I walk up to the plate feeling I can make contact if I'm ready. I respect the pitcher but in my heart I know he's no better than I am.
- George Foster
In 1977, George Foster did what no other Red had done before or has managed to do since. He hit fifty home runs in a season when the feat was a rare occurrence. The home runs highlighted a remarkable season for one of the great power hitters in Reds history.
In the summer of 1977, there was no more feared hitter in baseball than George Foster. The Reds' slugging left fielder terrorized National League pitchers with a league best 52 home runs and 149 RBI. He also led the league in runs scored, total bases and slugging percentage on his way to being named the National League's Most Valuable Player. Foster's dominating season was the culmination of three seasons of steady improvement that found George rounding out the powerful Great Eight lineup of the Big Red Machine.
The Reds acquired Foster in a trade with the Giants that found Cincinnati sending backup shortstop Frank Duffy and pitcher Vern Geishert to San Francisco. The deal received little notice at the time as Foster struggled in a part-time role with a Reds club that limped to a disappointing fourth place finish. Willie Mays, Foster's teammate with the Giants, had a feeling the Giants might have made a mistake declaring to Reds' manager Sparky Anderson that Foster was going to be "some kind of player."
Foster was only 22 at the time of the trade and needed more seasoning, spending the better part of the 1973 season as the starting centerfielder for the Reds' AAA club in Indianapolis. Still a part-time player in 1974, Foster came into his own in 1975. Taking over as the starting left fielder in May following Pete Rose's shift to third base Foster batted .300 with 23 home runs in 463 at bats. The shifting of Pete to third base to create space for Foster helped kick-start the Reds from their .500 start to a 108 win season.
Foster began hitting his stride in 1976 as he belted 29 home runs, drove in a league best 121 runs and made his first All-Star appearance. The 1976 season established Foster as one of the league's genuine power threats. But no one was anticipating what was to come in 1977.
Today, 50 home run seasons are commonplace. Since 1990, the mark has been reached or surpassed 22 times. If Cecil Fielder's 1990 season is removed from the tabulation, the mark has been reached or surpassed 21 times since 1995. When Foster hit 52 home runs in 1977, his was only the 17th such season in the history of the game. No player had hit 50 or more since Mays did it in 1965 and no player would do it again until Fielder in 1990.
After homering only three times in April, Foster homered no fewer than eight times in each of the season's remaining five months. He bashed twelve homers in both July and August highlighted by a three-homer game on July 14. He tied Ted Kluszewski's 1954 club record of 49 home runs on September 20 and became the first Red to hit fifty homers three days later.