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Tom Mix, Published February 04 2013

Former MLB MVP Foster speaks for the hitters at Fargo Post 2's HOF banquet

FARGO – George Foster strived for consistence in his 18-year career in Major League Baseball.

The five-time National League All-Star hit 20 or more home runs in nine seasons during the span of 1975 to 1985 and was the RBI champion three consecutive seasons (1976-1978).

Foster’s best year was 1977 because the slugger says that was the year he gave up putting added pressure of himself to perform.

Instead he strived for consistency and ultimately finished the 1977 season hitting 52 home runs and winning the National League’s Most Valuable Player award.

“In 1977 I didn’t put any pressure on myself to break any type of records,” Foster said. “I think I put more pressure on myself in 1976. So I learned from 1976 when I was in a position to win the Triple Crown. It got into my head a bit and I wasn’t as consistent.

“In 1977 I just wanted to be consistent and if I would have broken Hack Wilson’s National League record of 56 home runs it would have been great.”

Foster, a member of the Cincinnati Reds’ Big Red Machine in the 1970s, was in Fargo on Monday serving as the featured speaker at the Red River Diamond Classic Baseball Banquet. The event is Fargo Post 2 American Legion’s annual event to honor and induct its new class of Hall of Fame members.

Foster – who played for the San Francisco Giants (1969-70), Cincinnati Reds (1971-81), New York Mets (192-86) and the Chicago White Sox (1986) – currently is a motivational speaker and works with many youth baseball organizations.

The two-time World Series winner was quick to point out that he is the first ever power hitter to speak at Post 2’s event.

“I’m honored to be one of the power hitters to be able to come and speak,” Foster said. “Nobody will be able to compare my speech to the other because they are all pitchers.”

Hall of Famers Bert Blyleven, Rollie Fingers, Gaylord Perry, Robin Roberts, Fergus Jenkins, Paul Molitor have all been past speakers along with Post 2 Hall of Famer and former MLB pitcher Rick Helling and former Minnesota Twins 20-game winner Jim “Mud Cat” Grant.

Being a former power hitter, Foster weighed in on the performance-enhancing drug issue.

“It’s just like counterfeiting,” Foster said of PED use in baseball. “It’s going to be there forever. … It is all about the integrity of the game. They feel that they have the best drug testing in the sport of baseball, but I think track and field and cycling might have better testing.”

In the last 10 years six players have hit 50 or more home runs in a single season. Only one – Jose Bautista – has hit 50 or more homers in a single season the last five years.

So is the time of the 50-plus home run slugger over?

“I feel like 50 home runs is attainable,” Foster said. “There is that watchdog now in drug testing. Players don’t know when they will be tested. Mike Trout and Prince Fielder are guys that could go out and hit 50 legitimately. Sixty or more I don’t think so. The PEDs really enhanced opportunities to hit home runs and it is unreal how it really gave them that extra boost.”

As a result of the PED-fueled numbers that were put up in the late 1980s and 1990s, Foster feels the hallowed home run records are sullied.

Fargo’s Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs in 1961 and Hank Aaron’s all-time career home run record have all been surpassed by players linked to PED use.

“Roger’s record is legitimate and Hank Aaron’s record legitimate,” Foster said. “Those are the guys who should have the records and there should be asterisk next to the names of the guys that surpassed them.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562