Catcher Barry Foote was a star at Smithfield-Selma High School in Smithfield, North Carolina. Selected with the third overall pick in the 1970 Major League Baseball Draft by the Montreal Expos, he made his Major League Baseball debut in September of 1973. In 1974, he became the Expos full-time catcher and pieced together a stellar season, hitting .262 with 11 home runs, knocking in 60 RBIs and logging a .414 slugging percentage as well as leading the league with 12 sacrifice flies. He also led National League catchers with 83 assists. It was enough for him to be named to the 1974 Topps All-Star Rookie Team.
After battling through numerous injuries early on, by 1976 he was sharing catching duties with future Hall of Famer Gary Carter. He then spent two years in Philadelphia with the Phillies, parts of three seasons with the Cubs in Chicago and two seasons with the New York Yankees before retiring in 1982.
After his retirement, Foote signed a four-year contact with the Yankees to become a scout for the team. He moved to the bench as a manager in the Yankees and Blue Jays organizations, earning Manager of the Year honors with the Fort Lauderdale Yankees in 1984 and again in 1987 while managing the Myrtle Beach Blue Jays. The skipper also served as a coach on the Chicago White Sox bench and then eventually with the New York Mets staff in the early ’90s.
He recently offered a tour of his massive man cave, talked about his favorite Topps cards and shared stories of this time with Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson.
Tony Reid-You have had nearly 60 total baseball cards produced of yourself over the years. Do you have a favorite card?
Barry Foote-There are a couple. The in-action cards are the ones that are more desirable to me. There are a few of me catching with the Yankees. There is one where the National Anthem is playing on the field. Those are better than the portraits they took in Spring Training. I like those action shot type of cards better than the others.
TR–Your rookie card was one of the classic four panel cards in the 1974 Topps set. They squeezed as many prospects as they could on those cards back then. The card featured you, Charlie Moore, Sergio Robles and Tom Lundstedt. Do you remember seeing it for the first time?
BF-They put four of you on there just in case you didn’t last long, I guess. I don’t remember that card as much as I do the next year, the card that I was on the All-Rookie Team. That one stands out to me. That is the one I remember more than the four panel one.
TR-You had a long career in the game as a player and manager. Do you have any items showcased in an office, room or mancave?
BF– I have an 850 square foot mancave that doesn’t have an empty wall on it. I was in the game for 24 years. That’s a lot of stuff. I did it with the help of my wife, well, it was mostly her. We tried to do it chronological order. My father played professional baseball. He was with the Dodgers organization. There is a story of how he was in Spring Training with Jackie Robinson one year. We have a picture of that. I have a picture of my father when he played, a fairly large picture of him when he played.
We have my high school stuff. My son was a professional baseball player as well, so we have his baseball cards on a wall. We go chronologically from the Expos and each year that I was in professional baseball. Not each year but from each organization. We have a jersey, a uniform and stuff from that period of time. By the time you go all the way around I don’t think there is room in that room for anything else. I have collected pictures and things through the years that weren’t necessarily me but famous players that I played against, mostly Hall of Famers.
TR–Single signed balls were big between clubhouses as were game used bats and other items. Did you manage to pick up those items along the way?
BF– I did but not as many as I should have. I have quite a few baseballs, a lot of team balls.
TR–Many players spoke of a large increase in fan mail over the course of the pandemic. Did you see the same thing with your mail?
BF-I saw an absolute surge in letters that I was getting last year during the pandemic. I would say it was up 75-80%. I average about 500 requests throughout the year. I often wondered about that. Obviously there are a lot more famous players than me but my last name is unique and maybe that gives them a reason to remember it and send out to me. I told somebody that if we just gave these autograph collectors the names of terrorists that we wanted to find that they could absolutely find them. Every time I move within a month of moving I start getting letters.
The older I get the more I appreciate it. I am looking at letters I just signed last night. There must be ten of them. If I get a veteran or a first responder and they have an index card I will put a card of mine in there and sign it for them. Like you said, there were a lot of cards made during my timeframe of being in baseball. Even in the Minor Leagues when I went back to managing, they were making the Minor League cards as well.
TR-You have a number of cards in your Mets and Blue Jays days as a manager.
BF-Yeah they went kind of crazy there for a while. I think, from a collector’s standpoint that hurt the value in the years after. I think the cards from the 70’s held their value pretty well. In the mid 80’s they had so many companies and so many cards that it hurt the value. I was in with a group of a couple of friends and one other player Dave LaRoche, who I remained very good friends with, and we put together a little collection. It got so that nobody wanted to mess with it. We ended upselling it. I think we each put in a few thousand dollars. We broke up the collection. I took the cards rather than the money and a few of the other guys took cards, too. It was fun. The biggest card we decided to go after was the 1982 Topps Cal Ripken, Jr. RC. We bought about 50 of them. We bought the original rookie but they came out with the Topps Traded, the secondary rookie card and that became considered the valuable rookie. That was really not his rookie but that ended being the one had had value. We didn’t realize we made a mistake. We thought we were in the money. That was fun.
TR–What is the centerpiece or the prized piece in your collection today?
BF-It would be things like pictures I had as a young player. I have a game picture that was signed by Hank Aaron. I was only in the same league with Aaron for a few years, 1974 and 1975, I think. I have pictures with Johnny Bench. Those are some of the things that I consider valuable from a memory standpoint.
TR–Is there anything in the collection that we might be surprised that you have in the collection?
BF-I was a coach with the White Sox and we got a seat out of the old Comiskey Park. We got a picture of the team in the old park. The next year we went to the New Comiskey Park, whatever the hell they call it today, and Bo Jackson was on that team. Bo was, at that point in time, probably the biggest celebrity in sports. He was a great guy and a great teammate. I enjoyed my time with him. We had Bo in town and we had Jordan in town. That was a great period in time. My son was about 14 or 15 when I was with the White Sox. Bo couldn’t go anywhere without being inundated by fans. We were at breakfast one morning and people were all over him asking for autographs. He grabs my son as he walks by and puts him at the table with him and sits him down. As the next person approaches him he said ‘Look I am spending some time with my son this morning. Let me have a little break.’ That is the story my son always remembers.
Also, catching batting practice when Michael Jordan came over. He hadn’t even thought about playing baseball yet. He just liked to come over and hit. My son was catching batting practice and got some pictures with him that hare hanging on the wall. They don’t seem like a big deal when they are happening but looking back now they are pretty significant.