started his big-league baseball career on fire, establishing the Major League Baseball (MLB) record of hitting safely in his first six official at-bats. His six consecutive hits at the start of his career in 1977 is still the record for 131 years of organized baseball.
William "Ted" Cox
was the Boston Red Sox's first-round draft choice out of Midwest City (Okla.) High School in 1973. He climbed the minor-league ladder in the Red Sox system, stepping up a class every year. At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, he evolved into a skilled hitter with a major-league swing.
The 22-year-old Cox
was called up from Pawtucket during the '77 stretch drive by the Red Sox at the close of Triple-A play. His call-up was hastened by a phenomenal season in Triple-A as a right-handed hitter. In 95 games with Pawtucket, Cox
hit .334 with 14 homers and 81 RBIs. He was the Topps 1977 Minor League Player of the Year and the 1977 International League Most Valuable Player, helping Pawtucket win the regular season championship.
joined the Red Sox Friday, Sept. 16. Having a valuable bat, but not being able to break into the lineup as a third baseman, he could only bide his time until management found a way to use his talent.
He got his first shot at the lineup as the designated hitter for the Red Sox against the Orioles on Sunday, Sept. 18, on "Thanks Brooks" Robinson Day at Baltimore. Perennial All-Star Robinson
had just retired, finishing a 23-year career with the Orioles, one of the longest major-league careers with one club.
Although gathered that day to honor Robinson, the sell-out crowd of 51,798 was also treated to the start of a historic two-game hitting streak.
"I still have the lineup card," Oklahoma City native Cox said. "I remember third-base coach Eddie Yost coming up to me and saying 'you're DHing and hitting second.' I said 'yeah, right.' Then he pulled out the lineup card and showed me. Before that I had been excited just to be there that day because Brooks Robinson
was one of my idols."
singled in the first inning, time-out was called and he was given the ball as a souvenir. The public address announcer informed the huge crowd that it was his first official major league at-bat and first hit. In his second plate appearance he drew a walk from future Cy Young Award
Winner Mike Flanagan
(1979). Walks are not scored as official at-bats.
then got an infield single in the fifth on a swinging bunt that Orioles third baseman Doug DeCinces
barehanded to make a desperation throw to first. The throw was close on that second hit, close enough for Baltimore manager Earl Weaver to object.
"The first-base ump called me safe and Earl Weaver came storming out of the dugout to argue the call," Cox
said. "I watched the argument and said to myself: 'Wow, that's Earl Weaver. This is great.'"
In the sixth inning Cox
hit a line drive to center and picked up his first major-league RBI when Rick Burleson
scored from second. He led off the eighth inning with a single by just missing his first major-league home run by six inches off the right-field wall.
was 4-for-4, scored three times and drove in a run to spark the 10-4 decision over the Orioles, making a winner of Mike Paxton. He had also gained the attention of the game's honoree.
came over to the clubhouse after the game to congratulate me on my fast start," Cox
said. "It was a day of big thrills, but I almost passed out when he shook my hand, wished me luck and playfully thanked me for 'ruining his big day.'"
The Red Sox win pulled them to within two and one-half games of the New York Yankees in the American League East pennant race. After the game reporters told Cox
he had tied the American League (AL) record for most hits in a first game. Casey Stengel, Willie McCovey
and Mack Jones
also share in that record. The last AL player to have a debut game with such good contact had been Forest (Spook) Jacobs
of the old Philadelphia Athletics in 1954.
The team returned to Boston to host the New York Yankees the next day. The Red Sox were in a three-way race for the division, neck and neck with the Yankees and Orioles.
Once again Cox
could not count on being in the lineup, especially since being right-handed he would have to face Yankee right-hander Ed Figueroa. But as luck would have it and with history to be made, he got the start over 1975 World Series
hero Bernie Carbo.
In his first appearance as the designated hitter against the Yankees, Cox
hit a line drive between first and second. With that single Cox
tied the modern MLB record held by Cecil Travis
of the AL Senators. Travis
set the record of five consecutive hits at the start of a career in an extra inning game in 1933.
When he came up the second time the near-capacity crowd of 34,346 in Boston's Fenway Park
got to their feet.
"They were going nuts," Cox
said. "They gave me a standing ovation. You know how they put your photo and stats up on the scoreboard - well, for me it was awesome. I looked up there and my average was 1.000 with five at-bats. I looked back at the Yankee catcher, Thurman Munson, and asked him what I should do. He told me, 'I dunno, tip your hat to 'em. Just shut these people up.'"
tipped his hat to the crowd and then hit a single to right center field off Figueroa. This assured him a place in MLB history and drew considerable attention to himself.
After that sixth straight hit, some of his Boston teammates - Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice
and others - started razzing Cox
a bit. "You can let up now, kid," they said.
finally got Cox
out leading off the fifth on a grounder to Yankee first baseman Chris Chambliss
in his seventh at-bat. That ground-out ended the most spectacular display of early-career contact for a rookie in MLB history and gave Cox
a unique hitting streak.
"The streak was over and I'm heading back to the dugout when the crowd gave me another standing ovation," Cox
said. "The regulars told me to acknowledge that standing O as well, so I came back out of the dugout and tipped my hat a second time. Reporters later told me mine was the best start ever in the history of the game."
Displaying extraordinary hand-eye coordination, Cox
went on to hit a long fly-out to left center field for his final at-bat in that game. He did not strikeout in his first two games. His second game was still a respectable 2-for-4 that dropped his batting average to .750 after two games. He finished the remaining 13 games with a .362 average, the highest of the Red Sox for that period.
Twenty-five years later Cox
is out of the game and home in Midwest City, Okla., having played for three other teams: the Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays.
works with the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association in raising money for worthy causes and charities.
He also works with the Oklahoma Sports Museum in Guthrie, Okla., having appeared at three functions to help them raise funds.
has expressed his love of the game by coaching his and other children to little-league championships in Midwest City.
In late 1997, Cox
was selected the United States Specialty Sports Association Oklahoma State Baseball Director. He has since been made a USSSA national committee member and consulted with several other state directors, helping them to get the program started in their states. The USSSA is the fastest growing baseball organization in the country.
He was recently selected to the Oklahoma All-Century High School Baseball team. Late last year, Cox
was awarded the USSSA President's award and his Oklahoma Baseball program was given the USSSA National Office Award of Excellence.
Although not currently coaching, he has spent the last four years putting together state and national USSSA championship tourneys, usually based in Midwest City. Cox
is that rare youth baseball organizer and coach who holds a major-league record that may never be broken.