Foster doesn't regret giving away Fisk homer ball
Former Reds All-Star slugger was in left field at Fenway Park during iconic play
For some reason, I missed this: George Foster got the ball. Not only that, he kept it for nearly 25 years.
You remember the ball. It's the one that Carlton Fisk slammed high against the left-field foul pole at Fenway Park in the bottom of the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. It's the one that caused eternal joy for Red Sox fans. It's also the one that still produces clenched teeth for me and other Big Red Machine diehards since the whole Fisk thing makes non-historians believe the Red Sox won it all back then.
The Red Sox didn't. The Reds did, but I digress.
It's the ball that Roberts Edwards Auctions will sell to the highest bidder between the dates of April 7-26. The word is, you shouldn't even think about trying to grab this piece of memorabilia for less than $100,000, which is rumored to be the starting bid price.
Which brings me to the slew of questions I had for Foster, the starting left fielder and prolific slugger for the Machine.
"You say the auction is happening this April? Wow," said Foster over the phone from the Reds' Spring Training camp in Goodyear, Ariz., where he is involved in one of the many charitable groups that he runs.
So I started there: Given the mega bucks that will be involved next month in the auction for the Fisk ball, and given that Foster surely could use some of those pennies to help his love affair with philanthropy, did he wish he hadn't given the ball away "to a friend as a souvenir" in 1999?
Foster paused, and then he said without the hint of regret, "Back then, you really didn't look at the value of things like that. It wasn't until sometime after that, when you started to hear of people saving dirt from the World Series, or even broken bats and different gloves and those types of things.
"Back then, it wasn't really a big deal for us. You don't realize the value of a ball until it's in somebody else's hands, because you looked at it as more of sentimental value, not monetary. When I gave [the Fisk ball] away, no value was placed on it, because it was more of a gift to somebody else from that World Series."
Foster didn't name that "somebody else," but soon after the ball left his hands in 1999, it was purchased later that year by Red Sox fan Rick Elfman, when Elfman paid an estimated $110,000 for it during the first auction for the ball.
Now, Elfman wants a new person to enjoy it. For one, he wouldn't mind the extra loot. For another, Elfman will always have the memory of moving from the right-field corner of Fenway that October night as a high school kid to left field in the bottom of the 12th in search for a ride home with friends.
Turns out, Elfman got more than a ride home.
Elfman got a glimpse of history.
With the game tied at 6 and the Red Sox trailing the Reds in the World Series, 3-2, Fisk sent a pitch from Pat Darcy toward the Green Monster that rocketed off the foul pole. Folks remember that, and they remember Fisk trying to wave the ball fair as he watched and moved down the first-base line. They also remember Fisk leaping and clapping around the bases toward a joyous group of Red Sox at home plate.
What they don't remember is what happened to the ball.
"It dropped straight down," Foster said. "Since I was over there, looking up to try to determine whether it was going to go fair or foul, it just dropped, and I didn't really have to move that far. It came right down toward me, so I just caught it and just took it right into the clubhouse."
OK, let's think about this. Foster could have done a lot of things with that ball before reaching his locker. He could have tossed it into the stands ("We weren't allowed to do that back then. And besides, the game finished so late, there was hardly anybody there in the stands to give it to."). Foster could have handed it to a batboy while trotting to the dugout. He could have dropped the thing into a place filled with other balls.
Foster could have just forgotten about it, which he sort of did.
"The ball was in your glove, so you put your glove in your locker, take off your uniform and go take a shower," Foster said. "There wasn't any thought about that ball being that important."
Eventually, Foster dropped the ball into his duffel bag for no particular reason, and it remained there through Game 7 the next day and during the Reds' trip back to Cincinnati. After that, Foster returned to his home in California for the winter with his duffel bag -- you know, the one that just happened to have baseball history stuffed between sweat socks and underwear -- and carried on with the rest of his life. The days became months, and the months became decades, and for the Fisk ball, there was no special trophy case at Foster's home, no security box at the bank ... no big deal.
It led to this: When that "somebody else" asked Foster for a souvenir from the 1975 World Series, the man who is famous for his black bat and his overall generosity gave the Fisk ball away with a shrug.
Just the way Foster shrugs over the memory now.
"You're just punishing yourself if you worry about those types of things, because there is nothing you can do about them," Foster said, before adding, "It's like water under the bridge."
Or a huge bid over a famous baseball.