Longtime Twins executive Fox dies

Howard Fox moved from Washington, D.C., with the team and helped build two World Series championship clubs.

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Former Twins President Howard Fox

Photo: John Croft, Star Tribune file

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Former Twins executive Howard Fox, whose tenure with the organization went back to its days in Washington, died Tuesday while in hospice care near his home in Orlando, Fla. He was 90.

Fox made moves and hires that helped shape the Twins' World Series-winning teams in 1987 and '91.

Former Twin Roy Smalley, pointing out the Twins opponent on Tuesday, spoke of how much Fox cared for the organization.

"It's kind of apropos that we're playing the Dodgers,'' Smalley said. "They talk of people like Tommy Lasorda bleeding Dodger blue. Howard bled the Twins' colors.''

Fox's career began as general manager of a Washington Senators minor league affiliate in the 1940s before he joined the major league club in the early 1950s to work in public relations. He later became the Senators' traveling secretary and held the position when the club moved to Minnesota in 1961.

"He was a no-nonsense guy,'' said Jim Rantz, Twins director of minor leagues. "He was all business.''

Former Twins coach and manager Billy Martin knew that all too well. It was during a 1965 charter flight to Washington, D.C., that Fox became enraged because Martin, who'd had a few drinks, was using foul language. Fox's wife, Yvonne, was on the flight and within earshot.

Once the team arrived at its hotel, Martin was among the last to get his room key. Martin and Fox began yelling, and a fight broke out, with both men suffering bruises.

"All the wonderful things I can say about Howard being a gentleman, Billy Martin wouldn't have been listed as one of his best friends,'' said Jerry Bell, chairman of the Twins executive board.

As Fox worked his way up the organizational ladder, he had the tricky duty of being the go-between for owner Calvin Griffith and players seeking better contracts.

"He was Calvin's right-hand snitch,'' former Twin Bert Blyleven joked. "He did a good job back then.''

Fox traded Smalley in 1982 to the Yankees for Paul Boris, Ron Davis and someone who helped them win two World Series.

"He always believed that if you traded a position player like a shortstop, you had to get one in return.'' Bell said. "[Shortstop] Greg Gagne was in A-ball at the time so we got Gagne as part of the deal.''

Fox became club president in 1984. He swung deals that brought Blyleven and Smalley back and later brought in Andy MacPhail to be the general manager.

Bell replaced Fox as president in 1987, and Fox went on to become chairman of the Twins executive board. He remained on the executive board up to his final days.

"He really was an organization guy,'' Smalley said. "He was for the club and was for the players.''

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