Foster was the only player to go on such an offensive spree in the decade, even if it was for a short time. But it took him a while to reach the top. San Francisco traded foster in one of the many terrible trades that would endanger the Giants in mid-decade. Foster initially found it challenging to fit in with the Big Red Machine in 1975. But he eventually seized the opportunity to play outfield and hit an even.300 in both the regular and postseason seasons. Foster’s 1976 performance was better, with an NL-leading 121 RBIs. Then, he turned it on in 1977. He produced the decade’s best offensive effort and the most prolific year od the decade by a power hitter, including the only 50+ homer performance of the decade. Foster led the NL in RBIs, and home runs the following season with 40 and 120, respectively. He might have won another RBI crown in 1979 if he hadn’t pulled his thigh during that year’s All-Star Game.
Two different ways to see Oklahoma’s genius are possible. The first was his extraordinary gift behind the plate. He revolutionized a one-handed catch and won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves. His slugging skills, which more than once reached extraordinary levels, were the other. He was inconsistent in the decade, but he was when he was on. He hit 45 homers in 1970 with 148 RBIs. Two years later, he reached 40 and 125, earning his second National League Most Valuable Player Award. He would hit at least 100 RBIs for the fourth consecutive year, thanks to Cincinnati’s strong team of teammates. In 1976, Bench’s regular season performance was disappointing. He blasted.234 with 16 homers and 74 RBIs. However, he made up for it in the postseason with 12 hits in 27 at-bats (including three homers). After a solid 1977 season (with 31 homers, and 109 RBIs), Bench started to show signs of wear and tear from the most difficult position in baseball. Bench was positioned either at third or first base in his final years.
Rice was the “other rookie” for the 1975 AL pennant-winning Red Sox. While the general public was captivated by Fred Lynn’s Rookie of The Year, Rice would slowly prove that Fenway Park had no better value than Fred Lynn and, by a decade, there was no better player in the league. Rice was a Triple-A star in the International League and won the MVP in his second season. He also took the Triple Crown of hitting in those last two seasons. Rice was a solid rookie performer, hitting.309 with 22 runs and 102 RBIs in 1975 for the Red Sox. However, he missed the World Series against Cincinnati after fracturing his hand one week before the end of the regular season. Rice would need to wait until 1986 to experience his first postseason. Rice’s sterling debut was only the beginning. He continued to improve, and by 1978, Rice was almost indomitable. He produced eye-popping numbers, becoming the first American Leaguer (since Joe DiMaggio) to accumulate over 400 bases. Rice was a fan of Fenway. He hit.350 at home in the 1970s with a remarkable.699 slugging rate. This late-decade performance was what ultimately brought Rice into the Hall of Fame. He only played half of the decade, or he would have ranked higher.
Everyone was moving, inside and outside the ballpark, for Bonds, an outfielder with power and nearly 40 steals per season. He also became very familiar with moving companies by wearing six different uniforms in the 1970s. Bonds was Willie Mays’ replacement in San Francisco. He seemed to be meeting the demand. Bonds scored more than 100 runs per year, had close to 100 RBIs while playing primarily in the leadoff position, and in 1973, he came within one homer (40 homers and 40 steals) of becoming the first 40-40 player in baseball. Bonds fell out with Giants management in 1974. This led to another poor deal by San Francisco when he was traded one-up for Bobby Murcer. Bonds was as hurt as the Giants by the trade. He continued to be productive but was always unhappy and moved around for different reasons. Barry Bonds, his son, was influenced by this nomadic lifestyle. He would inherit not only the greatness of his father but also disdain for management, especially media.
Jackson set a new trend by being the first major leaguer to wear a moustache in 58 years. He also won the AL MVP in 1973, the World Series MVP in 1973, and the MVQ (Most Valuable Quote). His comments made headlines, which often rankled his bosses and teammates. He loved New York City and vice versa. Jackson’s 1977 World Series victory in Game Six, when he homered in all three of his at-bats – all on the first pitch – set a new series record of five. Through the decade, Jackson survived two turbulent owners–Steinbrenner in Oakland and Charles Finley in Oakland. He was able to collect five World Series rings. Jackson batted.360 over 24 Fall Classic games, with nine homers and 23 RBIs. This is despite only 86 at-bats.
Schmidt was a powerful hitter, graceful with the glove, and articulate with his opinions. He became a perennial MVP source for the Phillies team, which emerged from a difficult period in the 1970s and became a perennial contender by the middle of the decade. In 1973, Schmidt’s trial by fire as a right-handed slugger began with a terrible rookie performance. He was hitless in 26 of his final at-bats and had a sub-.200 (.197) batting average. He turned the tide in 1974 and led the NL in homers with 36. Schmidt’s game with the Phillies in Chicago, 18-16, 10 innings later, was a game to remember. He homered four times and set career records with five hits, eight RBIs, and a record-breaking ninth inning. Schmidt found a rhythm that allowed him to hit 100+ runs consistently, RBIs, and walks each year. Unfortunately, this was not enough for the Phillies’ hard-to-please fan base. They wanted more from Schmidt and booed them when they didn’t get it. Schmidt was a postseason failure during that decade. He hit.182 and had no homers in 11 NLCS matches. Schmidt’s most significant years were still ahead of him, as he hit 45 homers in 1979.
Stargell was a gregarious, powerful slugger who saw the good in everyone. The Pirates ended the decade with two world titles in 1971 and 1979. His leadership and excellent performance at the plate made this effort possible, which earned him co-MVP honors within the NL. Stargell was a monster in the 1970s, leading the NL twice in homers, including a career-high 48 in 1971. He had his seats on the upper deck of Three Rivers Stadium repainted in recognition of where his tape-measure shots landed. Stargell’s game began to deteriorate towards the end of the decade. This was a sign that he was approaching 40 years old. After a slow start in 1978, he returned to his old self with vintage vigor. He continued that feat into 1979 with 32 homers and 82 RBIs in just 424 at-bats while also spiritually residing as the father figure for the “We Are Family” team that won it all. Stargell’s 296 home runs were the most of any player in that decade. That doesn’t even include seven extra jacks in postseason play.
In 1973, Rose led the league with 230 hits and a .338 batting average en route to winning the NL MVP award and leading “the Big Red Machine” to the 1973 National League Championship Series against the New York Mets. This was probably Rose’s greatest season. Rose captivated the Nation with his 44-game hitting streak in 1978. Rose was a consistently great hitter for the entire decade.
One-sided trades were critical to creating Cincinnati’s formidable Big Red Machine. The deal that brought George Foster to the Reds was already discussed. But the most significant coup was when they traded Lee May, Tommy Helms, and Jimmy Stewart to Houston. The Reds got Joe Morgan in that trade. Although the short (5’7″) second-baseman had displayed promise but not consistency in nine previous seasons with Houston, no one realized his potential when he was an Astros player. He flourished under Sparky Anderson’s directive that he be allowed to steal whenever he wanted. He was a remarkable player in the end. In his first six years with Cincinnati (1972-1977), he averaged.295, and hit 22 homers and 84 RBIs. He also walked 118 times and stole 60 bases. Morgan’s career peak was in 1975-76 when he played for the Reds. He won back-to-back world championships and was awarded the NL MVP both years. In a four-game sweep of the Yankees in 1976, Morgan went 5-for-15 with a run and two steals. This is a rare feat for a player who has struggled in other postseason series. (He hit.169 in 46 of his playoff games). Morgan’s game declined sharply in 1978 as his age started to catch up. However, he was still dangerous enough to keep opposing players on their toes well into the 1980s.
This left-handed hitter was from Panama Canal Zone. He won six batting titles with the Twins. A severe knee injury in 1970 prevented him from winning what could have been a seventh. (He hit.366 in 191 at-bats). Carew was not afraid to steal bases, even home–stealing home 17 times during his Hall-of-Fame years. Carew was a great contact hitter with very few weaknesses. Carew’s 1977 peak season saw him hit over.400 into mid-July before cooling down to a season-ending of.388 and earning AL MVP honors. Carew scored only 100 runs in 1977, despite his ability to reach base daily. This is a testament to the lack of support from his teammates while he was with the Twins. Carew left Minnesota in 1978 to protest the racist comments made by Twins owner Calvin Griffith. Carew signed with the Angels after stating that he would not be “another idiot on (Griffith’s) plantation”. Carew also enjoyed five consecutive seasons of.300+ baseball in Anaheim.
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