David Wright is reportedly close to accepting a 7-year, $124 million extension. So today on “Glory Days,” we reminisce on a man who at one time had the second-largest contract in baseball history (5 years, $10 million). Meet New York’s original bank-busting contract (and hopefully not Wright’s future): George Foster.
Dateline: July 21, 1985. The Mets were in the thick of things for the second straight year, 52-37 and a half game out of first place in the NL East. Their opponent this Shea afternoon was the hapless Atlanta Braves (remember when we could say that?). Foster, batting sixth, was in the fourth year of that sky-high contract and had rebounded after a terrible 1982 debut with three solid (though not spectacular) years in Queens.
Terry Leach gave up a run quickly in the 1st, but after Foster walked in the 2nd, Howard Johnson responded with a home run off Pascual Perez. Wally Backman and Keith Hernandez sliced extra-base hits in the 3rd to make it 4-1. Foster tried to start another flood of runs in the 4th with a leadoff single, but a Johnson strikeout and Rafael Santana double play ended that threat before it could start.
The 5th inning was when the Mets would take out an insurance policy. Leach led off with a double and allowed Lenny Dykstra to get to second by making a rundown out of a fielder’s choice. After Backman flew out, Hernandez brought Dykstra home with a single. Gary Carter was hit by the pitch and Darryl Strawberry singled home Hernandez. That brought up George Foster, who challenged Rick Camp with his black bat and won via three-run homer. 9-1 Mets, and the 50,876 Shea faithful were on their feet: some in applause, some towards the exit, as this game was over.
But the real fireworks started in the 6th when Atlanta got two runs back off Leach. Glenn Hubbard and Terry Harper accounted for four more runs off Tom Gorman in the 7th to make it 9-7. Looking reflate their cushion, Hernandez doubled and Carter singled. After Strawberry turned a fielder’s choice, Foster hammered his second extra-base hit of the afternoon, a double to plate Kid and Straw, putting the Mets in double-digits. Two more runs came home (HoJo’s E6 and Kelvin Chapman’s single), reinforcing the home team’s lead, 13-7.
The Braves would score a few more before the afternoon was through, but they never got close again as the Amazin’s held on for the 15-10 win. George’s 3-3, 2B, HR, 5 RBI showing provided the margin, and on this day at least, Foster was King George of New York.
The ’85 Mets won 98 games and would contend through September but slipped during the last three weeks of the season, finishing three back of the Nuthouse Gang Cardinals. Foster had a few more decent days in a New York uniform (2 HRs at Dodger Stadium in ’86), but his most significant contribution to that magical season was the tone-deaf prequel to “Let’s Go Mets:” the infamous “Get Metsmerized” (at least it inspired this future team blog). He was released in 1986 after accusing Davey Johnson and management of racism. He got picked up by the Chicago White Sox but was out of baseball within a month.
July 21. A good day for Vladimir Guerrero in 2003 (set an Expos club record with his 227th home run) and Jose Reyes in 2008 (became the Mets’ all-time triples leader). Also a good day for Jesse James in 1873 (pulls off the first successful Old West train robbery in Adair, Iowa). A bad day for Joe Torre in 1975 (grounds into four straight double plays in one game) and Hubie Brooks the same day (four singles, out on each of Torre’s double plays). A great day for George Foster in 1985.