Bloop Hits: Terry Forster’s musical feast
Though he was never an All-Star, never won any awards, Terry Forster — who turned 63 this week — had a pretty interesting big-league career. In addition to leading the American League in saves with the ’74 White Sox, winning a championship ring with the ’81 Dodgers, and making 614 appearances (most of them in relief) over the course of 16 years in the majors, the left-hander was also the last A.L. pitcher to steal a base in a regular-season game before the introduction of interleague play, and his .397 career batting average (31 hits in 78 at-bats) remains the highest of any player with 50 or more at-bats and/or at least 15 years of major-league experience. Not a bad legacy, especially for a player who people, er, largely remember today for being dubbed a “fat tub of goo” by David Letterman.
To be fair, the Late Night host’s harsh assessment wasn’t far off the mark. Never exactly a svelte southpaw, Forster was nicknamed “Pork Chop” while in high school in the late 1960s; by June 1985, when Letterman repeatedly poked fun at his portliness in several monologues (including this one), the 6’3” Forster weighed easily 40 pounds over the 210 alleged on the back of his baseball card. The life of the clubhouse wherever he played, Forster responded to Letterman’s ribbing with self-deprecating good humor, appearing on Late Night armed with a giant sandwich and a slew of food- and weight-related one-liners; most famously, “A waist is a terrible thing to mind.”
Forster’s charming, genuinely funny Late Night guest segment, which included a rundown of his favorite stadiums to eat in, received a substantial amount of press coverage at the time — and, unfortunately, paved the way for Forster’s ill-advised foray into recording. Released in August 1985 on a label run by Philadelphia’s Comedy Works nightclub, and credited to Terry Forster and the Lovehandles, the four-song EP Fat Is In is mostly notable for its cover photo of Forster chowing down on a party-sized submarine sandwich while clad in his Atlanta Braves uniform. A novelty rap song celebrating the glories of gluttony, the title track (which re-appears on Side 2 in an utterly indigestible ten-minute extended version) features brief comic interjections from Forster — “It’s good being the big tub of goo!” — but the pitcher mostly seems like an extra on his own record, as songwriters and co-producers Steve Young and Stewart Harris consume most of the aural space with gags of their own. On the dismal tracks “Arnold, Sylvester and Clint” and “King of the Singles Bar” (neither of which actually feature Forster at all) Young and Harris seem determined to leave future generations a cautionary time capsule of the self-indulgent dangers of 80s-style comedic “wackiness”.
Ultimately, the joke was on Forster. Though a video for “Fat Is In” was filmed and submitted to MTV, the song failed to become a hit. (According to a New York Times article from August 1985, the clip involves Forster being shipwrecked on “The Isle of Chocolate Cones,” where he finds “happiness, fast food and break-dancing.” Sadly, the video seems to have been lost to the ages.) By October ‘85, Forster was well over 270 pounds; and despite his 2.28 ERA that season in 59 relief innings, the Braves front office insisted that he lose a substantial amount of weight before they would consider offering him a new contract. He dropped 40 pounds during a two-week stay at a weight-reduction clinic, but it wasn’t enough to secure his place on the team; released by the Braves at the end of spring training, he found a bullpen gig with the Angels, going 4-1 with five saves and a 3.51 ERA in 41 appearances.
The big man’s weight ballooned again, however, and after the ’86 season, no team wanted to take a chance on the free agent. The Twins finally signed him to a minor-league deal the following June, but it didn’t pan out. “Terry was overweight and out of shape when he reported,” Jim Rantz, the Twins’ minor league director, told the New York Times. “He said he had just lost 12 pounds and that he weighed 247 pounds. To us he looked more like 260 pounds, but we never seemed able to get him on a scale.” Forster never pitched in the majors again. That he never made another record should pretty much go without saying.
Behold the awfulness!
Dan Epstein’s latest book is Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ’76.