(Long Island, NY) Being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame is the ultimate compliment for a player. Since the first class in 1936, the names read like a ‘who’s who’ for greatness in the National Pastime. The lone player inductee this summer can stand on his own, as he did 22 years on the mound as one of the game’s best closers. Rich “Goose” Gossage, who is best known from his days with the New York Yankees, will be enshrined and be a proud member of an exclusive club.
Although he pitched for nine teams, Gossage will be wearing a Yankees cap on his plaque, the team he had two stints with. After beginning his career with the Chicago White Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates, he signed a free agent contract with the Bronx Bombers on November 22, 1977 and promptly won a world championship, the second consecutive for the Yankees over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Getting to play for the Yankees was kind of an out-of-body experience,” Gossage, who received 85.8 percent of the votes, told MLB.com. “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].”
The Boss himself, George Steinbrenner, seemed very happy that one of his favorite players was elected, and chose to represent the Yankees. “Goose was a fierce competitor and one of the all-time great pitchers, who in his career, set a new standard for relief pitching,” the Yankee owner released in a statement. “The New York Yankees are very proud of his achievement and I, personally, would like to congratulate him and his family on this wonderful honor.”
The nine-time All-Star had a breakout season in 1975 in Chicago with 26 saves, which is the same number he had in his one season in Pittsburgh in 1977. Once arriving in the Bronx, the Goose saved 27, 18, 33, 20, 30 and 22 games between 1978 and 1983.
Gossage then signed with the San Diego Padres as a free agent and led the once-bottom dwelling club to their first World Series appearance, where they lost to the Detroit Tigers. He spent four seasons on the west coast before being traded back to the Windy City, this time on the north side with the Cubs. He moved around quite a bit the final six seasons of his career, pitching for the San Francisco Giants, Yankees (again), Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics before riding into the sunset with the Seattle Mariners in 1994. All told, Gossage saved 310 games, struck out 1,502 batters and had a 124-107 win/loss record and 3.10 ERA.
The role of a closer in Gossage’s era was quite different from today’s specialists. Set-up men were rare and the stopper was expected to pitch two or more innings in every appearance. Throwing over 1,800 innings over his career, the Goose put in plenty of time on the hill. He would have had even better numbers if not for missing
nearly half of the 1979 season after injuring his thumb in a clubhouse fight with teammate Cliff Johnson and games missed as a result of the 1981 player’s strike.
Boston slugger Jim Rice nearly made the vote with 72.2 percent, and Andre Dawson finished third with 65.9 percent. Mark McGwire received only 23.6 percent, and it appears that the Baseball Writers Association of America will be hard on the alleged steroid users. Big Red finished with a similar amount in 2007, his first year eligible on the ballot.
One of Gossage’s former managers will join him in ‘The Hall’ this year. Dick Williams was elected earlier by the Veterans Committee as a manager. They were together on the Padres, but Williams will be wearing the cap of the A’s, the team that he won consecutive titles with in 1972 and 1973.