Monday, December 19, 2011

#294 - Steve Foucault

Here we have a rookie card shot taken in spring training, which is about as rookie as you get. The biggest surprise I got while researching this post was how short Steve's career actually was. He put up generally quite good numbers including a rookie season in '73 in which he posted eight saves despite: a) pitching for Texas; and b) missing two months for a dislocated shoulder he suffered running into another pitcher during warm-ups (that's how life rolled for the Rangers back then). But Steve was done by the time he was 28 and it's really going to bug me if I can't figure out why that was. So let's get this thing going.

Like Milt May, the subject of the prior post, Steve Foucault was born in the mid-west - in this case Minnesota - and moved to Florida as a kid. After graduating from Miami's Coral Park High, Steve went to South Georgia College, a two-year school that was a local baseball factory. There he pitched a little but his primary position was third base. He was drafted by the Senators upon graduating in '69 and had sort of a nasty start to his career, injuring his knee after just a couple games in Rookie ball that summer. That injury spelled the end of his position career and the next year, after winter work, he re-started himself in A ball as a pitcher. Steve, who never started a game at any level, spent all of '71 in the pen in A ball as well and then his amazing numbers at that level in '72 got him moved mid-season to Triple A Denver. After more good work there he came out of spring training '73 on the Texas roster.

In '74 Foucault went 8-9 with a 2.24 ERA with 12 saves in 144 innings as the team's closer. Billy Martin loved the guy and Steve averaged over two innings an appearance. The only real down moment of the season was when he was slugged in the face during the infamous ten-cent beer night in Cleveland. In '75 an early-season shoulder injury compromised his effectiveness a bit as his K totals came way down and his ERA shot up almost two runs. He still went 8-4 with ten saves in over 100 innings. Then in '76 his innings came way down as the Rangers moved to bullpen-by-committee although he still got the most closes and went 8-8 with five saves and pulled his ERA back to 3.33. The first week of the '77 season after seeing no work he was sent to Detroit for Willie Horton.

For the Tigers Foucault occupied the closer role the rest of the season and he was characteristically good, going 7-7 with a 3.15 ERA and 13 saves. Then in '78, despite putting up the second best numbers in the pen for a revived team - Detroit would post its first winning record since '73 - he was released that August. I have seen indications that the nagging shoulder injury was to blame which seems correct since his innings were pretty low but have seen nothing specific. He was picked up by the Royals but after only a few innings was released by them as well. In '79 he hooked up with Houston but after a 7.71 ERA in seven innings for them in Triple A he was released, ending his time as a pitcher. For lack of anything else, the evidence in a few seasons of declining work but with pretty good stats points to injury. Steve finished up top with a record of 35-36 with 52 saves and a 3.21 ERA. In the minors he went 18-11 and posted a .287 batting average.

Foucault eventually went the coaching route after playing. Initially according to one source he was a cop back in Arlington. Then by '92 he was in Milwaukee's system as a pitching coach. There he hooked up with manager Wayne Krenchiki and the two were inseparable thereafter. After their team became independent in '95 they both moved around various independent leagues, reaching Newark (2007-'08), Evansville ('09-'10) and the Long Island Ducks ('11). Steve still has the huge mustache he picked up during the '74 season.

Topps gets a little liberal with these star bullets. He did hit .286 in '69 but in only seven at bats. That 0.45 ERA is pretty tough to beat and the over a strikeout an inning feat is worth mentioning, but "remarkable?" (although I guess it's cool if we take that word literally). The cartoon is worth our attention. Steve could submarine as well as anybody which he did from college ball on, probably helping to hasten his move to the pitching spot.

These two migrants to Florida also played together:

1. Foucault and Milt May '77 to '78 Tigers.

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