Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Foley Before the King, October 1989

Jim Foley had hoisted a jar
In every bar and tavern
Straight through greater Boston

Loading and unloading wagons
Is thirsty work
You need to oil the back and shoulders
So the aches and pains
Don’t feel so bad

It didn’t matter if Jim was
Bending the elbow
In Scollay Square in the city
Or out in some farmlands shanty
In a North Shore seaport
Or one of his neighborhood haunts in Dorchester
He was always there on the wall
Kelly.                          The King.

That Black Irish dandy
We bought to be the Boston club’s star
Chicago’s loss, our gain
One of us. A working man.
This Kelly.                   The King.

He played the game that was our game
The game that we made ours
The game of standing, hand on hip
Then sudden breakneck outstretch
Of waiting for the pitch to come to you
And putting it behind their backs

Which was just what Foley had done
On every sandlot around Dorchester
Showing his skills with the glove and bat
That he knew the American game

But this cocksure fella. This Kelly
Wasn’t satisfied just to play the game well
When he was behind the plate, he would talk
A load of blather to the batter and umpire
To distract them from the pitches
Raced up the line alongside the runner
In case of an overthrow
Staged trick plays to draw the runner off base
Cheeky Irish mischief he added to the game

But he was the very devil on the basepaths
Studying the pitcher on the mound
Timing his delivery to the plate
Exploding toward the next base on the ball’s release
Launching himself through the air to the right of the bag
As he reached a hand in to grab a corner of the base
Effectively avoiding the fielder’s tag

Jim Foley squeezed tears of rage into his pint
Over all the years he slid straight into the base
And hoped for the best.
Why did no one ever think of this “hook slide”
Until this brash mick came along?

He knew Kelly’s parents came across the pond before he was born.
Is this the special alchemy that set him apart?
Why Foley would never get the bog off his boots
Because he was not native to the infield dirt like the King?
Why Kelly could share a taste of the flask
With the fans in the middle of the game
Wink at the ladies and flip the bird at the owners
All while playing the game with swagger and ease?

Folks who weren’t even fans knew his name
Thanks to that music hall song, Slide, Kelly, Slide!
Which got some enterprising prick to mass produce
Those prints they hung in every bar

And they didn’t even get it right
They had him sliding in head first
Giving the fielder an honest chance
Without a bit of sly trickery

Foley downed a shot of whisky
Then sent the shot glass screaming
Into the picture on the wall
With his very best Legion ball fastball

These people didn’t appreciate the man
They were bandwagon jumpers
Parasitic pretenders
They didn’t understand what this man did
Our man
The pride of the race!
Using his wits to stand out from the rest

As the bartender ran Foley straight out on his ass,
He cried,

“That’s why they call him

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