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Negro Leagues
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Negro Leagues Legacy

Stars of the Negro Leagues

Arm strength
Foster just as good as half-brother
By Brian Wilson/

Willie Foster helped the Chicago American Giants win four pennants in the 1920s.
Born: June 12, 1904, Calvert, Tex
Died: Sept. 16, 1978, Lorman, Miss.
Bats: Both
Throws: Left
Hall of Fame induction: 1996

Willie Foster was the greatest left-handed pitcher in the Negro Leagues. The half-brother of Negro League pioneer Rube Foster compiled a winning percentage close to .700 during a 16-year career.

Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously on March 5, 1996, Foster was known for his ability to deliver an assortment of pitches-fastball, curve and changeup are examples-with one motion.

Foster won pennants with the Chicago American Giants in 1926, 1927, 1932 and 1933. In the 1926 season, he compiled an 11-4 record and excelled in the postseason. The American Giants faced the Kansas City Monarchs, down two games to one for the Negro National League title. Needing wins in both games of a doubleheader for the pennant, Foster won both games -- beating Bullet Joe Rogan twice.

During that season's Negro World Series against the Bacharach Giants. He pitched three complete games, relieved in a fourth, won two games including a shutout, and silenced Giant bats with a meager 1.27 ERA. The following year Foster went a 21-3, and once again won two Series games while hurling a pair of complete games and chipping in a couple of relief efforts.

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After the 1929 season, Foster participated in a two-game series against an American League all-star team. He pitched poorly in the first contest, but shut out the Major Leaguers in the rematch, fanning nine and yielding no hits over eight innings. Tigers Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer told Foster after the series, "If I could paint you white, I could get $150,000 for you right now."

Foster became manager of the American Giants in 1930, but still produced a 16-10 record on the mound. In 1931, he briefly left the Giants, joining the Homestead Grays until September. After beating the Monarchs, he switched teams for the remainder of the season.

He returned to Chicago the following season, posting 15-8 and 9-3 records in 1932 and '33. Foster represented the West as starting pitcher in the latter campaign in the inaugural East-West All-Star game. He hurled a complete game, beating a Hall of Famer lineup including Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and Judy Johnson.

Foster joined the Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1936, returned one final time to Chicago in 1937 for his final full season. After retiring from baseball, Foster became head baseball coach and dean of men at his alma mater, Alcorn State College. He held the position until shortly before his death.

Brian Wilson is an editor/producer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.