Foster uses a black bat and steps out of the box more than anyone in the majors. His power is out of proportion to his 6'1", 185-pound build. Since Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium opened in 1970, only eight balls have been hit into the upper deck. Foster has hit three, including two last season. One, on Aug. 3, is Riverfront's longest. An engineer estimated that it might have come to earth as far as 720 feet from home plate if it hadn't hit the stands.
Foster's lifetime statistics are not breathtaking because he has had only three impressive seasons. But they have come consecutively, and each has been dramatically better than its predecessor. If he were to increase his output as much in 1978 as he did in 1977, he would hit .334 with 75 homers and 177 RBIs.
Named on all 24 ballots, Foster was selected the National League's MVP even though he did not play for a pennant winner. That had happened only 15 times in 46 previous elections. He was Cincinnati's fourth Most Valuable Player in the past six years, joining Joe Morgan (1975-76), Rose (1973) and Johnny Bench (1972). Foster received 15 first-place votes to nine for Philadelphia's Greg Luzinski. In players' balloting for a similar award, Foster outpolled Luzinski 155-24.
"There are four parts of self that lead to success," Foster once said. "The first part is discipline, the second is concentration, third is patience, and fourth is faith."
Foster first attracted notice in the big leagues in 1972, when he raced home on a wild pitch to give the Reds the pennant. Afterward, he suffered through a dry spell, including a demotion to the minors in 1973. While at Triple-A Indianapolis, he visited a hypnotist who enabled him to regain his confidence—and his swing. Foster subsequently earned his nickname, the Destroyer.
Foster is a quiet bachelor who takes his Bible and his mother on trips, but he is not humorless. After his 43rd homer last year, he was asked if he would reach 50. "Well, I'm 28 now," he said. "If I keep my health, live a clean life and take vitamins, I think I'll reach 50."
If Foster gets 50 again this season, it will mean that umpires and catchers will have 50 fewer pitches to argue about. As the following story points out, their discussions run the gamut from subtle to unseemly. Next up are scouting reports on all 26 teams and a quiz to help sharpen your wits for the season ahead. And to start the season off right, turn to page 92 for a unique look at Opening Day and other baseball traditions.