Tennis Prose



The Big Red Tennis Machine? George Foster on Tennis

One of the great baseball sluggers of the 1970’s and 80’s was George Foster of the Cincinnati Reds. The Tuscaloosa-born Californian Foster helped the Big Red Machine to win two World Series in 1975 and 1976. “Yahtzee”, as he was called by Pete Rose, was the National League MVP in 1977.

Foster was also an avid tennis player. His daughter Starlene played too.

Foster sums up his game like this: “My serve was excellent,” says the 62-year-old who was a five-time Major League All-Star. “My backhand wasn’t strong in the beginning, I could just get it back, then when I began to drive the ball with the backhand, my knee started to hurt. That’s when I started to play golf.”

It’s well known that Reds teammate Joe Morgan was also quite a good player, good enough to compete in USTA tournaments. ” Joe was an advanced player who used to play with people from the Reds front office,” remembers George. “Joe was advanced in just about everything he tried. I looked at him as a mentor.” But the two Reds never met on the tennis court. Just when George thought he was getting good enough, Morgan began to have knee problems.

Foster says the appeal of tennis for him is, “I like the strategy that’s involved. Knowing the angles and knowing the angles to attack. I liked to serve and volley. Serve to one’s backhand if they don’t have a strong backhand, go to the net and put it away. People lobbed a lot to me but I was ready for it because it was like catching a fly ball. I like picking apart your opponent. Figuring out their strengths and going to their weaknesses.”

Foster, who was dubbed “The Destroyer” by the baseball media and once hit 52 homers in a single season, lives in the Cincinnati area, and sometimes attends the Mason, Ohio professional events. He says he prefers to go in the afternoon when you can see the action up close.

Foster, the 1976 All-Star Game MVP, played outfield for four different teams – the Giants, Reds, Mets and White Sox from 1969-86. He appreciates doubles tennis too. “I like doubles, the strategy of doubles. Playing as a team. It’s a thing of beauty to watch a good doubles team working together.”

George Foster’s favorite player? “I follow Federer. Federer is my favorite. It’s like putting everything to music, the way he performs out there.”

These days, Foster is involved with youth clinics and his non-profit foundation. “It’s called George Foster Pro Concepts. We do camps and clinics for kids of the military and inner city kids in the Cincinnati area, ages 8-17. We also do fundraisers. If people have 50 or more kids and a venue to do the camp, we’ll come to the venue to do it. For more information, people can call 513-886-5300. Our web site is”

It’s not difficult to fantasize the physically fit and powerful George Foster applying his superb baseball hitting power and athletic skills to tennis, if he had taken up the game at a young age with the counsel of proper coach. Foster outsmarted Major League pitchers over 17 years to the tune of a career .274 batting average, 348 career homers, 1,925 hits and 1,239 RBI.

With a booming serve and aggressive net-rushing tactics, it’s not hard to visualize George Foster serve-and-volleying his way to a major title. Or playing doubles on Louis Armstrong or Centre Court with his partner Pete Rose or Joe Morgan against McEnroe and Fleming…


  • Richard Pagliaro · January 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Great article, very interesting. I’ve been told Joe Morgan was a tremendous tennis player – total aggressive serve-and-volley player from what I was told – who regularly played USTA tournaments until the injury.
    I remember the Big Red Machine well. One of my first baseball memories is seeing Pete Rose body slam poor Buddy Harrelson during the NLCS when I was a really young kid. to this day Pete Rose is despised by Mets fans. I was at the game in Shea Stadium when Rose tied or broke the NL record for most consecutive games with a hit. They stopped the game to present Rose with an award and either in an effort to sway the NY crowd or just to stick it to them a bit, Rose said something like “New York fans have always been so intense…” and a chorus of boos just reigned down on him. Classic.
    One thing about Foster: he hit 50 homers without steroids and without playing in the band boxes that pass off as stadiums. The guy had real power. What a team that was with Bench, Morgan, Tony Perez, Concepcion, Griffey Sr., don Gullett. Then my Mets get Foster and he did not get it done for us. But seems like a nice guy.
    My friend is a teaching pro and he once hit with Brady Anderson (who was once linked to Amanda Coetzer – I loved Coetzer) anyway he told me Brady Anderson was by far the best tennis player among baseball players he ever saw. Said Anderson was easily a 5.0 – easy. I’ve heard Paul O’Neil has a huge lefty serve but never saw him play. Jim Palmer was also supposedly a very good tennis player. I always look at Jose Reyes, the speed, the hands, the acrobatic agility and think he could have been a Monfils-type of tennis player – high energy and entertaining but prone to mind cramps and injury.

  • Nancy McShea · January 15, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    After he left the Reds, all I remember about George Foster is how bored he always looked playing for the Mets while he was raking in all that money! Talk about baseball players who play tennis, Keith Hernandez LOVES tennis. He talks about tennis constantly in the broadcasting booth.



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