Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Rootin' for the Goose

Roger Clemens press conference and Mike Wallace dance are a good contrast for today's announcement of the sole 2007 Hall of Fame inductee, Yankee legend Rich "Goose" Gossage. He was all-natural, had insane high inside heat, an intimidating presence on the field and most of all is a cool guy who loves Willie Nelson and has been going to shows for many years.

Among other tales, Goose told me a great story about eating hot chili peppers brought to him by the grounds crew in the Anaheim Stadium bullpen every time he would play the Angels.

With a 22 year career, Goose has zillions of stories and had a love for the game and his teammates. Goose Gossage signed with the Yankees in the winter of 1977, the second year of free agency in baseball. The Yankees had just been swept by the Reds in the World Series, and it set the tone for the Yankee spending/expectations that continues to this day.

The Goose actually lost the first few games. “Thurman would come to the mound,” Gossage recalled, “and he would say, ‘How are you going to lose this one?’ The first time he asked me that I couldn’t believe he was asking me. But that was Thurman.”

So now we know The Goose is a cool guy but when he got out of that little Toyota Corolla in Yankee Stadium, it was scary. He had heat like a thousand suns, was a little wild, had a big delivery and the scowl enhanced by the mustache.

"He was absolutely the most intimidating pitcher of his time," said former teammate Reggie Jackson. "Because of his motion, the speed that he threw the baseball, he was a mean son (of a gun). There were times that (catcher Thurman) Munson would just wave his hands and tell Goose to bring it." Reggie Jackson faced Rich Gossage many times before they were on the Yankees together, and after too probably.

George Brett told Baseball Digest in 2000 why he became so incensed when the pine tar homer was called an out at first: "Oh, probably the fact that it was against the Yankees and against Goose (Gossage)," Brett said. "It was just such an extraordinary thing to hit a homer off him, the thought of losing it was too much."A big part of being a Hall of Famer is individuality. Tom Verducci said in SI that changing role of the closer means they don't make them like Gossage anymore, even among today's elite, would be hall of famers, Rivera, Hoffman and Eckersley.

Does the Goose go in as a Yankee? He honed his craft and earned his nickname (a good measure of "fame") when he was on the White Sox. Gossage's Chicago and Pittsburgh manager Chuck Tanner told a story to Sports Illustrated about the Twins' Harmon Killebrew:

"He said, 'When you play the White Sox, you'd better get to them by the seventh. If you don't, put your bats in the bag. Goose is coming in, and you might as well go home,''' Tanner related. "That was a Hall of Famer talking.''

And finally Artie Lange, "I was happy to see this." Howard then played the great old tirade and said "Congratulations Goose, you're my kind of guy."

The Goose is the man, and he is in the Hall of Fame forever now. Congratulations Rich "Goose" Gossage!!!!!!

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