Sep 6, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; George Foster (15) of the Big Red Machine takes the field after the Reds 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports
As the trade deadline approaches, the Cincinnati Reds find themselves in need of an offensive upgrade, particularly in left field and at shortstop — and more recently at first base, of course. In the late spring of 1971, the Reds also focused on deals that centered around those positions, and they made something happen. In the midst of a rare Disco Decade season in which they didn’t reach the playoffs, the Reds shipped shortstop Frank Duffy and pitcher Vern Geishert to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for left fielder George Foster.
Duffy was a lightly used, light-hitting middle infielder whom the Giants eventually dealt away, too, while Geishert never made an appearance for San Fran. In 1971, Foster was a wispy young guy who didn’t look like much on the stat sheet, but he did manage to tag 10 homers in 104 games on the Riverfront. Even so, he played sparingly in 1973 and 1974, and Reds fans could have been forgiven for not paying much attention to him.
In 1975, though, Foster claimed his place in the starting lineup for The Big Red Machine teams of 1975 and 1976, and they wouldn’t have cashed those World Series checks without him. Of course, 1977 was the big year, when Foster became the first 50-homer man since Willie Mays hit 52 in 1965, before the monster pitching years began. For his efforts, Foster won the National League Most Valuable Player award and then followed up with four more superstar years before heading to the New York Mets for the 1982 season.
George Foster retired from baseball in 1986 after an 18-year big league career that produced 348 home runs, 1925 hits, and thousands of great memories for a generation of Reds fans. If GM Walt Jocketty can somehow pull off the trick that Bob Howsam did in 1971 and find a Hall-of-Fame-type left fielder for a limbo-stick shortsop, future versions of the team might well be playing on Jocketty Field.