Falling in love with baseball and the Cincinnati Reds was an easy chore during the Big Red Machine era. While there was no shortage of great players to choose as your favorite, the first one to grab my heart was George Foster.
Growing up in a Cincinnati Reds family during the 1970s was a lot of fun. Everyone had their personal favorite player. For my mom, it was Johnny Bench, while my dad was a Pete Rose guy. Of course, needing to be different from my parents I had to find my guy. That player was the final piece of the great eight, George Foster, that became my childhood favorite.
After being acquired from the San Francisco Giants in May of 1971, it took a while for Foster to make an impact with the Reds. Outside of scoring the winning run as a pinch-runner, in the fifth and deciding game of the 1972 NLCS, Foster had few highlights before the 1975 season began.
However, with the Reds standing at a middling 12-12 to start the 1975 campaign, Reds manager Sparky Anderson knew something drastic was needed to shake his team from the doldrums. As a result of third baseman John Vuckovich’s anemic bat, left fielder Pete Rose was inserted to man the hot corner and George Foster would finally get his opportunity in the outfield. The rest is history.
Swinging an all-black bat and sporting mutton chops that would have made 18th-century prospectors jealous, Foster was an intimidating figure. He was exactly the kind of player a young Reds fan could easily fall in love with. It also didn’t hurt that the man could flat out hit.
While he’s not held in the same vaulted status as some of his teammates, it should be noted that Foster’s accomplishments rival any of his peers. After finishing second in the MVP voting in 1976 behind teammate Joe Morgan, George Foster would claim the award the following season.
Smashing a club record 52 home runs, Foster would lead the National League in runs, homers, RBIs, slugging and OPS during the 1977 season. For an encore, Foster would launch a league-leading 40 more homers the following season and once again set the NL pace in RBIs.
Once Tony Perez and Pete Rose left Cincinnati, the Reds became George Foster’s team and he did not disappoint. Playing 11 years in the Queen City, Foster would win an MVP, All-Star Game MVP, make five All-Star appearances while having four seasons in which he finished in the Top 10 of the MVP race.
While most kids dream of playing the infield in Little League I was adamant about playing left field just like my idol George Foster. I can still remember shagging fly balls while wearing my Foster “record breaker” t-shirt. Thanks for the memories, George.