Bill Foster

By: the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Position: Pitcher
Teams: Memphis Red Sox, Chicago American Giants, Birmingham Black Barons, Homestead Grays, Kansas City Monarchs, Pittsburgh Crawfords, 1923-1937

Bill "Willie" Foster was the younger half-brother of legendary Negro League hurler and entrepreneur (and Hall of Famer) Rube Foster. Although the two didn't get along, and the youngster rebelled against his older brother's advice, Bill became the epitome of the canny lefty. Spending most of his 15-year career with Rube's Chicago American Giants, he was the pitcher managers wanted in a big game.

The shrewd lefty was known for responding to pressure situations.
The shrewd lefty was known for
responding to pressure situations.

William Hendrick Foster was born in Texas in 1904 but soon moved to Mississippi. He asked for a job with Rube's Giants in 1923, but Rube turned him down. But when the youngster signed instead with the Memphis Red Sox, the imperious older brother demanded that the Sox owner send him back.

Bill never forgave his older brother, whose demands and lectures (Rube was nearing the nervous breakdown that would end his career) were a lot to bear. But when Rube moved on, Bill seemed to apply all that he had been taught, and in a hurry.

Foster baffled hitters with a dazzling assortment of pitches. The secret was that he threw them all with exactly the same motion -- a fluid, easy stride. He had an excellent fastball, but his change of pace was especially deadly. He was notorious for responding when the pressure was on.

In 1926, he won 23 games in a row and 26 overall, with a league record of 11-4. But his most amazing performance came the last day of the playoffs to determine the Negro National League title.

Needing to win both games of a doubleheader against the Kansas City Monarchs, Bill started and won both games against legendary Bullet Joe Rogan. And he won the ultimate game of the Black World Series that year with a positively amazing 1-0, 10-hit performance.

The next season, Foster compiled an overall record of 32-3, going 21-3 in league contests. In 1932, he was 15-8 against the league, and in 1933, 9-3, which earned him the right to start the first Negro League All-Star (East-West) Game. Pitching against a lineup of superstars, he threw a complete-game victory.

Throughout his career, Foster won six of seven starts against white major-league teams. After an especially outstanding job in 1929, Charlie Gehringer said, "If I could paint you white, I could get $150,000 for you right now."

Foster retired to become dean of men and baseball coach at Alcorn State College in Mississippi, positions he held until shortly before his death in 1978. He was elected to the Hall in 1996.

Here are Bill Fosters's major league totals*:


*Note: Foster's career statistics are incomplete.

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