Wednesday, October 3, 2012

#442 - Alan Foster

This guy is coming off his best season though you can’t tell from his expression. For a while baseball was very, very good to Alan Foster and then all of a sudden it wasn’t and Alan went from being a pretty happy-go-lucky guy to a much more staid fellow. But ’73 eventually must have felt pretty good for him with its 13 wins and his first sub-4.00 ERA since the Sixties. Early in May he got his first complete game since ’71 and he finished the year with one of the staff’s best records. But he was still a long way from the golden boy who graced the cover of SI in ’68 and was heralded as the next Rookie of the Year. Baseball can go that way sometimes.

Alan Foster was born in Pasadena and grew up in Hacienda Heights, California. In high school aside from playing hoops, he was a big pitching star, his senior year throwing three no-hitters while striking out 188 batters in 99 innings and posting a 0.39 ERA. He got a baseball scholarship to UCLA but LA got him that spring of ’65 when he was signed for a big bonus. In A ball that summer went 5-2 with a strikeout an inning as a starter. He moved up to Double A the next year and went 11-5 with a 2.86 ERA. When the Dodgers went for a tour of Japan in the off-season they brought Alan with them and he was their best pitcher on the tour. By then he was really tight with Tom Hutton – ironically the next post – and the two put together a nightclub act where they sang Simon and Garfunkle tunes as well as other mellow pop hits of that time. In ’67 after Alan missed some early season time to finish his basic training they both got promoted to Triple A Spokane where he went 10-9 with a 3.49 ERA and got his first look up top where he generally performed quite well. In ’68 he got his SI cover, again threw some nice ball up top, and went 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA at Spokane. But the most significant event that year career-wise was when he tore the tendons in his right shoulder in a game. Until then his money pitch had been his fastball delivered with a big Juan Marichal-type kick. But besides wrecking the balance of his season the injury took away his big pitch and thereafter Alan had to become a control guy.

In ’69 Foster came up to LA and the after-effects of his injury were still apparent as he had a tough time balancing his off-speed stuff with his now-compromised heater. In two full seasons in LA he went a combined 13-22 with a 4.29 ERA. After the ’70 season he was sent with Ray Lamb – another formerly highly-regarded pitcher – to the Indians for Duke Sims. For Cleveland Alan again joined the rotation and the results were roughly on par with his prior two years in LA. After the season he was part of a big trade to California: he, Frank Baker, and Vada Pinson went to the Angels for Jerry Moses and Alex Johnson. For the Angels, Alan spent most of the season back in Triple A where his 8-8 record and 4.25 ERA didn’t excite anyone, although his nearly strikeout an inning must have turned on someone in St. Louis. The following April he was sold to the Cards.

Foster’s follow-up campaign in St. Louis started pretty badly with a 1-5 record and an ERA over 5.00. But he settled down the rest of the way to finish 7-10 with a 3.88 ERA. In November he went to his last stop, San Diego, with Rich Folkers and Sonny Siebert for Ed Brinkman and Danny Breeden. With the Padres the next couple seasons Alan pitched pretty well, spending more time in the pen than in the rotation. He went a combined 6-7 with a 2.95 ERA. He was released after the ’76 season and retired with a record of 48-63, a 3.74 ERA, and 26 complete games.

Foster must have liked his last couple years in San Diego because that is where he stayed. He and his wife opened some retail shops specializing in women’s cosmetics and outside of a few old-timer games, both in LA and Spokane, he has pretty much stayed away from baseball.

Alan’s bonus at the time was rumored to be anywhere between $60,000 and this number. Those two no-hitters in ’67 were pitched in successive starts. Alan had to borrow a teammate's cleats for the first game. He was so delighted in the outcome that he bought them.

These guys missed each other by two years:

1. Foster and Chris Chambliss ’71 Indians;
2. Chambliss and Tom Ragland ’73 Indians.

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