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Goose Gossage

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Richard Michael Gossage

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2008

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[edit] Biographical Information

"Goose was a fierce competitor . . . who in his career set a new standard for relief pitching." - New York Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner
"The impact that Goose Gossage had on this organization was incredible. He was the final piece to our National League championship in 1984, which really established the San Diego Padres as a Major League franchise." - Padres president Dick Freeman

Hall of Fame closer Rich "Goose" Gossage, was the Mariano Rivera of his time - a dominant relief pitcher who once went a whole season giving up only four earned runs (he had an ERA that year of 0.77). Gossage, whose career spanned 22 years, had 8 saves in World Series play. He was a nine-time All-Star.

[edit] Beginnings

Gossage was a Colorado boy having been born and raised in the state. He also attended high school and college in The Centennial State.

The Chicago White Sox selected him in the 9th round of the 1970 amateur draft. He pitched only 3 games in the rookie league for the White Sox, with an ERA of 2.81, before he was moved him up to Single A Appleton in the Midwest League, where he posted a 5.91 ERA. In 1971, though, he dominated at the same place by going 18-2 with an ERA of 1.83. He was up in the majors the next year.

[edit] A Young Man in Chicago

With the 1972 White Sox at the age of 20, in relief, he went 7-1 with 2 saves, and an ERA of 4.28. The team had an ERA of 3.12. It was a tumultuous time on the White Sox, partly because of the outsized personality Dick Allen, who was the league MVP that year and brought the team back to respectability after years in the basement.

The next year, 1973, Gossage struggled in the majors, and spent half the year at Iowa in the AAA American Association. After a 4-6 season in 1974, he became the White Sox fireman in 1975, getting a league-leading 26 saves. In 1976, though, he was used as a starter by manager Paul Richards, and went 9-17 on a staff on which Ken Brett was the starter with the lowest ERA; Dave Hamilton and Clay Carroll were used as firemen. Richards was a manager from the old school, who thought that a pitcher with a great fastball should be a starter, not realizing that Gossage had neither the stamina nor the additional pitches to find success in that role.

[edit] Years of Success

The White Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates engineered an unusual trade after the 1976 season, exchanging players who were due to become free agents in one year: Gossage and fellow reliever Terry Forster went to Pittsburgh, while slugger Richie Zisk moved to Chicago; all three would find new homes for the 1978 season. In his year spent in Pittsburgh in 1977, Gossage compiled 26 saves - the third-highest total in the National League - and also 11 wins, making the All-Star team for the third consecutive year. After the season, he signed a lucrative contract with the New York Yankees, where he was to stay through 1983. His arrival displaced Sparky Lyle, the reigning AL Cy Young award winner, as the Yankees closer. In two of his years with the Yankees, Gossage had 30+ saves, and he led the league in both 1978 and 1980. It was an era in which 20+ saves would usually put a reliever among the league leaders.

In the 1978 World Series, he pitched six innings in relief without an earned run. In the 1981 World Series, he pitched five innings in relief without giving up an earned run. In that World Series, he hit Los Angeles Dodgers 3B Ron Cey on the helmet with a blazing fastball, knocking him unconscious. However, in the 1980 ALCS, he gave up a tape-measure home run to George Brett of the Kansas City Royals that was a key to the Yankees being swept and manager Dick Howser losing his job. In 1979, he missed a good part of the season when he slipped and fell in a clubhouse fight with Cliff Johnson. Owner George Steinbrenner was furious at this turn of events and ordered that Johnson be traded away immediately.

The Yankees were a famous team in those days, whose high-profile players were often in the news for reasons good or bad. Gossage's teammates included Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Catfish Hunter, Lou Piniella, Dave Winfield and Ron Guidry.

[edit] Return to the National League

Rich Gossage signed a free agent multi-year contract before the 1984 season with the San Diego Padres. A journalist asked him why he had chosen the Padres when they had offered the least money of any of the teams after him; Gossage replied that once you've earned money as an established star you can worry about things other than the highest bidder. His first year there he helped lead the 1984 Padres to their first World Series. He had two more seasons of 20+ saves in 1985 and 1986, but the Padres fell back in NL West. In 1987, with his effectiveness diminishing, he clashed with management, accusing the team of caring more about its players' moral character than about their ability to win ball games. It was not his first dust-up with a front office, as he had once called Yankee owner George Steinbrenner "the fat man upstairs".

Gossage then closed out his major league career by pitching for six different teams over six seasons, still with decent ERA's although he was no longer being used as the chief fireman. He was on the division-winning Oakland Athletics in 1992, as a set-up man for future Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley.

In 1990, he played briefly in Japan, pitching for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks of the Pacific League in 23 games, going 2-3 with 8 saves and a 4.40 ERA.

At 42 years of age, he went 3-0 in 36 appearances with the 1994 Seattle Mariners. His ERA of 4.18 was better than the team's 4.99. A young Ken Griffey Jr. hit .323 with 40 home runs, and Randy Johnson anchored the pitching staff. His final major league win came in his 1,000th career appearance on August 4th, pitching one third of an inning in a 4-2 win at California. On August 8th, he pitched the final three innings of what ended up a 14-4 blowout at Texas, earning his final save in his last appearance. The 1994 strike then intervened, and he was not back the next season.

The most similar pitchers to Gossage using the similarity scores method are fewllow Hall of Famers, Rollie Fingers and Hoyt Wilhelm.

On June 22, 2014 the Yankees dedicated a plaque to Gossage inside of Monument Park.

[edit] Hall of Fame Ballots

Gossage on a USO tour in 2009.

Gossage had steadily been rising in Hall of Fame voting, and was elected on January 8, 2008, the only player elected among those eligible that year. He received 33% of the vote in his first year of eligibility in 1999, and had moved up to 64.6% in 2006. In 2006, Time Magazine reported that Gossage was "livid" at not getting into the Hall of Fame, blaming it on younger writers who "have no clue". As a comparison, Bruce Sutter, elected that year, had received 59.5% of the vote two years earlier in 2004. In 2007 he got 71.2%, very close to the 75% that was needed. He was elected to the Hall the following year.

Gossage was the first player to have played in Nippon Pro Baseball to be elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA; Larry Doby had been picked by the Veterans Committee. Both players were obviously picked for their work in MLB, not NPB.

[edit] Family

His son, Todd Gossage, has played professionally in independent baseball, and his nephew, Kevin Gossage, played in the minors in 2006 and 2007.

[edit] Quotes

"I had set the standard for my style of relief pitching so high that when I came back to the rest of the pack, everybody said I was done." - Goose Gossage
"I was brought into situations God couldn't get out of, and I got out of them." - Goose Gossage
"She is poisoning the world with her hamburgers, and we can't even get a lousy beer." - Goose Gossage, after Padres owner Joan Kroc, also in control of McDonalds, banned beer from the Padres clubhouse.

[edit] Notable Achievements

[edit] Further Reading

  • Goose Gossage (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, October 1988, pp. 47-49. [1]
  • Goose Gossage (as told to Al Doyle): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, May 2005, pp. 44-47 [2]

[edit] Related Sites

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