In this regular feature, we will help you acquaint yourself with some of the finest practitioners of the most thankless task in baseball to ever don the “tools of ignorance” for our beloved Chicago Baseball teams. This week we feature Marv Foley.
Usually, Catcher of the Week posts on Wednesday. Here it is on Friday, and you’re finally reading about Marv Foley. Which makes perfect sense, as the one thing everyone remembers about Marv was that he was S-L-O-W.
How slow? I could have pinch run for him. Drying paint uses him as a metaphor for slowness. A ball hit into the gap made you wonder if he’d get to second base before the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona* would be completed.
But in fairness to Marv, no less an authority on baseball than Casey Stengel once said that speed was as important to a catcher as penmanship.
Marv was drafted out of the University of Kentucky by the White Sox in 1975, and hit .308 in six games inA ball that season before being bumped up to AA, where he hit .293. So with some promise going into 1976, he tailed off, only hitting .251 while splitting time between the same two teams – Appleton (A) and Knoxville (AA).
In 1977 – only his second full season of pro ball – he managed to play in A, AA and AAA all in one year, hitting a combined .282 with 10 HR. He then spent all of 1978 with the Iowa Oaks in AAA.
Once his AAA season was done, he got the call to join the White Sox. In 11 games, he went a respectable 12/34, and more importantly, made his only stolen base attempt of his entire major league career. Naturally, he was thrown out.
He started the next season as one half of the Sox catching tandem with the almost equally thunder footed future CotW Bill Nahorodny. Marv wasn’t wearing out American League pitching, only hitting .235 in late May when the Sox acquired Milt May, punching Marv’s ticket back to Iowa. Marv stayed down there until the season ended, then came back up and got hot enough to finish the season with a 247/292/340 slash line, which included his first two big league HRs.
Marv again was on the Sox Opening Day roster for 1980. Again he struggled, this time splitting the year between AA Glens Falls and Iowa. Again, he got called up following the end of the minor league season. His big league slash line was a lackluster 212/263/336, and that included 4 home runs.
The following season, the White Sox acquired future Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk and future Cubs managing legend Jim Essian to handle catching duties, so Foley spent the entire year in AAA, now with the Sox new affiliate in Edmonton. There he had a damn respectable season, running out a 296/389/469 slash line with 11 HR.
1982 was the only season where he spent the entire season with the White Sox. He was third string catcher, also filling in at the infield corners, but only getting into 27 games, scrounging up 4 singles in 36 ABs. But he still got that big league paycheck and meal money, so go Marv.
1983 saw him again spending a full year in AAA, this time taking advantage of the thin air in Denver. He was able to Bichette his way to a 319/397/494 slash line that far above sea level, but the Sox decided to cut him loose.
It was then that he signed with Texas, and in his one season in Arlington he put up a 217/306/391 slash line in his last big league hurrah.
After that one year in Texas, he came back to the Sox, where he spend 1985 and 1986 banging around the sticks as a player/coach before hanging up the mitt and mask.
It’s here where his career gets interesting. He’d done enough yeoman work in those last two years that the Sox decided to give him a shot managing.
After a couple successful years managing at different A levels in Florida for the Sox, they gave him a shot managing in AAA for Vancouver in 1989. He led the Vancouver Canadians to the Pacific Coast League championship that year. He managed Vancouver until about halfway through 1991, when he was let go.
Prior to the next season, the Cubs gave him a gig managing their AA affiliate in Charlotte (It’s funny how many places have been both Cubs and Sox outposts, but I digress). He got them into the playoffs, but they had an early exit. Still, he impressed the Cubs enough to get the job managing the Iowa Cubs (Formerly the Sox’ Oaks), and in 1994 he won the American Association title.
For 1995 Foley was the Cubs’ bullpen coach, but in 1996 he was managing in the minors again, this time for the Orioles’ AAA affiliate in Rochester. He had a very successful run in Rochester, including winning the 1997 International League title. This makes him the only manager to ever win titles in all three AAA leagues. He’s also in the Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame for his managing.
Later on, he even won a title managing the independent Newark Bears. He’s currently the Colorado Rockies’ major league catching instructor.
*Fully Krausened is now proudly the first baseball blog in history to make a Sagrada Familia joke