I actually used to love the way Keith Foulke spit. Another pathetic facet in a truly pathetic ballplayer-crush, I'll admit, but I loved the way he spit--how he spit was part of what made him tough and charismatic and special. In fact, it was the way he spit that first got my attention.
After working a 1-2 count on the final batter, Eric Hinske, Foulke was a shining sheet of persperation as he gazed in toward Mirabelli, his shoulders tense, his jaw set. Mirabelli flashed the sign, and in the last moment, he gave a little nod of his head, a little bulge of his eyes behind the mask, a nearly imperceptible jab with the glove toward Foulke, as if willing Foulke's eyes toward his target, willing the ball to find the right path past Hinske.
A fraction of a second later, the thought was made flesh. Hinske had barely finished his fruitless swing before he bonked himself on the helmet with his bat, hollering in frustration. Foulke, stone-faced, stared in at Hinske for a long moment, and then capped his triumph with a derisive hocchh...pthoo onto the turf in front of the mound.
Tonight he takes the mound in a sloppy game against Baltimore, the Sox lollygagging over the hapless birds, 6-1, as tension-free a game as I've seen so far this decade. Foulke's location is for shit. Nobody's eyes are popping open to watch him deliver. His fastball is a sluggish 88.
And he's chewing tobacco, a great wad of it, bulging out his left cheek and making his lips shine with terrible disgusting brown juice, every so often letting go a great wet dribble of the ugly muck onto the mound.
The Ghost of Keith Foulke is a great metaphor. As with the team, the facts are the same--he's out there pitching and spitting on the mound. But everything else is not.
This is, in a way, another dimension of appreciating 2004. This is another opportunity to savor it. This is exactly the kind of listless, hopeless, go-nowhere September night we knew it'd see us through. A listless, hopeless, go-nowhere September night on which no one can bring up Babe Ruth or 1918 or even Grady Little. I'm keeping that in mind.