Former Natchez High star found success in many sports

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Editor’s note: The following story published in Monday’s print edition incorrectly stated for which school Fred Foster played. Foster played for Natchez High School. The story has been corrected. We regret the error and are happy to set the record straight. 

The adage “Life’s too short to be good at one thing” doesn’t apply to Fred Foster.

The former five-sport letterman at Delta State University said picking up a new sport came easy to him, even during his time at Natchez High School.

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Foster found success in football, basketball, baseball, tennis and track and field through his high school and college years. Foster lettered in three sports at  Natchez High — football, basketball and track and field.

Foster said balancing multiple sports in the same season was simpler when he graduated high school in 1949, though it wasn’t any less time consuming.

“The spring was the only hard time,” Foster said. “It wasn’t hard because the football coach also coached the baseball team, and he did it the way we wanted. We took batting practice and did conditioning at the same time. I would take (batting practice), and he’d let me go to the tennis court. We’d play three sets, sometimes they waited on me, and we played doubles.”

Foster’s accomplishments as a high school athlete led him to a collegiate career at Delta State, where he originally attended to play football.

Foster played quarterback at Delta State. He and the Statesmen would go toe-to-toe with schools that, in modern day, have surpassed Delta State in size and recruiting classes. In 1950, Foster beat Missouri, as he threw for three touchdowns in addition to adding a rushing touchdown score.

“I had seen (Delta State) play the year before, and Delta State was the class of Mississippi at that time,” Foster said. “They were way better than anybody else.”

As Delta State’s quarterback from 1950 to 1951, Foster earned the nickname “Flingin’ Fred” and broke the school record for most touchdown passes in a single game.

Foster said he didn’t actively seek out a spot on the Delta State basketball team, but word of his athletic prowess had spread around campus.

“After I’d been out of football for a week, coach came to me and asked me to play basketball,” Foster said. “I had seen them the week before, and I was a pretty good judge of the team.”

Foster once led a fourth-quarter comeback for the Statesmen against Northeast Louisiana State.

Foster said he never outmatched anyone in size, but former Natchez Democrat columnist Glenvall Estes noted his hustle when watching Foster and his Natchez basketball team “rock” Tupelo High School, 47-20, before defeating Hattiesburg High School, 43-37, in the championship game in 1948.

“Flingin’ Fred” was inducted into the Delta State Hall of Fame in 1976, holder of records in the mile and two-mile races and a .356 batting average as a shortstop, pitcher, outfielder and third baseman on the Statesmen baseball team.