Marv Foley’s Triple Crown
Marv Foleyâ€™s line of .217-6-19 in his final major league season in 1984 with Texas came nowhere close to winning the American League Triple Crown that season. However, Foleyâ€™s line of 1989-1993-1997 won him a much rarer triple crown, one that was never duplicated and probably never will.
After his major league playing career was over, Foley ventured into coaching. In 1987, he took over the Peninsula White Sox, the Carolina League affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. The team finished 5th, going 66-74 but the parent club was impressed with Foley enough that when Peninsula relocated to Virginia following an organization switch, the White Sox offered Foley the job of managing their new minor league affiliate, the Tampa White Sox of the Florida State League. The team finished .500 in the first half but won the second half title with a record of 36-24. Despite losing out in the second round of the playoffs, Foley won FSL manager of the year award for the 1988 season.
The White Sox Triple-A affiliate, the Vancouver Canadians, had just come off a 1988 season, where the club had lost out to Las Vegas for the Pacific Coast League pennant, 3 games to 2. The Canadiansâ€™ former manager, Terry Bevington, was promoted to a coaching role with the Pale Hose and a there was now a vacancy in Vancouver, and the White Sox decided to promote Foley. Foleyâ€™s first Triple-A season couldnâ€™t have gone better in the beautiful British Columbian city. The Canadiansâ€™ won the first half of the season in the Northern Division and played the Calgary Cannons in an all-Canadian match-up to decide who would go to the PCL final. Vancouver defeated Calgary and won the title by beating the South Division winner, the Albuquerque Dukes, 3-1. In 1990, Vancouver went 74-67 overall and just narrowly missed the playoffs by losing both halves by less than two games.
The 1991 season would end shorter than Foley would have expected up north. After a 24-39 start, Moe Drabowsky replaced Foley as the Canadiansâ€™ manager on June 15th. Foley was out of baseball throughout the rest of that season until the other team in Chicago, the Cubs, hired Foley to manage the Charlotte Knights of the Southern League. In his first and only season as the Knights skipper, Foley took them into the playoffs, despite a 70-73 record, and promptly lost to the eventual champions, the Greenville Braves, in the semi-finals.
The Knights moved to the Triple-A International League in 1993 and changed affiliations to the White Sox. The Cubs had an opening in Triple-A Iowa and Foley had Triple-A managerial experience so, a few months before the start of the 1993 season, Foley was named manager of the Iowa Cubs. Iowa had struggled in recent years, never finishing higher then 3rd since Jim Napier left in 1984. Since then, the team had gone through five different skippers and the previous season, 1992, was the clubs worst in history, going 51-92 under Brad Mills and finishing dead last in the American Association.
Iowaâ€™s 1993 roster had many of Foleyâ€™s former players he managed in Charlotte the year before. Under Foley, Iowa improved to 85-59 and won the AA Western Division pennant, and would advance to the AA championship series against the Nashville Sounds. Iowa would play Nashville in an unusual 3-4 series format, with the first three games being played in Nashville before the last four games would take place in Des Moines. In Game 1, the Sounds roughed up Cubbies starter William Brennan and took the game, 12-3. The Cubs rebounded and won the next three games to take a 3-1 series lead with the rest of the games at home. But Nashville was not deterred, winning Game 5, 9-6, and Game 6, 4-1. This set up a Game 7, where, with the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 11th, future Japanese League slugger Tuffy Rhodes hit a walk-off home run in front of 4,317 fans at Sec Taylor Stadium to give Iowa their first ever AA championship.
Foley was promoted to the big-league Cubs for the 1994 season but was let go after a disappointing strike-shortened season, which the Cubs went 49-64 in. So in 1995, Foley, given his success at the Triple-A level, was hired by the Baltimore Orioles to manage their affiliate in Rochester. Foleyâ€™s first season in 1995 was a success, winning the IL eastern division with an 83-79 record. However, they lost out in the first round to the eventual champions, the Ottawa Lynx, in the fifth and deciding game.
Foley returned for the 1996 season, and once again led the Red Wings into the playoffs, this time defeating the Pawtucket Red Sox 3-1. The red-hot Columbus Clippers, who had won their semi-final series against Norfolk, 3-0, would not be denied a title and they swept Rochester to win the Governorâ€™s Cup. In 1997, Rochester won 83 games and once again defeated Pawtucket for the Eastern Division pennant, three games to one, and the right for a rematch against Columbus for the title. This time, the Wings came out on top, winning the series in five games.
Foley had now become what no other manager in the minor leagues had. He had won the â€˜Triple-A Triple Crownâ€™ by winning the Pacific Coast League championship with Vancouver in 1989, the now-defunct American Association title with Iowa in 1993, and the International Leaguesâ€™ Governorâ€™s Cup with Rochester in 1997. The feat is likely never to be repeated due to the fact that the American Association doesnâ€™t exist anymore.
Foley managed the Red Wings in two different seasons in 1998 and 2000. He won another title with the independent Newark Bears of the Atlantic League in 2002 and spent the next three years managing minor league teams in the Colorado Rockies organization. Since 2006, he has served as the minor-league catching instructor with the Rockies. His playing career was nothing to write home about, but his success as a manager will be etched into the minor league record books forever.
The late Greg Biagini came close to duplicating Foleyâ€™s three-peat in 1999. Having previously won the International League with Rochester (1990) and the AA with Oklahoma City (1996), Biagini lost out for the final piece of the crown, losing the PCL final to Vancouver, 3-1, in 1999. Biagini retired from managing after that season, spending the rest of his baseball career with the Red Sox as a scout before passing away in 2003 with kidney cancer at the age of 51.
For a current manager to match the feat, he would have to have won an American Association title. The only active managers to have won an AA title are Marc Bombard (won a title with Indianapolis in 1994, currently manages Charlotte of the IL) and Tom Runnels (won a title with Indianapolis in 1989, currently manages Colorado Springs of the PCL). Former Royals manager Tony Muser also won an AA title in 1991 with Denver but currently does not manage a minor-league team, although he is still active in coaching with the Padres.