2. George Foster
George Foster‘s path to Cincinnati shares some similarities to Brandon Phillips. He was selected in the 3rd round of the 1968 draft by the San Francisco Giants. Foster made his Major League debut as a 20-year-old the following season earning a brief cup of coffee with San Francisco. While playing sparingly over 2 1/2 years, the right-handed hitting corner outfielder was dealt to the Reds on May 29, 1971 for shortstop Frank Duffy and pitcher Vern Geishert.
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After arriving in Cincinnati, Foster failed to distinguish himself right away. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until the 1975 season that he became an everyday starter. Interestingly enough, Pete Rose began that season as the Reds starting left fielder, but manager Sparky Anderson was growing more discouraged by the day with his weak hitting third baseman John Vuckovich.
Early in the summer of ’75 Anderson had an idea. Wanting to get another powerful bat in the line-up, Anderson moved Rose to third base and put Foster in left field. Nobody knew it at the time, but the final piece of the Big Red Machine was now in place.
Given his opportunity the now 26-year-old Foster would become one of the most dangerous sluggers in baseball. He was a vital member of the 1975 and 1976 World Series Championship teams. How good was Foster? He finished 2nd in the MVP voting in 1976 losing to teammate Joe Morgan. The following year he would finish second to no one.
Foster was an absolute beast in 1977. Smashing a career high 52 home runs, Foster would be the only player to hit at least 50 homers during the 1970’s or 1980’s. That same season he would also lead the league in runs, RBI’s, slugging, OPS and total bases. Oh by the way, he hit .320 as well.
Throughout his 11 years in Cincinnati Foster would finish in the Top 10 in Cincinnati Reds franchise history in slugging, OPS, home runs and RBIs. He would also earn five All-Star selections and a Silver Slugger Award.
Fortunately for the Reds, Frank Duffy and Vern Geishert failed to have the same impact for their new club. Duffy played in only 21 games for the Giants before being shipped to the Indians. Geishert never appeared in another Major League game after being traded by the Reds.
Bob Howsam, the Cincinnati Reds General Manager and architect of the Big Red Machine, made many shrewd deals to build the Reds dynasty. However, it’s fair to say the trade for George Foster is an unbelievable stroke of good luck.