San Francisco Giants feature: He was a Giant? A Foster Folly; Former Giants outfielder George Foster

photo provided from Former San Francisco Giant outfielder George Foster who was dealt to Cincinnati in 1971 part of Tony the Tiger’s feature He was a Giant?


By Tony “the Tiger” Hayes

SAN FRANCISCO — On the night that Nick Vincent was Be-Bop-A-Lulaed by Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. — in the worst opening act experiment San Francisco has witnessed since Country Joe & the Fish warmed up a 1978 Winterland audience for the Sex Pistols — we take a look back at another disastrous Orange & Black event: the botched 1971 trade of George Foster.

He Was a Giant?
The Giants never considered Foster more than a backup to Willie Mays.

So it was pretty ironic that six years after SF dealt Foster to the Reds for next to nothing, the late blooming star would became the first slugger to bash 50 HR in a season since… Willie Mays.

Foster had not shown much in his 54 game audition in SF, so it wasn’t much of a shocker when he was dealt to Cincinnati for a pair of nobodies in 1971.

At first, nobody thought much of the swap – either way.

The pair of players the Giants received washed out of SF quicker than an Ocean Beach riptide and Foster stalled initially in the Queen City.

But after Foster had established himself as one of the ferocious power threats of the 1970s, the trade was forever cemented as one of the most atrocious swaps of Giants history, right alongside the blundering bartering of Orlando Cepeda.

Why Was He a Giant?
Foster actually replaced Mays in the Giants lineup mid-game in his big league debut in 1969. The club was auditioning farm talent as potential replacements for the aging Mays, but the painfully shy, still developing Foster — who was disqualified from the Vietnam War draft due to an old back injury — didn’t scream future star.

He saw just limited action in ‘69. The pattern repeated itself in 1970.

The Giants were on their way to their first ever western division title in 1971 when they swapped Foster to the Reds in late May for SS Frank Duffy and RHP Vern Geishert.

Before & After
A Giants third round pick out of Southern California, Foster began opening eyes at Single-A Fresno in ‘69, driving 14 HR and batting a gaudy .321, prompting the late season cameo with SF.

In 1970 he leapfrogged Double-A and starred at Triple-A Phoenix- resulting in another September call up to Candlestick Park.

The Giants were on their way to their first ever western division title in 1971 when they swapped Foster to the Reds in late May. In 36 games. Foster was batting .267 with 3 HR for SF

The star stacked Reds would show patience with Foster easing him along until he finally ripened.

Beginning in 1976 – when he was voted All-Star Game MVP – , Foster would lead the NL in RBI for three straight campaigns. In 1977 – the season he crushed 52 long balls, Foster was the run away NL MVP. Foster ended with 348 career HR and 1135 RBI.

He Never Got A (Giants) Bobblehead. But…
Shortly before his trade away from the Giants, Foster produced his first four- hit big league game, batting 4-for-4, with 3 RBI with a double and solo HR off Mike McQueen in a 5-3 win at Atlanta (4/28/71).

Giant Footprint
The returns the Giants received for Foster are legendarily ignominious, but if you’ve blotted the painful memory from your brain pan, here’s a refresher.

First, Geishert. Most followers of horrible Giants trades know the right-handed never did play for the Giants in the big leagues. But according to his Baseball Reference page Geishert never even appeared in a game in the minors for SF as well!

Duffy, a Stanford man, batted 5-for-28 in 28 games for the Giants through the end of ‘71 and then was dealt as part of another of the Giants careless trades. This time, Duffy exited town, going to Cleveland along with great Gaylord Perry for the catastrophe that was pitcher Sam McDowell.

By the way, it was the SF based punk group the Avengers who actually opened for the Sex Pistols in ‘78.