Dec 5, 2015

Former Mets Number One Draft Pick: Tim Foli (1970-1971 / 1978-1979)

Timothy John Foli was born on December 8, 1950 in Culver City California. Foli was a star high school baseball & football player in the Los Angeles area in the late sixties. He turned down a football offer from USC to play baseball instead.

The fiery, passionate shortstop with the quick temper was nicknamed “Crazy Horse” by his fellow team mates. The shy mild looking Foli was notorious for getting into fights with opposing players, umpires & his own team mates as well. Early on he would throw temper tantrum's & cause trouble if the situation wasn't right. But he was a fierce competitor & hard nosed player that gave it his all.

He was the number one overall draft pick in the 1968 draft, chosen by the New York Mets. Although he was a tough hitter to strikeout, he had little power, not much speed on the bases & didn’t draw many walks.

He was a very good bunter & sacrifice hitter, finishing in the leagues top ten in sacrifice hits eight times. Foli was all about his glove, he was an excellent defensive short stop.

In 1969 while the Mets were on their way to winning the World Series, Foli showed off that glove& hit over .300 for their A ball Visalia club. In 1970 he spent most of the year at AAA Tidewater, hitting .261 getting a cup of coffee in September, making his debut on September 11th 1970.

In his second career game, he had two hits and drove in an 8th inning insurance run as the Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals.

Drama: Early on in his career he got into a dugout scuffle with Mets veteran Ed Kranepool. Kranepool believed Foli had been throwing bouncing balls to first base intentionally during infield practice. He then refused to have a pre game warm up toss with Foli near the dugout, Foli confronted Kranepool & teammates had to break it up.


With All Star Bud Harrelson at short stop, Foli almost had to beg to see some playing time in 1971, as he made most of his appearances at second & third base. On May 9, he had one of his biggest offensive games, getting three hits with an RBI triple and a three-run double in a 9-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. It would be his only four-RBI game until eight years later in 1979.

In August he had a three RBI day in the second game of an August 3rd double header. The Mets won the game 9-5 beating the reigning World Series Champion Cincinnati Reds. On the last day of the season, he drove in two runs as Tom Seaver beat the St. Louis Cardinals at Shea Stadium for his twentieth victory.

Overall he finished 1971 playing in 97 games, batting .226 with 12 doubles, 32 runs scored and 24 RBIs. In 12 games at his natural short stop position he was perfect, making no errors. He posted a .964 fielding % in 58 games at second base making nine errors & .954 % in 36 games at third.

Just before the 1972 season began, Foli was involved in a huge Mets trade, getting traded along with Ken Singleton and Mike Jorgensen to the Montreal Expos for star outfielder Rusty Staub. In Montreal Foli became the Expos main shortstop for the next five seasons, batting between .238 and .264 each year.

Foli was a popular player in Montreal, and in a July 1973 game against Houston, Bob Watson slid hard into second base, to break up a double play. Foli was leveled falling to the ground, breaking his jaw.

When Watson went to left field in the next inning, the Montreal fans at Jarry Park hurled any kind of debris they could find at Watson stopping the game. Foli missed the next month of the season but did make a triumphant return.

In 1975 he led all NL short stops in games (151) assists (497) put outs (260) & was fourth with a .973 fielding %. One story says Foli spent the whole night sitting on second base at Montreal's Jarry Park after making an error leading to an Expo loss. In 1976 he posted career highs with 36 doubles (5th in the N.L.) HRs (6) and slugging (.366%).

In an April 21st, game, he singled, doubled and tripled against the Chicago Cubs before the game was suspended due to rain. The next day, the game resumed and he hit a HR to complete the first cycle in Montreal Expos history. He was third in fielding that season & in the top five in assists & put outs once again.

Foli remained in Montreal until mid way through the 1977 season, when he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for their short stop Chris Spier. After 104 games as a Giant, rated as the league's fourth best shortstop, his contract was purchased by the New York Mets.

In 1978 he returned to a very different Shea Stadium than he had left six years ago. The Mets were in last place and playing to empty crowds to what became known as Grants Tomb. Foli struggled at the plate, not hitting over the .200 mark until mid June. On June 5th he doubled in the bottom of the 9th inning off the Dodgers Terry Forster, tying up the game. He then scored the winning run when Doug Flynn reached on an error.

On June 11th he had his own walk off hit, a single off the Pittsburgh Pirates Eddie Whitson, scoring John Stearns. On September 19th he hit his only HR of the year, coming off Tom Bruno in St. Louis. Foli would play in 113 games for manager Joe Torre’s last place Mets, batting .257, hitting one HR with 21 doubles and 27 RBIs. He posted a .967 fielding%, turning a league leading 78 double plays with second baseman Doug Flynn. Foli made 18 errors in 522 chances in 112 games on the year.

After playing just three games for the Mets in 1979, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for shortstop Frank Taveras. The trade sent Foli from the worst team in the league to the best team that was on their way to a World Series title.

He set career highs in Pittsburgh in batting average (.288) RBIs (65) runs (70) and hits (153). He only struck out once in every 38 at bats, which the best ratio in baseball. Post Season: Foli hit well when it counted most as he compiled a .333 batting average in the 1979 postseason.

Post Season: Pittsburgh went on to sweep the 1979 NLCS, with Foli driving in a run in all three games. In the World Series, against the Baltimore Orioles, he had a hit in six of the seven games, with a double, triple, two walks & three RBIs.

In Game #5 with the Pirates down three games to one, Foli scored the tying run and drove in three runs off Cy Young winner Mike Flanagan. He would also score a run in Game #6 against Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, as the Pirates won the Worlds Championship.

In the eighties Defensively, Foli led all shortstops in fielding in 1980 & again in 1982. He would also lead the league in double plays & chances twice.

In 1982 he was traded to the Angels, where he was reunited with his old Expo skipper Gene Mauch. When main short stop Rick Burleson went down with injury, Foli took over batting .252 with 56 RBIs as the Angels went on to win the AL Western title. In the 1982 ALCS he only went 2-16 with an RBI hit.


He spent 1983 in California as well, playing more of a back up role now, at the age of 33. He went to the AL New York team in 1984 & then to Pittsburgh again before retiring after the 1985 season.

He closed out his 16 year career playing 1524 games at short (59th all time) with a .972 fielding percentage (51st all time) making 4804 assists (52nd all time) & 2687 put outs (61st all time). He batted .251 with 1515 hits, 25 HRs, 241 doubles, 501 RBIs & a .283 on base % in 1696 games.

Retirement: After playing he coached with the Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals and then managed in Puerto Rico under General Manager, former Met Felix Millan. Millan had to fire the quick tempered Foli during the Caribbean World Series claiming he had been disrespectful.


He managed the Kingsport Mets of the Appalachian League in 1998 and spent 1998 to 2000 with the New York Mets organization as an infield and base running coordinator.

He went to the Cincinnati Reds and got into a brawl there with his fellow coach Ron Oester. Most recently he has worked in the Washington Nationals organization, as manager of the Syracuse Chiefs.

He lives in Ormond Beach, Florida with his longtime wife of over forty years the lovely Ginette.

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