Baseball Digest Birthdays: George Foster

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

George Foster has a permanent place in baseball lore as a member of the Cincinnati “Big Red Machine” of the 1970’s, but it took the trust of a young untested manager in Sparky Anderson to give him his chance.

George Foster was born on December 1st, 1948 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Taken in the third round of the 1968 amateur draft by the San Francisco Giants, he saw very little action in his first few seasons in the big leagues. A trade to the Reds in late May of 1971 provided a much needed change of scenary, and an opportunity to play every day. In 104 games that year, he slugged ten home runs, providing a sneak peak at the power he would later provide.

Despite a strong showing in 1971, Foster didn’t become the regular until the 1975 season, which culminated with an epic World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox, a team under the guide of new manager George “Sparky” Anderson. With Pete Rose moved to third base, Foster flourished as the everyday left fielder for the “Big Red Machine” over the next six years. Averaging more than thirty home runs and knocking in close to one hundred runs each year, he cemented himself as of the best sluggers in the game when he won the 1977 National League Most Valuable Player Award with 52 home runs, 149 runs batted in, and an OPS of 1.013. Between 1965 and 1990, George Foster was the only player in the league to hit 50 homers in a single season.

Read about George Foster’s amazing MVP season in the December 1977 Baseball Digest magazine article by John Kuenster by clicking here!

After clubbing 244 home runs in 11 seasons with the team and helping the Cincinnati Reds to two World Series titles, the five time All-Star was one of the final pieces of the “Big Red Machine” to leave Cincinnati. The team traded the left fielder to the New York Mets prior to the 1982 season. Soon after acquiring the slugger, Foster signed a five year deal worth $10 million.

With the New York Mets he never reached the heights of his MVP, All-Star days with the Cincinnati Reds, but Foster did maintain some of his power numbers by hitting more than 20 homers in two of his 4+ seasons. By 1986, the aging outfielder saw a significant drop in his overall numbers. By August of that year, the Mets opted to outright release Foster. Though picked up off waivers by the Chicago White Sox, the 37 year old was finished with baseball at the end of the 1986 season.

George Foster’s career numbers speak for themselves, as he ranks among the top 100 all time in home runs. He is also among the best ever to play left field, leading the National League six times. His fielding percentage ranks 32nd all time.

Inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in 2003, Foster has spent his retirement from the game as a motivational speaker as well as a participant in special events for both the Reds and the New York Mets.

Other Players Born On December 1:

Walter Alston, born in 1911, the long time Dodgers manager during both the end of the Brooklyn Dodgers era and the dawn of the west coast Dodgers, led the team to four World Series titles, including the last title for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Ranks 9th all time in manager wins with 2,040. Inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983, he passed away in 1984.

Larry Walker, born in 1966, the Colorado Rockies right fielder also logged a few years with the St. Louis Cardinals. A five time All-Star with 383 career home runs, won the 1997 National League Most Valuable Player Award.

Reggie Sanders, born in 1967, spent parts of 17 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals, and Arizona Diamondbacks. He is one of just seven players in history to join the 300-300 Club, slugging 305 home runs and swiping 304 bases.

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