Tuesday, August 18, 2009

1976 Topps #179 - George Foster

  • George Foster started out with the San Francisco Giants. He was in the minors from 1968-1970 and earned September looks in '69 and '70 (24 total at bats). In the minors George didn't show the power that he would develop later, but he did hit .308 for AAA Phoenix in 1970.
  • In 1971 George started with the Giants but was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on May 29 for Frank Duffy and Vern Geishert. The Giants had come up with a lot of good outfielders in the early 1970s (Bobby Bonds, Gary Matthews, Garry Maddox, Dave Kingman among others) and George was considered to be expendable. I wonder what the Giants might have been like had they had hung onto a few of these guys. George played in a total of 140 games in 1971 and batted .241 with 13 home runs.
  • Foster was a backup in 1972 and didn't get much playing time. He batted .200 with two home runs in 145 at bats. In 1973 George spent most of the year in AAA Indianapolis. He was called up in September and batted .282 in 17 games. Foster was an extra outfielder and pinch hitter again in 1974 and batted .264 with seven home runs in 276 at bats.
  • In 1975 Reds' manager Sparky Anderson moved Pete Rose to third base and made Foster the starting left fielder. Foster responded by batting .300 with 23 home runs to help the Reds to the World Championship. George had an even better year in 1976, leading the NL in RBI with 121 and batting .306 with 29 home runs. He made his first NL All Star team and was second to teammate Joe Morgan in MVP voting.
  • The 1977 season was Foster's best. He led the NL in home runs (52), RBI (149), and runs (124). He also batted .320, was an NL All Star, and won the NL MVP award. Here is a December 1977 Baseball Digest article announcing Foster's selection as Player of the Year.
  • In 1978 George again led the NL in home runs (40) and RBI (120), was an NL All Star, and was 6th in MVP voting. Foster made the NL All Star team for the fourth year in a row in 1979 and hit 30 homers and knocked in 98 runs while batting .302 for the NL West champion Reds.
  • Foster had an "off year" in 1980 (.273 with 25 home runs and 93 RBI) but bounced back in 1981 with 22 homers and 90 RBI in the strike-shortened season. George made his last NL All Star team in 1981, won the Silver Slugger award, and was 3rd in NL MVP voting. Here is a June 1980 Baseball Digest article about Foster.
  • Before the 1982 season Foster was traded to the New York Mets for Jim Kern, Alex Trevino, and Greg Harris. George was given a five-year, $10 million contract by the Mets. George did not perform at the same level that he did with the Reds. In 1982 he batted only .247 with 13 homers and 70 RBI. He hit 28 homers and had 90 RBI in 1983 but his batting average dropped again (.241). Foster's batting average climbed to .269 in 1985 and he hit 24 homers with 77 RBI.
  • The 1986 season would be Foster's last one. He started poorly and was benched in favor of Lee Mazzilli. He was batting .227 with 13 home runs when he was released by the Mets on August 7. Apparently manager Davey Johnson gave the Mets a "he goes or I go" ultimatum after Foster had criticized Johnson's choice of outfielders. George signed with the Chicago White Sox on August 15 but stayed with them for only three weeks before being released on September 6. No other team signed George and he retired.
  • George loved to face Randy Jones (.360 with 4 HR in 86 AB) and Joaquin Andujar (.362 with 4 HR in 69 AB) and hated to face Ray Burris (.214 with 1 HR in 56 AB) and Scott Sanderson (.216 with 0 HR in 37 AB).

1 comment:

  1. Foster was headed to the Hall of Fame by the end of the 1981 season and then he just....stopped. No real reason for it either.

    I have read (can't remember where) that once Foster signed that big contract his "passion" for the game was gone. That, coupled with being in New York as a superstar really put pressure on him that he didn't have with Cincinnati. There was a cast around him there that wasn't in NY.