Arriving on December 30, 1890, Jim Viox would grow up to become the second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates where he would play alongside Honus Wagner toward the end of Wagner’s long career.
Born in Lockland, Ohio – a small town north of Cincinnati – Viox began his career playing for Lexington in the Blue Grass League. After a successful year in 1910, the Cubs signed him but let him go. Viox hit .291 in 1911 and was signed by Pittsburgh to play third base. It took a little while for Viox to earn a spot, but eventually the 5′ 7″ infielder found his way to a starting role at second base. He was quick enough, but not fast – and had a decent eye. In his first full season, Viox finished in the top five in the National League by hitting .317, hitting doubles and triples and getting on base at a .399 clip. While Viox would never approach .300 again, his ability to work the count and get on base was a valuable commodity.
However, the end of the Wagner era had an unhappy ending – by 1915, the Pirates were no longer competitive and Viox was one of many players who were cut by Pittsburgh in 1916. Viox wasn’t a rangy fielder and started to put on a little weight (in 1921, when managing for Portsmouth and still playing second base, The Sporting News noted that Viox was heavy in the team photo…), so even though he was still a better batter than anyone else the Pirates used at second base for the next decade, he was dispatched to the minors. (He reminds me a little of Jeff Treadway, just looking at his numbers.)
Viox first landed in Kansas City but when he was claimed by Salt Lake City, he decided he would rather play semi-pro baseball in the Cincinnati area than head west. In 1920, Portsmouth of the Virginia League tapped Viox to become its playing manager and Viox took with him a number of players he had seen playing ball in the Queen’s City area. Among them was pitcher Larry Benton, who along with shortstop Harold “Pie” Traynor, would lead Portsmouth to the 1920 Virginia League pennant. Viox managed another pennant winner in 1921 – though that team won its pennant only after Wilson and Rocky Mount were declared to be in violation of the league’s salary cap and had to forfeit games.
While managing, Viox also played – one season he batted .371 – and earned a trip to the high minors; Viox played for a season and a half for Louisville in the American Association. However, he was called back to managing and took over teams in Lexington, Rocky Mount, and Raleigh before leaving organized baseball.
Viox may have retired, but never lost his love of the sport. He frequently played in old-timers games in Cincinnati and would attend events sponsored by the Retired Ballplayers Fraternity in the Cincy Area. He shows up in The Sporting News at William (Dummy) Hoy’s 86th birthday party in a couple of pictures. His son, James Jr. grew up to be an engineer, a career that Viox’s grandchildren continue today. Viox died on January 6, 1969 at his home in Erlanger, Kentucky, a short ride south of Cincinnati.
Jim Viox page on Retrosheet.org
Portsmouth Truckers Team Page on Baseball-Reference.com
Jim Viox Minor League Page on Baseball-Reference.com