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A BIG HIT. . .From the Word Goo : Terry Forster Shows There's More to Him Than Fastballs or Meatballs

August 01, 1985|TOM FRIEND | Times Staff Writer

ATLANTA — "Late Night With David Letterman" turned into mid-morning with the wife and kids. And Terry Forster, that "fat tub of goo," realized he could soon make a fat tub of money.

The phone kept ringing. They wanted to talk to Terry, the tub. They were ad agents and magazine writers. Someone wanted him in a rock video. TV Guide wanted to do an exclusive.

Forster, normally a relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, told them all: "Call me tomorrow."

He had to get out of the house.

What was going on?

About a month ago, Letterman, host of a late-night talk show, had berated Forster on the air, calling him "the fattest man in professional sports. . . . A balloon. . . . A fat tub of goo." Forster, although he later admitted he does have a gooey waistline, wanted "to put that mother in his place."

He got his chance Monday night, actually appearing on the show.

In the waiting room, a more horrifying place than any bullpen, he had sat there with his props, including a David Letterman sandwich--"Lots of tongue"--two cans of Coke, three bags of M&Ms, three hot dogs--"I started with seven"--a Three Musketeers bar, a Nestle's Crunch, an Almond Joy, a package of Nibs and a cream pie--"I was gonna bust him in the face."

Right before he went on stage, though, the pie was taken from him.

"I said: 'Don't eat it. I want it for dessert.' "

Still, he went out there and put Letterman in his place. For instance, it had been planned that Forster would show Letterman how to make a taco. Forster, on the air, asked Letterman if he wanted beef or chicken.

Letterman: "Well, I like, uh . . . chicken."

Forster: "I kind of guessed that."

So a star was born? The next day, with the phone ringing, he took off. "Pam," he said to his wife, "will you take the phone messages?"

But his Jaguar wouldn't start. He had just spent $1,000 to have it repaired, and now the lights didn't work and it was overheating. So he took the family van. But it kept stalling.

Teammate Bob Horner eventually got him to the ballpark for Tuesday night's game against the San Diego Padres.

"He's got to give me a ride home, too, but he don't know it yet," Forster told teammates when he arrived.

Immediately, the cameras were in the clubhouse. Channel 2, Channel 5 and Channel 11. He'd go on live at 6:40 and 6:45 and 6:48.

A reporter strolled in. Forster was eating, naturally, but it was just a watermelon. No cookies or cakes. Nothing gooey.

Question: You're a celebrity now?

Answer: The biggest thing is that more guys on our team and opposing teams are running to keep in shape. . . . But, really, I'm getting a lot of offers from all over. My main concern is baseball, though. Hopefully, we won't strike. If we don't, I'll sit down and decide what to do.

It's really amazing. I don't know what they see in me. I'm just a big piece of manure. I'm saying: 'What's going on here?' I've been my same self for the last 15 years in the big leagues. I want to be famous, but not like that."

Q: Were you nervous for the show?

A: Well, you know what to expect when you come in from the bullpen. But, in this case, you didn't know if he'd be friendly or funny or downright nasty. And he's got cue cards, and you don't. He's got seven or eight writers, and they can flip those cards up in a second.

When that music starts, though, you're thinking, 'Geez, what the hell am I doing here?' You know how I felt? Just like right before my first arm operation. It's the unexpected. You have no idea what the results will be. But I had a pretty good game plan if he wanted to go insult for insult.

It was fun. But hey, it was a choice between spending my off-day doing this or going home and pulling up weeds and picking up dog poo-poo.

Q: Have you always been this witty?

A: On bus rides, I instigate things. We get into verbal attacks. I do it to keep guys loose and relaxed. And that's why the bus is always full. People want to hear it. They laugh until it's time to get off. Everyone jumps in, and it ends up with eight guys getting on me.

I've been like this throughout my life. If you can't have fun, you shouldn't play. I enjoy baseball. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing. We actually get paid for this. I can't believe it.

Actually, I was always the class clown. I'd do anything on a dare. I'll never forget the first time I went to juvenile hall. I thought I saw two girls in the back of this car. So I threw a firecracker on the hood. The next thing I see is a red light. It was a police car. He's saying: "Get out son. I'm taking you in." I think that's where it started.

When I was with the Dodgers, I used to climb in the press window at Dodgertown and talk to the press guys rather than take ground balls. Tommy Lasorda had those 10 o'clock meetings, and in five years, I made two of them. It was always the same (manure). Tommy might say a joke or two.

As Forster was speaking, Dale Murphy walked by and congratulated him.

"It was too nice," Forster said of the show. "I was ready for a big battle. I'm not used to people being nice to me."

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