Sunday, October 20, 2019

George Foster and the 1977 Reds: The Rise of a Slugger and the End of an Era | Book Review

The Cincinnati Reds started the 1977 baseball season fresh off a repeat World Series victory that included an entire postseason sweep. Despite this incredible feat, opposing lineups no longer viewed the Big Red Machine as invincible. The Reds traded Tony Perez to the Montreal Expos, and for the first time since 1964, their lineup was missing their RBI juggernaut.

George Foster and the 1977 Reds / McFarland Publishing
Author Mike Shannon dives into how the Reds tried to continue their dynasty with his new book, “George Foster and the 1977 Reds: The Rise of a Slugger and the End of an Era” (McFarland, 2019). As the Reds put Perez’s replacement on Dan Driessen’s shoulders, power-hitting outfielder George Foster swooped in with an MVP performance that took the baseball world by storm.

Shannon documents the Reds entire 1977 season from the first pitch to the final out. Each development is chronologically inspected by revisiting volumes of books and newspapers to recreate how manager Sparky Anderson navigated their run at a trifecta. With the Reds staring at a losing record at the end of May, Anderson faced the press questioning if his squad was still a contender.

The Reds made a play for the pennant when they acquired Tom Seaver from the New York Mets on June 15, 1977. Not even his 14-3 record and Foster’s legendary 52-home-run performance could put the Reds any closer than 6.5 games from the runaway Los Angeles Dodgers.

"George Foster and the 1977 Reds" highlights a pivotal time in Reds franchise history, as 1977 represented the crumbling of the Big Red Machine. It marked the start of a downward spiral that the Reds never recovered from until their 1990 World Series victory.

Readers may find his look at the season too academic at times, as it suffers from an overload of game recaps that clutter the story. With a majority of the 1977 team still alive, "George Foster and the 1977 Reds" would have benefited from surviving player anecdotes. These first-person narratives would have been a valuable color commentary supplement to Shannon's play-by-play. Nonetheless, die-hard Reds fans will enjoy Shannon giving Foster his due and illustrating how much the club missed Perez’s presence despite Driessen’s valiant .300 performance at the plate.


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