Wednesday, January 09, 2008

One team doesn't define Gossage

NEW YORK -- Rich "Goose" Gossage will be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a member of the New York Yankees, it was revealed at a press conference to introduce Gossage as a member of baseball's most elite fraternity on Wednesday.
And just to accentuate the point, Hall officials produced a plastic, long-necked white goose wearing a Hall of Fame jersey. Jane Forbes Clark, the chairman of the Hall, topped it off with a mini dark-blue Yankees batting helmet, replete with the silver interlocking NY on the front.
The stunt was the brainchild of Jeff Idelson, the Hall's vice president of communications, Clark said.
"I've never gotten so many instructions," Clark added with a laugh after the 33-minute presser had ended. "Put the helmet on straight. Get the strap under the chin just right."
Clark executed the directions to perfection, leaving a beaming Gossage at the podium, where he was then joined by former Yankees teammate Reggie Jackson, circa 1978-81.
Gossage played for nine teams, including the Yankees twice. But even though the argument can be made that he had more of an impact in San Diego, where he took a formally moribund franchise to respectability during his four years playing for the Padres (1984-87), Goose said he was tickled to join the even more select fraternity of players in the Hall who have played at least part of their careers in the Bronx.
Seventeen players now, including Jackson, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle, sport Yankees caps on their Hall of Fame plaques. Thirty-three former Yankees are in the Hall, including Yogi Berra, who is not wearing a cap. Twenty-five of them, like Gossage, played at least some significant portion of their careers for the Yankees.
These are all Hall records for the most players inducted from any single franchise.
"This is from my heart," said Gossage, now 56, who was elected with nearly 86 percent of the vote on his ninth attempt on the ballot. "I had the privilege and the honor to play for nine different teams in the big leagues, and I loved every moment on every team. Playing in San Diego and turning around baseball in that city for the first time holds a warm spot in my heart. We turned that city on.
"But I grew up in Colorado and [members of] my family were huge Yankees fans. And then getting to play for the Yankees was kind of an out-of-body experience. Putting on the pinstripes did something for me that no other team did. I don't mean to take anything at all away from all the other ballclubs, but getting to play for them and the success we enjoyed there both personally and as a team [was outstanding]."
Gossage signed with the Yankees as a free agent in 1978, and he spent six seasons there in his first tour. He came back late in the '89 season for 11 cameo appearances.
For a number of years now, Hall officials have chosen the cap an inductee will wear on his plaque. Last month, when Dick Williams was elected to the Hall by a Veterans Committee reviewing managers and umpires, it was determined that Williams would go in representing the Oakland A's.
Williams and Gossage were on the 1984 Padres team that won the first National League pennant in franchise history. And Williams managed the 1967 Red Sox team that won the American League pennant on the final day of the regular season to make their first World Series visit since 1946. But neither of those teams won the Fall Classic.
Williams won the World Series with the A's in 1972 and '73, thus it was a no-brainer to put him in the Hall wearing his Oakland cap.
Likewise, Gossage won the World Series with the Yankees over the Dodgers in 1978, winning Game 4 after closing the regular-season-ending one-game playoff for the AL East title at Boston's Fenway Park with a very shaky 2 2/3 innings. He was back in the World Series against the Dodgers in 1981, but that fall, his performance was marred when he hit Ron Cey in the head with a pitch during a critical Game 5 at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers won that series in six games.
Along the way, Gossage served up a critical homer in Game 3 of the 1980 AL Championship Series at Yankee Stadium to Kansas City's George Brett. The upper-deck shot iced the game and the Royals' first pennant.
That season, too, Gossage recorded a personal, career single-season high of 33 saves. Along with his six victories, Gossage made a major contribution to the team's 103-win campaign.
In all, Gossage recorded 151 of his 310 saves and 518 of his 1,502 strikeouts for the Yankees. This despite missing about half of the 1979 season after hurting his thumb in a shower-room scuffle with teammate Cliff Johnson and a good portion of the '81 season because of the players' strike.
"This is a wonderful day for everyone who is close to Goose," said Jackson, who was a first-time electee in 1993. "I remember from his early days with the White Sox. You'd stand in the on-deck circle, talking to the guy hitting behind you and say, 'I'd rather eat flies than hit off this guy.' That's how ugly it was. It was a great time [playing together with the Yankees]. It was a great experience."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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