77-year-old’s love of sports brings back the kid in all of us

July 11, 2015
Don Foster with his Ty Cobb bat -- his pride and joy.

Don Foster with his Ty Cobb bat — his pride and joy.

Story Contributed By Fred Inglis. Inglis is a 22-year sports reporter/anchor for KTVU – TV in Oakland, Calif. and a two-time Emmy winner.

Photos Contributed by Marc Inglis, PGA Professional/GM of Oceana Golf Club.

A rack of bats in Don's house right next to his TV where he relaxes to watch his beloved Detroit Tigers.

A rack of bats in Don’s house right next to his TV where he relaxes to watch his beloved Detroit Tigers.

SHELBY — Hart native Don Foster never knew it, but he was one of my early sports heroes. Foster played baseball for the Shelby Merchants when I was a kid. Foster played third base alongside shortstop Lawrence Beckman, second baseman Jim Morse, and Marvin Omness at first.

Those men were the first grownups I ever saw play baseball. They played with both seriousness and a smile. It made me feel like I was watching something special every Sunday afternoon.

“I was around baseball all my life,” said Foster. “I just knew I wanted to be a ballplayer.”

But life got in the way of Don’s playing days, and he eventually hung up the cleats. So his love of the game manifested itself in different ways.

He introduced baseball to his sons Brian and Bret. “We played a lot together,” said Don. “Even if at times it only meant batting a wiffle ball around.”

But his sons grew up. Then in 1989, his oldest son Brian bought Don a baseball glove for Christmas. That single act

Don Foster pictured at Oceana Golf Club, Aug. 12, 2013.  Don made his second career hole In one on the par-three 170-yard sixth hole. The tee box on hole six is the home of a bench dedicated to the memory of Don and Karen's late son, Bret.

Don Foster pictured at Oceana Golf Club, Aug. 12, 2013. Don made his second career hole in one on the par-three 170-yard sixth hole. The tee box on hole six is the home of a bench dedicated to the memory of Don and Karen’s late son, Bret.

created a passion inside Don that still exists today: collecting sports memorabilia.

It was no surprise that the Detroit Tigers game was on TV when my two brothers Paul and Marc and I visited the Fosters.

As soon as we entered the house we thought we walked into a hallowed sports museum. Whenever we looked upstairs or downstairs we could see rows and rows of baseball gloves hanging with pride. 818 of them. Yes, 818 and counting.

Some are right handed, some are left handed. Some are catcher’s mitts, and some are for first basemen. Some are worn, some have just three fingers, and some with little or no webbing.

He has very few duplicates but nearly all of them are signature models. I was attracted to a pair of identical Ted Williams outfield gloves that seemed to cry out for one more game of catch.

Don has them all counted and registered. He can also tell you how he collected each and every one of them.

He also collects bats. Little bats, big bats, old bats, souvenir bats, and professional bats. Don has 677 bats in the house. That’s no guano!

Don has a Babe Ruth model bat, but he says his pride and joy is an old grainy one that he bought from a woman

A rare three-finger glove.

A rare three-finger glove.

several years ago. It contains a colored action decal of the former Detroit Tiger great Ty Cobb at the barrel. He won’t say how much he paid for it, but it doesn’t matter because it’s not for sale.

“I gave a few away, and I sold one bat, but mostly I just like to collect them,” said Foster. In fact his calling card says: “Don Foster: Buying baseball memorabilia, bats, gloves, etc.” It doesn’t mention “sell.”

Don’s been married to his wife Karen for 51 years. So she bought into Don’s obsession a long time ago. They like to peruse antique shops, flea markets, and garage sales together. In fact, just last week in Grand Rapids Karen surprised Don by buying a bucket of used golf putters before he could even make the guy an offer.

“Sometimes I think they’ll give her a better deal ‘cuz she’s a woman,” laughs Don. “But she knows what she’s doing.” Oh, did I mention golf putters? That seems to be Foster’s newest thing. He now owns more than 375 putters. They are all lined up like soldiers.

Don Foster's club collection in the rafters.

Don Foster’s club collection in the rafters.

Don and Karen lost their second son Bret to lung cancer at the age of 25. He was a PGA Golf Professional and former Club Champion (’90) of Oceana Golf Club, and maybe that’s partly why Don started collecting putters. But Don has been a member of the Oceana Golf Club since February 15, 1963, and it could be collecting tools of his favorite sports is just part of his DNA.

My brothers also spotted several other collectables. He has an original 1886 schedule that includes Detroit when the team was called Wolverines and played in the National League.

He also has rare photographs like the team photo of the professional 1947 Muskegon Lassies. No, there was no Tom Hanks and there was no crying.

Don Foster - 6

A pair of Ted Williams’ gloves.

Don can’t put a price or value on his collection, but he knows he’ll keep hunting and adding to his memorabilia. “I’ll be going ‘till the day I die,” says the 77-year-old Foster. “I’m greedy.”

I’ll never forget those old Shelby Merchant baseball teams and Don’s smooth defense on the field. Now, more than 55 years later, that same gentleman helped bring back the kid in me one more time.

 

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