The Obit For Red Foley

Longtime baseball aficionado Foley dies at 79


Red Foley, the cigar-chomping fixture at New York ballparks who spent decades meticulously recording hits and errors when he wasn't chit-chatting with managers in their dugouts and clubhouses, died yesterday in a Flushing hospital. He was 79.

For 36 years, beginning in 1966, Foley worked as an official scorer for Mets and Yankees games - and even a few Ducks games. He scored more than 3,000 major-league games, including 10 World Series, more than any other person in modern baseball history.

Though players often perceive scoring decisions that hurt their statistics to be slights and betrayals of their talents, Foley earned widespread respect with his measured accuracy and knowledge of the rule book.

Two potentially troublesome Foley calls for the Mets, one that turned Robin Ventura's 1999 playoff grand slam into a single and one that denied Glendon Rusch a no-hitter in 2001, were readily accepted by players as correct. (Ventura was swamped by teammates after the winning hit and never reached second base; Rusch failed to cover first on what turned out to be the opposing team's only hit, a first-inning bunt.)

"He just called 'em as he saw 'em," said Daily News colleague Bill Gallo, the longtime columnist and cartoonist. "He was like Popeye; he said, 'I yam what I yam.' But he was very well liked by players, managers and newspapermen alike."

Foley's scoring assignments grew out of his baseball beat with the Daily News and continued after retirement from the News in 1981. In 2003, a Manhattan sports bar, Foley's NY, was named for him on 33rd Street as a hangout for baseball writers. (Foley himself was a teetotaler.)

Stout but with a smooth left-handed swing, Foley was the star of a mid-1960s writers/players game in Cleveland, lashing a triple against former Indians lefthander Herb Score, then a broadcaster. Former Newsday baseball beat writer Joe Donnelly recalled that on the flight back to New York, Yankees manager Ralph Houk and Foley sat side by side smoking cigars. Houk, known to have been a light hitter during his playing days, teased Foley about his chugging run with, "I could've been around the bases twice myself." Foley answered, "Yeah, but who would've hit the ball for you?"

Arthur Foley was born Dec. 26, 1928, in Queens and lived most of his life in the borough until a recent move to an assisted living center in Hempstead. The archetypal redheaded lad, he was able to gain free admission to the 1939 World's Fair by virtue of a contest admitting the kid with the most freckles, according to Kevin Brosnahan, his family lawyer.

Foley attended the same Elmhurst high school, Newtown, as current Mets general manager Omar Minaya and started in the newspaper business as a Daily News copyboy. His father had worked in the sports department at the old New York Journal-American.

As a Daily News reporter, Foley "wrote in the old News style, using 'ribbies' [for RBIs] and other non-words," retired Newsday columnist Joe Gergen said. "And he loved to get double entendres into the paper."

"A lot of people thought he was angry because he had a frown," Gallo said. "He wasn't. He was busy."

With a sly, ballpark-trained humor. At the January 2007 funeral of contemporary Jack Lang, Foley noted several empty pews and offered, "Plenty of good seats available."

Foley's funeral will be Thursday at St. Mel's Roman Catholic Church in Bayside.