ebay slug : 1982-o-pee-chee-george-foster
Most baseball fans who have been around for awhile remember that George Forster left the Cincinnati Reds in the early 1980s and landed with the New York Mets.
Unless you’re a Mets or Reds fan, though, or unless you were following the offseason soap opera of baseball’s hot stove in the moment, you may have forgotten — or never known — the details of Foster’s eastward trek, or exactly when it happened.
Baseball card collectors, on the other hand, have a pretty good idea, though maybe not the full scoop, courtesy of Foster’s 1982 O-Pee-Chee base issue.
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The first thing that greets us with this card is the sartorial dissonance of Foster in a Reds batting helmet and uniform collar piping … but wrapped in Mets hockey sticks.
For collectors in the United States, that bulging O-Pee-Chee logo and the French equivalent of “OUTFIELD” (VOLTIGEUR) are prominent indicators that something is different here, too.
And then there’s the text under Foster’s chin … three lines that tell us more of the story: George Foster was traded to the Mets on February 10th of 1982.
That OPC card, issued during the season when Foster was just starting his Flushing tenure, thus became the first pasteboard of George Foster, New York Met … even if the uniform had some catching up to do.
That fall, Topps themselves would catch up to their Canadian counterpart by including Foster on a real, full-blown Mets card in its 1982 Traded set, but in between, there were expectations to live up to.
Expectations for the Mets, who had just signed a 33-year-old slugger three years removed from his last 30-homer season to the largest contract in franchise history, and the second largest in the game.
And certainly expectations for Foster, who had lobbied the Reds for a new deal and who had insisted that any trade out of Cincy include a healthy extension.
Would Foster deliver on the promises of his five-year, $10 million contract?
Well, he stayed on the field most of that first summer, starting 138 games in left field and pinch hitting 13 times.
The results surely weren’t what the Mets bargained for, though: .247, 13 home runs, 70 RBI.
And the Amazin’s themselves finished a woeful 65-97 and last in the old National League East.
Foster recovered some of his power stroke in subsequent seasons, topping 20 homers each year from 1983 through 1985, but never regained his All-Star stroke.
After Foster lost his starting job to young Kevin Mitchell in 1986, and after a heated public debate with Mets management over the situation, New York released their high-paid slugger.
Making the situation all the more tense were allegations that the move was racially motivated.
Foster caught on with the Chicago White Sox to end the season, but then retired at age 37.
The Mets, meanwhile, went on to capture the World Series title that fall.
Within years, of course, New York would become famous for a big, long contract with Bobby Bonilla that they’ll be paying on into the 2030s, and for a string of deals — Vince Coleman, Bret Saberhagen, Jason Bay, etc. — afterward that never quite seemed to pan out as they’d hoped.
A modern fan looking at that track record might ask, “where did it all start?”.
That 1982 OPC George Foster just may hold the answer.
Foster was most famous for his booming bat, but this glove (available on eBay) would make a stunning addition to any Reds or Mets collection …
That’s game-used Foster leather from the 1980s.
Check out the full listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).
1982 Topps Baseball Cards Complete Your Set U-Pick (#'s 201-400) Nm-Mint
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1982 Topps Baseball Cards Complete Your Set U-Pick (#'s 401-600) Nm-Mint
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