June 10, 1929 |
|April 21, 1953, for the Cincinnati Redlegs|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 2, 1964, for the Los Angeles Angels|
|Runs batted in||166|
|Career highlights and awards|
Henry Lee Foiles, Jr. (born June 10, 1929) is an American former professional baseball player. He played as a catcher in Major League Baseball between 1953 and 1964. Although Foiles didn't produce impressive offensive statistics, he was a capable defensive catcher with a strong throwing arm, enabling the journeyman player to sustain an eleven-year career for seven different teams in Major League Baseball. He was notable for being the first player in major league history to use contact lenses.
Born in Richmond, Virginia, Foiles' family moved to Norfolk, Virginia where he attended Granby High School and excelled at football and track as well as baseball. In 1946, he was named All-Southern in football and starred in the inaugural Oyster Bowl held in Foreman Field in Norfolk. He attended the College of William & Mary and the University of Virginia where he played for the Virginia Cavaliers baseball team.
In November 1947, Foiles was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent. He spent four years playing in the minor leagues before being selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 1951 Rule 5 draft. He made his major league debut on April 21, 1953 at the age of 24, starting at catcher for the Redlegs (as the Reds were known from 1953–58) in a 4–3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. After playing only five games with Cincinnati, his contract was purchased by the Cleveland Indians on May 13, 1953. He appeared in seven games with the Indians before the team sent him back to the minor leagues.
In 1954, Foiles posted a .332 batting average along with 17 home runs and 59 runs batted in while playing for the Indianapolis Indians of the American Association. His impressive performance earned him a promotion back to the major leagues in 1955 where he posted a respectable .261 batting average in 62 games while playing as a backup to the Indians All-Star catcher, Jim Hegan. He also demonstrated his strong throwing arm with a 59% caught stealing percentage, well above the 47% league average for catchers. The Indians entered the final week of the 1955 season in first place but, then faltered to lose four of their last five games to finish the season in second place, three games behind the New York Yankees.
On May 15, 1956, Foiles was traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Preston Ward. He had his most productive seasons as a player for the Pirates, appearing in over 100 games in 1957 and 1958. He posted career-highs in 1957 with 76 hits, a .270 batting average with 9 home runs and 36 runs batted in. He was recognized as one of the top catchers in the National League when, he was selected as a reserve in the 1957 All-Star Game. In the All-Star game, Foiles appeared in the ninth inning as a pinch hitter, hitting a single off Billy Pierce and then scoring a run to help the National League team rally—only to fall short in a 6–5 defeat.
His hitting performance declined and in 1959 Smoky Burgess took over as Pittsburgh's regular catcher. From 1960 to 1964 Foiles was traded several times as, his defensive skills made him valuable as a backup catcher. In 1960, he appeared in 6 games for the Kansas City Athletics then, was traded back to the Cleveland Indians where he played in 24 games before ending the season as a member of the Detroit Tigers. On November 28, 1960, he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles from the Tigers in the 1960 rule 5 draft. After one season with the Orioles, he returned to play for the Cincinnati Reds in 1962. He was signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles Angels and played for two more seasons before playing in his final major league game on September 24, 1964 at the age of 34.
In an eleven-year major league career, Foiles played in 608 games, accumulating 353 hits in 1,455 at bats for a .243 career batting average along with 46 home runs, 166 runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .321. He ended his career with a .986 fielding percentage. In 1958, Foiles led National League catchers with a 50% caught stealing percentage.
Foiles currently lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he ran an insurance business and is an active member of Kempsville Masonic Lodge No. 196. He filed a $7 million class action lawsuit against the Baltimore Orioles for using his likeness in a set of promotional baseball cards. In 1987, Foiles was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
- "Hank Foiles statistics". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
- Marazzi, Rich (2003). Baseball Players of the 1950s: A Biographical Dictionary of All 1,560 Major Leaguers. Baseball Players of the 1950s: A Biographical Dictionary of All 1,560 Major Leaguers. Books.Google.com. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
- Shampoe, Clay (2005). The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame: Honoring Champions of the Commonwealth. The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame: Honoring Champions of the Commonwealth. Books.Google.com. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
- "Hank Foiles minor league statistics". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
- "1955 Cleveland Indians Schedule & Results". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
- "1957 All-Star Game". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
- Retrosheet box score, 1957 MLB All-Star Game
- "1958 National League Fielding Leaders". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 18 April 2017.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
- Official website of Hank Foiles
- Venezuelan Professional Baseball League statistics