Paul Foytack, Tigers’ pitching mainstay in ’50s, ’60s, dies at 90

Detroit News

Tony Paul
| The Detroit News

Paul Foytack, a right-handed pitcher who was a mainstay in the Tigers rotation in the 1950s and early 1960s and who might be best known for giving up a home run to Mickey Mantle that is considered the longest in baseball history, has died.

Foytack died Jan. 23 at home in Spring Hill, Tennessee. He was 90.

Foytack pitched parts of 10 seasons with Detroit, debuting in 1953, and then from 1955-63. At one point, he helped anchor a starting rotation that included the likes of future Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, Don Mossi and Frank Lary, all of whom have died in the last three years.

From 1956-62, Foytack reached double-digit wins six times, topping out at 15, twice. In 1956 and 1958, the years he won 15 games, he threw 16 complete games both years. From 1956-59, he threw more than 900 innings. As a Tiger, he was 81-81 with a 4.14 ERA.

In 1961, Foytack was part of a rotation that helped lead the team to 101 wins, good for the playoffs most years, but well behind the juggernaut New York Yankees in the pre-division era.

Notably, on April 26 of that season, Foytack gave up a home run to Roger Maris. It was Maris’ first home run of the season, and he’d go on to hit 61 — eclipsing Babe Ruth’s single-season mark by one. It was that one that never was lost on Foytack.

“I told Roger he should have sent me $400 a month after that,” Foytack told the New York Times in 2007. “If it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t have hit 61.”

It was on that same mound at Tiger Stadium — called Briggs Stadium then — where Foytack stood in September 1960 when Mantle hit a home run over the right-field roof.

Years later, it was measured at 643 feet, .0069 inches, the longest in recorded baseball history. Kirk Gibson also hit one to the lumberyard across Trumbull Avenue, but was measured at less than 500 feet. Reggie Jackson’s homer in the 1971 All-Star Game might’ve challenged Mantle, had it not hit the light tower.

Foytack’s name is in the record books for another home run — OK, actually, four of them. After he was traded by the Tigers to the then-California Angels in 1963, he gave up home runs to four consecutive batters. He volunteered to pitch in relief that July 31, even though he had started and gone seven innings just three days earlier. That was a major-league record, since tied by the Yankees’ Chase Wright in 2007.

“I never thought that much about it,” Foytack once told the New York Times. “After I was told that it was a record, I said, ‘Well, I finally got in the record book.’”

For his career, Foytack, a Scranton, Pennsylvania native, was 86-87 with a 4.14 ERA.

Even after his tenure with the Tigers ended, he remained a presence in the Detroit community. In 2001, he was a co-recipient, along with Sparky Anderson and Tom Tresh, of the Hank Aguirre Memorial Award, presented annually at the Fr. Vincent Welch Memorial Dinner in Troy. The award is given to a sports figure, usually baseball, who has contributed to the greater Detroit and Michigan sports community.

Foytack was preceded in death by wife Kitty; they were married for 68 years and had four children, eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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