Former Red Sox closer Keith Foulke famously dismissed his Boston critics as “Johnny from Burger King” a few years back, so it might come as no small delight for burger-flippers everywhere the ’04 World Series champ is trying to resurrect his career in virtual anonymity as a member of the Atlantic League Newark Bears. If you think Mariano Rivera is finished opines the Star-Ledger’s Steve Politi, “to see what it really looks like when a closer is closing in on the end, you should come to a Bears game.”
Foulke is standing in a dark hallway inside Newark Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, a place he does not want to be. He gets a check for $948 every two weeks, which barely covers his hotel bill. His family is thousands of miles away in Phoenix, hoping for good news.
“It’s this or retire,” Foulke said. “I don’t want to retire.”
So he waits. He has nine saves and a 2.41 ERA for the Bears, but his phone has yet to ring. Is it his velocity? His age? Maybe something will open up as the trade deadline nears. He can only keep pitching.
“I would have liked to have gone to spring training with a club and made a big-league club from there, but there’s no way for me to put a time frame on anything,” he said. “I don’t control the button.”
He was with the Oakland A’s last summer, another arm in the bullpen, but had no takers this winter.
“Every day, when I checked my messages, I was hoping there’d be a call,” he said. “There wasn’t. So I’m here.”
He said Newark was “the best place to get noticed,” but on nights like Tuesday, it is hard not to see the irony in that statement. There were maybe 200 people in the ballpark for the first pitch against the York Revolution that night. Benitez, and not Foulke, pitched the final two innings for a save.