Last Saturday, when Bobby Bonilla trotted out to his familiar right field spot in Shea Stadium, he was wearing earplugs.
Leading to the musical question: Hey, Mr. $29 Million Over Five, is that a fashion statement, or are you sorry you moved to New York?
The Mets floated the trial balloon that the earplugs were simply Bonilla's attempt to muffle the whooshing roar from the jet planes that routinely cruise over Shea at about 20 feet.
And you have to give the Mets credit for a good try. Except, nobody else in the Mets outfield wears earplugs. Nor do any of the tennis players at the U.S. Open, which is conducted on the same flight path. Lindsey Nelson broadcast Mets games for almost 20 years, and he never wore earplugs -- horrifyingly checked sportcoats maybe, but no earplugs. Anyway, what's with all this concern about airplanes? What, a Delta Shuttle pilot is going to call Bonilla off a fly ball?
More likely, Bonilla went to the plugs to stonewall the sound of Mets fans booing him like he was Lizzie Borden at a Father's Day picnic.
Overall, Bonilla is batting .258. Not much, but not disastrous. His production at Shea, however, is disastrous. As recently as Monday, Bonilla was batting .137, with no homers and only four RBI at home. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the only person having a lousier spring is Chuck Robb. Hence the boos.
Bonilla had an intriguing response to the boos.
He said, "I don't take it personally."
Excuse me. Oh, Bobby? What do you mean you don't take it personally?
When they announce, "Batting fifth, and playing right field, No. 25, Bobby Bonilla," and 40,000 people make a sound that approximates a great white shark belching after swallowing the QE II, who do you thinking they're aiming it at, Benito Mussolini?
Well, Bobby, it's you. (Sha-la-la-la-la-la.)
Or do you think it's like a Lou Piniella deal -- you know, "they're not really saying, 'Boooooooo,' they're saying, 'Loooooooouu.'"
Bobby, it's boo.
Unless there's something you haven't told us, like your childhood nickname was Bobby "Boo-Boo" Bonilla, and those wacky Mets fans researched it.
Baseball fans will remember when Bonilla signed with the Mets in December, and became the highest-paid player in baseball (for about three hours), he said jubilantly: "New York was in my heart. I'm from the city. I was born and raised there. It will be hard to knock the smile off my face."
Maybe Bonilla's still smiling. But if he shows his teeth to those lunatics in the stands, they'll start hurling flashlight batteries. I suppose if that happens Bonilla will add a goalie's mask to his wardrobe.
You don't get a lot of grace time in New York.
If Michelangelo had lived in New York, fans wouldn't have waited the full five years it took for him to paint the Sistine Chapel. After one week, they'd have shouted: "Yo, Mike, whaddya doin' here, wastin' our time? You waitin' for the paint-by-numbers version, or what?"
New York fans get restless in a hurry.
Why do you think they call it a New York Minute?
By the time they get to the ballpark, Mets fans have had to sit through two hours of stop-and-go on the parkway. Then, they have to pay about $93 to park. And then it's even money their car will be either stripped or stolen. (Just as an aside, how about this carjacking craze? How scary is this, huh? I bet you'll think twice about buying a Lexus now. Since carjacking made the news, sales of Ford Escorts have increased 200 percent. Yugo dealerships are springing up all over the country.) Life is hard in New York. No wonder they're so ready to boo Bonilla. You tell a New Yorker that global warming's coming, you better be able to fry an egg on the Empire State Building by Friday, or he'll punch you in the mouth.
The day Bonilla wore the earplugs, he went oh for four.
Two days later, without the earplugs, Bonilla hit a grand slam, and drove in six runs.
Lest you think the problem was solved, on Tuesday, Bonilla was back to the collar at Shea: oh for three.
Possible New York Post headline: Fans Pull Plug On Bobby Boo-Nilla!
Bonilla isn't the first player to respond to booing. When he was a Phillies first baseman, and the home fans were riding him, Richie Allen used his cleats to write "BOO!" in the dirt around first base. Albert Belle of the Indians wasn't so creative; he simply picked up a baseball, and drilled some poor slob in the chest. Jose Canseco has charged fans; not surprisingly, in New York.
However, Bonilla is the first player to wear earplugs.
(I get ridiculed occasionally. I've thought of getting plugs too. But in my case, they're hair plugs.)
At least Bonilla took a practical approach -- as opposed to going to extremes, like spunky second sacker Vincent Van Gogh.
I guess earplugs are okay. I worry about stupid players, though. Let's say a dumb guy who's getting booed hears Bobby Bonilla uses plugs, so he puts a set of spark plugs in his ears.
What frightening slab of jewelry would Deion Sanders put in his ears?
What if you not only don't want to hear the fans, but you don't want to see them either? Do you wear blinders? Unfortunately, rounding third you can't even pick up the coach's instructions. You're chugging like Easy Goer, and the only way he can get your attention is yell, "Whoa, big fella!"
You'll forgive me for thinking this, but I'm picturing John Williams being booed, and sticking ears of corn in his ears, thus serving the dual purpose of blocking the noise, and also providing a delicious timeout snack.
Giving new meaning to the expression: Stick it in your ear!