PLAYER PROFILES

Bill Foster

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Bill Foster – the younger half-brother of the Father of Negro Baseball, Rube Foster – was one of the finest lefthanded pitchers in Negro League history. He played most of his career with Rube’s Chicago American Giants, and was an intelligent power pitcher with near-perfect control and a variety of pitches, all delivered with the same fluid motion. Occasionally, he would use a hesitation wind-up. Black all-star third baseman and manager Dave Malarcher once said, “Willie Foster’s greatness was that he had this terrific speed and a great, fast-breaking curveball and a drop ball, and he was really a master of the change-of-pace. He could throw you a real fast one and then use the same motion and bring it up a little slower, and then a little slower yet. And then he’d use the same motion again, and Z-zzz. He was really a great pitcher.”

After a brief stay with the Memphis Red Sox in 1923, brother Rube enticed Willie to join his Chicago American Giants. For three years under Rube’s tutelage, Willie learned the art of pitching. In 1926 he won 26 consecutive games, leading the Giants to the playoffs against the Kansas City Monarchs. He won the last two games 1-0 and 5-0 to win the league championship. In the Black World Series finale against the Bacharach Giants, he threw a 1-0 shutout.

In 1927 Foster posted a Negro League record of 18-3, and went 14-1 in the California Winter League. In a repeat BWS appearance against the Bacharach Giants, he won the opener 6-2, lost the fifth game (shortened to 6-1/2 innings due to darkness), lost the eighth game because of four fielding errors, and came back in the ninth game to win the championship.

After the 1929 season, Foster pitched a two-game series against an American League all-star team composed of players from the Tigers, Browns, Indians, and White Sox. He struggled in the first game, but followed with a shutout in the second contest, pitching eight innings of no-hit ball and striking out nine. Detroit slugger Charlie Gehringer told Foster after the series, “If I could paint you white I could get $150,000 for you right now.”

Available box scores show Foster winning 11 of 21 confrontations with the legendary Satchel Paige. He also won six of seven games against white major leaguers. In 1933 he posted a complete-game victory in the first East-West all-star game, giving up seven hits and seven runs while striking out four. His last year in baseball was spent with a white semi-pro team in Elgin, IL, and a black team called the Washington Browns in Yakima, WA. He later returned to his alma mater, Alcorn College, as baseball coach and dean of men.

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