Just a bit of hell to get us through a Sunday, eh? In this case, two is enough.
FOSTER: His take on why he wasn’t playing in ’86 was, as Rey Ordoñez might put it, stupid, but if he hadn’t said a word on race and maintained his spot on the roster into the World Series, George Foster would not have been beloved or even benignly considered for years to come. Presumably he’ll get a break from the crowd if there’s a 20th anniversary Old-Timers Day this season; class reunions, after all, don’t throw down over rock vs. disco once everything they grew up with devolves into a vaguely pleasant oldie. George Foster sealed his fate by sucking ostentatiously in his first season. There was no turning back. He was never going to be forgiven in captivity for 1982, specifically for confirming and then proving anew the nagging feeling that everybody we get who was ever any good falls apart once he gets here was, in fact, a certainty. He wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last but he was the most obvious example. He made us doubt who we were and that, more than any misspeak, is why the fans never granted him more than fleeting approval when he performed decently from ’83 to early ’86. It also didn’t help that he inhabited the role of Executive Left Fielder during his tenure. Everything from his mode of transportation (who can forget the stretch limo that was pelted with rocks and garbage on a daily basis?) to his corporate demeanor on the bench to his “I’m not a details man” approach while wearing a glove screamed — no, make that whispered — Mr. Foster can’t rise to the occasion right now. He’s in a meeting.
HAMPTON: Y’know, I’ve never gotten this one. I didn’t much care for the No. 52 Greatest Met of the First Forty Years while he was here (I think it was the football helmet), but he literally pitched us to a pennant, one of only four flying from our flagpoles. That had to have a little lasting currency versus his have-it-all-ways alibi for splitting. Don’t get me wrong: I was at his return start in 2001 and his encore appearance in 2002 with the Rockies and I enjoyed his losing to the Mets on both occasions as much as anyone. But I thought he deserved one faint round of applause for his NLCS dominance of the Cardinals before we got around to booing his lucrative head off.
Enough distastefulness. How about an antidote to hell? How about something heavenly?
How about some Roger Angell?
I was negligent in realizing that Roger Angell’s post-World Series wrapup was about to run in The New Yorker last week. It’s in the November 21 issue. Pending on how quickly your newsstand restocks, it may still be lying around (couldn’t find his article on their site, though a precursor thankfully popped up). For cryin’ out loud, go get a copy. At the very least, settle for his 2004 and 2003 editions.
Absolutes are dangerous assertions, but Roger Angell is the absolutely greatest baseball writer who has ever lived, having attained the title the moment he answered his calling in 1962. His take on the season just past, with an emphasis on the White Sox’ triumph but also a killer graf on our team, should be required reading not just for baseball fans but for human beings. You can say that every year about every one of his instant retrospectives. Fortunately, most of what he’s written on baseball has been anthologized. If you’re new to him or even if you’re old to him, I suggest Season Ticket or Five Seasons or The Summer Game or Game Time to keep you warm. Each has an ample helping of Mets coverage if you’re going to insist on being parochial. If you want to inject yourself with a tasty dose of 1986 (and who doesn’t?), his essay “Not So, Boston” will have you rolling between Bill Buckner’s legs all over again.
Even expertly parodied, he stands out as genuine. We’re all pretenders. Roger Angell is the real thing. Hell would be not having him to read.