Foster excelled in track, football, and baseball at El Camino College in California, drawing the attention of the Giants, who made him their third pick in the January 1968 draft. It took seven seasons in the majors and minors, with two organizations, before Foster arrived with Cincinnati to stay. The 6’1″ 180-lb outfielder soon became an important cog in the Big Red Machine of the 1970s.
Foster became a regular in 1975. A mediocre fielder at best, Foster had a strong but inaccurate arm. He was a better than average baserunner. But he made a name for himself as a powerful, productive hitter who had five of the best seasons of any player of his time. Foster’s three consecutive RBI championships (1976-78) tied a ML record. In 1977, his MVP year, he hit .320 with 149 RBI and 124 runs and blasted 52 HR to become only the seventh NL player to hit 50 or more in a season. He hit three straight homers in a July 14 game that season, and his 31 road homers set the ML record for righthanded batters. In 1978 Foster again led the NL with 40 HR.
After eleven seasons and three World Series with Cincinnati, Foster was traded to the Mets in 1982. Signing him to a five-year contract worth over $10 million, the team’s new owners, Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon, showed their willingness to spend money to rebuild the Mets. He hit just 13 HR that year, 28 the next, and was considered a disappointment. Word got around among NL pitchers that he wouldn’t lay off low curveballs, and he regularly struck out on curves in the dirt. Foster was released by the Mets in August of their World Championship 1986 season. The struggling veteran, hitting .227 at the time, claimed he was the victim of racism, but he failed to regain his stroke after the White Sox picked him up. He retired tied for tenth in career grand slams with 13.