Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tom Foley: 4 Autographed Cards

Apparently, there's still a thing called baseball happening in the summer. I don't know: every time I look at Sports Illustrated, the only name I recognize is Derek Jeter's; when I was a kid, I could tell every player from the National League from every possible angle - and most guys from the American League too: from their uniform numbers, their batting stances, their defensive positioning, how they ran. I was a huge baseball fan.

Then came the 1994 players' strike, the multiple fire sales, the changes in ownerships, the games behind the game, and ultimately the death of a healthy franchise at the hands of a man who would end up owning another team in way too short a time span.

But back when hockey was merely a 9-month sport - October until June - my summers were filled with baseball, from May until October. The Montréal Expos would show promise, and they would have the three runners-up to the eventual NL Rookie Of The Year, one guy would finish in the top-5 for batting average, another in home runs, Tim Raines would hit 30 homers and steal over 30 bases (usually over 50, often over 70), a pitcher would finish in the top-5 in wins while another would be in the top-3 for saves, the team would compete with the New York Mets (early-to-mid 1980s), Philadelphia Phillies (end of 1980s) or Atlanta Braves (1990s) for best in the East, then implode come the end of August...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But through those times, whenever I was in town, I'd go see the Expos at least once a week, and watch the other games on TV. I'd arrive early to get autographs during warm-ups, I'd stay late for post-game signature sessions in the long hall connecting the Olympic Stadium to the subway system, and I'd go to events that players might attend. The Expos were so big back then that even Habs players played softball for charity in the summer - rather than golf.

And so I met Tom Foley a bunch of times between 1985 and 1992, and again in 1995 when he had his last go-round with the team before retiring and joining the Tampa Bay Rays' staff, where he still works today.

Foley was mostly a shortstop elsewhere, but played second base more often in Montréal. He didn't make many errors - the most he was credited with was 12, and his error percentage was better at second base (28 in 385 games) than at shortstop (46 in 463 games). In 1990, he played all infield positions at least once, and he even pitched to two hitters in 1989.

All told I probably had a dozen cards of his signed during his time here, but only seem to have these four handy. All of them show him wearing the Expos' classic light-blue (away) uniform and are signed in thin blue sharpie, which was unlikely to be mine; I'll start with these two from Score, where he is shown fielding:
On the left, ready for whatever the hitter brings his way, is card #159 of the 1988 Score set; on the right, having caught the ball and likely throwing it to first base, is card #405 of the 1989 Score collection.

And these two:
On the left, probably taken during warm-ups (empty seats, coach facing the other way, looking relaxed), is card #251 in the 1988 Topps set by Topps; on the right, throwing to first to complete a double-play against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, is from Upper Deck's 1991 Series 1 set (card #381).

The cards from 1988 were purchased in Florida and opened my eyes to the fact that there were more manufacturers out there than just O-Pee-Chee; they were all pretty basic until Upper Deck came along with great action shots on both sides of the card.

Tom Foley played a total of 13 seasons in the majors, all of them in the National League. Eight of those summers were spent in Montréal. His career batting average is at a respectable .244; he has as many career home runs as he does stolen bases, 32.

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