The National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown
enshrinement beckons for Bruce Sutter this coming August. This writer
has no argument with that choice. But there was another relief
pitcher from that time period who also is equally deserving of being
a Hall of Famer. His personality left a lot to be desired, but his
skills were there.
Colorado Springs, Colorado, Richard Michael Gossage was one of the
most consistent relief pitchers ever. A glowerer on the mound, always
staring a batter down, Gossage's big cowboy-style moustache, wild mane
of hair, thick stubble and wide body made him an intimidator. The
Goose also threw wicked heat making him usually unhittable.
as a free agent with the Yankees in 1978, he took over the Sparky Lyle
stopper role and saved 27 games leading the late season Yankee charge
to catch Boston. It was Gossage who got the save in the one game
American League East playoff game against the Red Sox.
was this big hulking guy who would get out of this little Toyota with
pinstripes on it," recalled Irv Kaze who was on the scene then as
publicity director for the Yankees. "It seemed he unfolded as he came
out of the car. He had that fumanchu moustache - and there he was 60
feet away with seemingly the ability to throw a ball through a wall.
But he was a gentle man."
the best relievers in baseball in the years of the
Zoo," Gossage twice saved more than 30 games a season and was always
good for a wisecrack at someone else's expense, always good for one
kind of headline or another.
Following a 6-3 loss to the Orioles on April 19, 1979, Gossage and
Cliff Johnson had a push and shove in the Yankee clubhouse. Gossage
was out of action for months with a sprained ligament in his left
thumb. That ended Johnson's time as a Yankee.
Gossage led the American League in saves, but is probably remembered
most for "the homer" he gave up to George Brett that torqued KC's
surprising sweep of the Yanks in the ALCS. Brett-Gossage was an item
again in 1983 in the "Pine Tar" Game.
out," was how Gossage began one of his famous tirades. He seemed to
always be starting one or ending one. "I'm sick of everything that
goes on around here. I'm sick of all the negative stuff and you can
take that upstairs to the fat man and tell him I said it."
The "fat man" (George Steinbrenner) heard those words
and others. In 1983, Gossage's half dozen plus Yankee seasons ended.
He left behind some splendid numbers - a 2.14 E.R.A., an average
of almost a strikeout an inning and a franchise record 51 saves
later broken by Dave Righetti.
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