Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Foster named to Reds Hall of Fame

Slugger holds club HR record with 52

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

George Foster avoids thinking about what might have been.

"I try not to torture myself," he said. "But with the way things are now - with the way the ball flies, the smaller ballparks and the diluted pitching - I might have 70 by the All-Star Break."

Foster was talking about home runs, though he holds the Reds' single-season record with 52 in 1977.

For that and his general offensive excellence with the Reds from 1971-81, Foster is the latest player to be voted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America into the Reds Hall of Fame.

• 1977 National League MVP
• 5-time All-Star
• Led the Reds in home runs and RBI for six straight years (1976-81).
• Holds Reds single-season records for home runs (52), RBI (149) and total bases (388), all set in 1977.
• Tied a NL record by leading the league in RBI three straight years from 1976-78. Also led in home runs in '77-78.
• Was only the seventh player in history to hit 50 or more homers in a season when he did it '77.
• 288 lifetime hitter.
• Had two stints with the Reds from 1894-97 and 1902.
• Hit .300 or better three times.
• Scored 100 runs or more eight times.
• Stole 82 bases as a rookie with Washington in 1888, a rookie record.
• A deaf-mute is credited with umpires using hand signals as well as vocal calls.
• At age 99 in 1961, he threw out the first pitch at Game 3 of World Series at Crosley Field. Died in Cincinnati later that year.
Foster will be inducted, along with fellow outfielder and veteran selection William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy, on Aug. 3 before the Reds-San Francisco Giants game at Great American Ball Park. They are the 60th and 61st members of the Reds' Hall.

"It's exciting," Foster said. "The year Davey Concepcion was inducted, I told him to savor it. It's like coming home to a place where you had your best years in the game."

Foster's best year - his MVP year of 1977 - was arguably the greatest season ever put together by a Red. He hit 52 home runs, drove in 149 runs and hit .320.

"The single greatest year I've even seen," Reds radio play-by-play man Marty Brennaman said. "I've never seen anything like that. He had incredible power. I don't think I've seen the ball jump off anyone's bat like it did his."

Foster was the only big-leaguer to hit more than 50 home runs in a season from 1965-90.

Foster's potential prompted Sparky Anderson to move Pete Rose to third base and open left field for Foster during the 1975 season.

"Not to boast, but that really helped make the Big Red Machine the intimidating team it was," Foster said.

Foster, 54, left the Reds after the '81 season as a free agent to join the New York Mets. He retired in '86.

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