Willie Foster

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This article is about the Hall of Fame baseball player. For the zoo director, see William Foster.

William Hendrick Foster (born June 12, 1904 in Calvert, Texas; died September 16, 1978 in Lorman, Mississippi) pitched one game for the 1925 Birmingham Black Barons. He played mainly with the Chicago American Giants through the 1920s and 1930s and later coached baseball at Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in Mississippi. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.

Foster was the younger half brother of Negro Leagues manger and owner Andrew "Rube" Foster. He was raised by his grandparents in Rodney, Mississippi. After Rube Foster declined Bill's request to join his Chicago team, he signed up instead with the Memphis Red Sox in 1923, but Rube immediately wrote to demand him back. He spent some time with the American Giants that year and the next, and then split the 1925 season between Chicago and Birmingham. In his sole start for the Black Barons, Foster allowed one hit and no runs, and walked 4 in 9 innings for a complete game shutout.

He returned to the American Giants as a regular starting pitcher in 1926, and helped carry the team to back-to-back Negro National League pennants.

For the 1926 season, Foster won 26 games, including a stretch of 23 consecutive wins. In a playoff double-header against the Kansas City Monarchs, Foster recorded consecutive complete game shutouts to advance the American Giants to the Negro World Series. He followed with a 32-3 record on the way to a second pennant in 1927.

Over the next decade he remained with that team, except for brief stints with the Monarchs, Homestead Grays, and Pittsburgh Crawfords. For the 1930 season he also filled the role of field manager. In 1931 Foster won 23 games for the Grays with only 5 losses. On October 31 of that year he pitched in an all-star match-up against Major League players. He was the top vote-getter in the 1933 East-West All-Star Game, which he won with a complete game. He retired from the Negro Leagues in 1936.

Known for his broad range of pitches and exceptional control, Foster was often compared to pitching legend Satchel Paige with some, including manager Dave Malarcher, saying he was the better pitcher.

After retiring, Foster moved to Tarboro, North Carolina where he married his childhood friend Thelma Quigless in 1941. He played some semi-professional baseball, coached Little League teams, and also sold policies for the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. Following a divorce, Foster remarried and moved to Mississippi. He was employed as dean of men and baseball coach at the Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College from 1960 to 1977. He died at home there in 1978 and is buried at the Carbondale Cemetery in Alcorn.

The Baseball Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee nominated Foster for induction in 1996. He has also been inducted into the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame (1997) and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. Alcorn State University's Foster Baseball Field at McGowan Stadium was named in his honor in 2012.


  • Dixon, Phil (2009) Phil Dixon's American Baseball Chronicles, Great Teams: The 1931 Homestead Grays. Vol. I. Xlibris ISBN 1441574719
  • Whirty, Ryan (September 24, 2013) "Baseball bonds Princeville, Hall of Fame pitcher Bill Foster." News & Observer.

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