The Topps TBT set last week celebrated the sluggers who smacked fifty home runs in a season. Well, celebrated six of them, and six that are quite often celebrated by Topps. Forget the guys like George Foster here, who was the only player to go yard fifty times in the entire decade of the 1970s. In fact, between Willie Mays‘ 1965 season and Cecil Fielder‘s 1990 campaign, Foster was the only guy with fifty longballs. And did Topps celebrate him? Of course not. He played for the Reds and his name isn’t Johnny Bench, so he was completely ignored.
But the blogosphere rights Topps’ wrongs. We celebrate the underrated, overlooked, and ignored. So hold your head up high, Mr. Foster. Your 1977 MVP season will never be forgotten by this Reds fan.
By the way, Foster is a ridiculously nice guy. I had the pleasure of meeting him several years ago at the Reds Hall of Fame for an autograph signing, but he was interacting with fans and laughing and appeared to truly appreciate the blessings of being a former big leaguer.
Foster began his Topps career in 1971 as a “Rookie Star” with Mike Davison, whose final big league game was in October of 1970. After being traded to the Reds for Frank Duffy and Vern Geishert, Foster became an integral part of the Big Red Machine, primarily manning left field but also spending some time in right and center. His 1977 MVP season was one of the best of the decade, hitting 52 home runs (when 50 actually meant something) and driving in 149, compiling an 8.4 WAR in the process. Foster was traded before the 1982 season to the New York Mets for Greg Harris, Jim Kern and Alex Trevino, but he was a shadow of his former self in the Big Apple. In August 1986, Foster was released by the Mets and signed eight days later with the Chicago White Sox. He played only fifteen games in the south side, and Topps failed to produce any cards of the once great slugger in a White Sox uniform.
There have been a handful of custom cards made by bloggers to represent Foster as he might have appeared in the 1986 Topps Traded set. I made a pathetic attempt in 2008. Steve at White Sox Cards did a much better job using an actual photograph in 2009, though the only photo he could find was tiny. Dick Allen Hall of Fame went above and beyond with his Photoshop skills last year.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a couple more photos of Foster wearing the White Sox uniform, so I decided to do a new 1986 Topps Traded as well as a 1987 Topps Final Tribute.
Now had I thought of it earlier, I would have also included Foster’s appearance in Topps’ 1990 Senior Baseball set in the tile. Oh well, at least I thought to link to it before hitting the “publish” button.
(BTW, to give credit where credit is due, that 1987 Topps font comes courtesy of The Phillies Room.)
Santa was good to me this year. Not only did I finally get one of the greatest baseball movies on DVD (Field of Dreams), I also got the greatest baseball movie on DVD and Blu-Ray (42). If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you need to. The acting is fantastic, the settings are breathtaking, and the story of Jackie Robinson is one that should be told to all.
I also got the new album from Death On Two Wheels, one of my favorite rock bands in the world. I have not experienced their live show yet, but hope they come to the Cincinnati area again when I am not otherwise engaged.
And in my stocking, in addition to candy, I received forty-four different George Foster baseball cards, including his 1971 rookie! In fact, I believe every Topps card manufactured featuring Foster is here, from 1971 through 1986 (excluding a couple of league leaders).
Yeah, Santa was very good to me this year.
I love post-Halloween sale prices. I spent most of the day yesterday running from store to store grabbing some creepy odds and ends for next Halloween, including a Scream mask for $1.50 and a cool “Be Afraid” yard sign for $3.00. I was disappointed that some of the stores were still expecting 50%, but Kmart had most items marked down 70% and two Target stores that I hit had already slashed their prices by 90%.
In between those stops, however, I made time for the Florence Antique Mall. This is one of my favorite places to shop for baseball cards because of the decent prices and wide selection of Reds, new and old. I limited my purchases to three oddball items for a whopping fifty cents each…
That’s right, I walked out of the Antique Mall spending only a buck fifty.
The first items is from 1975, the year of my birth, and features the Reds Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan…
This is the second 1975 Hostess card I have picked up, and both are badly hand-cut. I think that’s part of the charm though.
Next we go to 1981—and it’s another hand-cut item—George Foster from the 1981 All-Star Game Program.
These things are minuscule. From what I can tell, they were included in the program from 1981-1985, but I’m not sure exactly how player selection was determined. In 1981 there were eight Reds featured in the program, six from 1982-1984, and four in 1985. I wouldn’t really consider these “cards,” but they are listed by Beckett and Beckett knows all. This is my first 1981 issue. The backs are very basic:
Next we hop to the last time the Reds won the World Series, 1990, and another oddball, not really a card but card-sized in height and width. Eric Davis was the only Red featured in the 1990 edition of Collect-A-Books by Collectors Marketing Corp.
I only had a few of these back in the day, and never did pick up any of the Reds. I love the brief information and pictures on the inside pages, but my favorite part of the Collect-A-Books is the cartoon on the back.
Unfortunately, that “force” was only felt for a short time after the collectible was produced. He was unable to maintain the high level of play he demonstrated in the 1980s, and never played for a world champion again after 1990. He did make a brief comeback in the late 1990s after a struggle with cancer, and had a very productive 1998 with the Baltimore Orioles, but dropped off again the following year and hung it up after the 2001 campaign.
I’m pretty happy with my $1.50 “antique” purchase yesterday.
The only slugger to top 50 home runs in the 1970s, George Foster launched 52 long balls in his 1977 MVP season. The last player to hit 50 in one year was Willie Mays in 1965, and the mark was not matched again until Detroit’s Cecil Fielder did it in 1990. The feat became commonplace beginning in 1995 when Albert Belle, Ken Griffey, Mark McGwire and others began knocking the ball out of the park at a record pace. Of course, it was later revealed that some of those players had some chemical assistance.
The 1977 National League MVP went to Arizona prepared…to sign autographs! I’m not sure if George Foster is there on Reds Hall of Fame business, or if he is promoting a charity, or if he is just there to hang out with fans, but he has a table full of 8x10s and Sharpies in front of him!
A feared hitter who blossomed a little too late, George Foster was the slugger for the Big Red Machine. Three straight years with more than 100 RBI, the only 50-home run season of the decade in 1977 (his MVP year). The closest anyone else came was Dave Kingman (1979) and Hall of Famer Willie Stargell (1971), who each hit 48.
I recently completed a trade with Chewing Liquorice. For a stack of Expos, he sent back a treasure trove of Reds cards, many of which I had never seen, including a ton of Conlon cards from 1992-1994. This one commemorates one of Johnny Vander Meer‘s no-hitters…
These cards are fantastic as they help to keep the old stories alive, allowing us to learn about players that we never had the privilege to see.
There were a lot of other historical cards in the bunch, too. There were some 1991 Topps Archives, which were reprints of the 1953 Topps set. And some reprints of the 1954 Topps set, which I assume were released in 1992. They are not on my master checklist, so I will have to research them a little bit more to find out for sure, but they are exactly like the 1991 reprint set with glossy cardstock. Here’s the Ed Bailey card from that set:
All of the old players weren’t on newer or reprinted cards, though. Geoffrey threw in some fantastic vintage cards of Reds Hall of Famers and Baseball Hall of Famers, such as Wally Post, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, and an O-Pee-Chee Joe Morgan:
I don’t remember the Action Packed baseball cards at all!
And a whole slew of George Foster awesomeness…
That last item is particularly cool. The Ted Williams Company made pogs that you could punch out and included them in their baseball card packs. This is something I have never seen before…but that just goes along with the rest of the package!
If you have some Expos to get rid off, you need to contact Chewing Liquorice and work out a deal. He’s a great trader!
They’re not on the field…they’re in the mail! GCRL sent over a nice stack o’ Redlegs, and will be receiving some Bluelegs (aka Dodgers) in return very soon. Here are some of the highlights (for me, at least)…
Jack Armstrong was selected to start the 1990 All-Star game at Wrigley Field on the strength of 11 first-half wins. He finished the season with 12 wins. Whoops! Oh well, the Reds still won the World Series in ’90 thanks to…
Jose Rijo. His dominance over the heavily favored Oakland A’s set the stage for the Reds’ sweep. Only 1 earned run allowed in 15 innings, a spectacular 0.59 ERA for the Series. He was deservingly named the MVP of the World Series.
Another starting pitcher in the rotation that years for the Reds was Tom Browning, but his best year by far was his 1985 rookie campaign, when he became the first pitcher since the 60s to win 20 games in a season. Had it not been for Vince Coleman‘s fleet feet, Browning would have easily walked away with the Rookie of the Year award. This card is actually a box bottom, which makes it extra-cool.
Barry Larkin had a good 1990 also, selected to his third straight All-Star game and winning his third Silver Slugger award behind a .301 batting average. In 1995, Larkin won the NL MVP, the last Red to accomplish that feat until…
Joey Votto took 31 of 32 first-place votes to win the NL MVP in 2010. Before Votto and Larkin there was…
George Foster. He had a monster 1977 season, but he didn’t run away with the award like Votto did. Greg Luzinski came in second that year. The first-place voting was Foster 15, Luzinski 9. 1977 was the sixth (and final) time a Cincinnati player won in the 1970s (Bench x2, Morgan x2, Rose and Foster). Who will be the next Cincinnati player to get that hardware? Could it be…
Jay Bruce? Not yet an All-Star, or even a Gold Glover, the young right fielder took his potential to the bank this off-season. The Reds signed him to a 6-year, $51 million contract (with a club option on a 7th year). Smart move? Only time will tell.
GCRL also included this pretty shiny refractory Bruce in the package. It’s cool to see these cards in person…the scan doesn’t do them justice at all.
Did you know that Reggie Sanders is one of only seven players to hit 300 home runs and steal 300 bases in his career? Can you name the other six?
But wait…that’s not all!
Oh my! O-Pee-Chee cards too!
The highlight of the box for me, though, was one of my “most wanted” cards…a 2005 Chris Sabo Topps Rookie Cup card. Cross that one of my list…
Those were not the only cards in the box…just a very small sampling of what GCRL sent my way. Thanks for the great box GCRL! Hope you like your cards when they arrive as well!
NOW…who’s next? What’s your favorite team? If you want to do a blind trade, just let me know!