-you-thought bulldog on multiple playoff teams. At 6’4 and 235 pounds, he carried a hulking frame punctuated by a fu manchu mustache that was equal parts Magnum, P.I. and Hulkamania.
From his debut in 1983 through the 1987 season, Cox led the team in innings pitched and fWAR. His 3.34 ERA was second amongst starting pitchers only to everyone’s favorite crusty crab, John Tudor. Cox was the starting pitcher in some of the biggest games during one of the most successful stretches in franchise history. For instance, he threw a complete game shutout in game 7 of the 1987 NLCS to send the Cardinals to the World Series:
His seven shutout innings as starting pitcher in the infamous Denkinger game of the 1985 World Series put the Redbirds in position to claim their second championship of the decade before fate intervened. In fact, an argument could be made that Cox could have been World Series MVP had the Cardinals held on for the win.
Cox was on the hill for the division clincher in 1987, ending a heated pennant race with the Mets by pitching the Redbirds to victory over the Expos in a complete game. Note: The video clip below says Todd Worrell, which is obviously incorrect.
Cox was also the victim of one of Cardinal history’s oddest injuries. He missed most of April 1986 when he jumped off of a three foot tall sea wall and suffered a chip fracture in his right ankle. It is surely the worse day fishing he has ever had in a lifetime of fishing.
Several non-fishing injuries limited him to 13 starts in 1988, and completely erased his 1989 and 1990 seasons. At that point, the Cardinals granted him free agency. He landed in Philadelphia. He spent one and a half mediocre seasons as a Phillie and resurfaced as a reliever in Pittsburgh mid-1992. In 1993, as a reliever for the Blue Jays, he finally got the World Series ring that Denkinger’s folly had deprived him eight years earlier. His career ended after the 1995 season.
He returned to the St. Louis area after his playing days were over. He can rest easy in the knowledge that he is England’s Cy Young, worthy of inclusion on any list of famous Englishmen.