Pillars of the FWAA: Dan Foster (1928-2009), Greenville News

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 20th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Dan Foster was the 2003 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey
Dan Foster, 2003 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Dan Foster, 2003 winner of the Bert McGrane Award.

Dan Foster turned to Blackie Sherrod, who was seated next to him in the press box of a World Series Game. “Quit shaking my seat,” Foster told Sherrod.

It wasn’t Sherrod that was shaking Foster’s seat. It was an earthquake! Game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park was just about to begin.

“That was a memorable night,” said Foster, who had already filed a column back to the Greenville News.

Foster hung around with three other writers at that World Series and other major sporting events around the country. They were among the best writers in the business: Sherrod of The Dallas Morning News, Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times and Edwin Pope of the Miami Herald.

Foster became the foursome’s designated driver, mainly because Murray and Sherrod had poor vision.

Sherrod received the Bert McGrane Award in 1985 and Pope in 2001. Foster joined them in 2003.

Dan Foster was born in Greenville and virtually never left, except for the Korean War and to cover sports all over the country. That’s not to say he didn’t have offers to jump to the big time.

Milt Richman, a good friend of Foster’s, was sports editor of the old United Press International in New York City. He offered Foster a job there.

“I told him I couldn’t read while holding the strap (on the subway),” Foster said with a laugh. “I wasn’t a guy who was seeking a job. I would do it (the same) all over again.”

He even stayed home for college, attending Furman where he majored in sociology. Before his senior year he started working for the Greenville News-Piedmont.

The circulation of the Greenville paper topped out at about 95,000.

“You like where you are and you get to know the readers,” said Foster.

Greenville, S.C., wasn’t a bad place to be. He covered legendary Clemson football coach Frank Howard, plus the Tigers’ national championship in 1981 when they beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

The Atlanta Falcons trained in Greenville for several years. The Carolina Panthers played their inaugural season in the NFL in 1995 at Clemson.

Foster did plenty of traveling for a guy in a small market. He estimated that he covered 20 Final Fours and many games at Madison Square Garden.

“I’ve been told I did more traveling for a paper our size than anybody,” he said.

Writing sports was a natural for Foster. “I played Little League baseball at 9 and 10 and used to write up the games,” he said.

The Korean War interrupted his journalism career. He spent three years in the Air Force. He worked for Armed Forces Radio in Seoul and covered the peace talks that ended the war.

Foster returned to Greenville and the newspaper in 1953. He spent three years as a city reporter before switching to the sports department.

He became sports editor of the afternoon Piedmont paper in 1958. When the sports editor of the morning fell ill, Foster became sports editor of the morning News.

He joined the FWAA in 1954 and served as president in 1986.

Golf was his favorite sport to cover. “It’s over in the daytime,” he said, not having to worry about deadlines.

The years rolled by and Foster kept on writing. He finally retired in 2004. “They credited me with 52 years, including the service, which helped with my pension,” he said.