OAKLAND — Rich “Goose” Gossage has opinions.

When you’re in the Baseball Hall of Fame, people ask your opinion all the time. Then, they’re shocked when you actually give it. Gossage found this out last spring, when he decried the modern baseball players’ love for the bat flip and celebration. Some heard Gossage and nodded in agreement. Others mocked him for views they deemed out of touch with the modern game.

Gossage stood by his assertions. On Monday morning, at Harold Alfond Fenway Park in Oakland, he did so again.

“These guys now, you’d think they’d won the World Series with the celebrations. I said, if I see one more Gatorade dumped on somebody’s head, or a pie thrown in somebody’s face, I’m going to throw something through my TV. The celebrations. Like Washington won a game, (Jayson) Werth got a base hit and won the game, and they end up in right field celebrating for 20 minutes. It’s like, act like a professional,” Gossage said. “I said my peace about bat flips and keeping the game in check. Nobody’s passing the torch to teach these kids how to act. They make so much money, they’ve got a bunch of coaches that have never been in the big leagues that just tiptoe around these guys. I was taught how to act. You act like a professional. I’ve said my peace. The game, in my opinion, is going to hell.”

Gossage was at Harold Alfond Fenway Park, a youth baseball-sized replica of Boston’s Fenway, coaching at a clinic. Players, most 11 or 12 years old who never saw Gossage pitch on anything more than a highlight video, rotated from drill station to drill station. When they got to Gossage talking pitching mechanics in the bullpen, his point never changed. Never limit yourself, he told them, and don’t be afraid to fail.

“A short memory is a beautiful thing. That’s one thing we all learned,” Gossage said to a group of players. “Think about the good. Don’t take it for granted. What else can you fail at seven out of 10 times and be a star? Nothing!”


One thing is clear. Whatever Gossage says about baseball, it comes from a place of love.

• • •

In a 22-year career, Gossage played for nine Major League teams. He saved 310 games, won 124 more, and was one of the dominant relief pitchers of his generation. Just don’t call him a closer.

“Please don’t compare me to one inning pitchers. Closer wasn’t even a coined phrase. We were relief pitchers. Starters prided themselves on finishing what they started. When they got in trouble, they turned it over to me. I pitched so much differently. We would even come into games with the bases loaded in the seventh or eighth inning just to keep that game in check. We might be a run or two down. One more base hit breaks the game wide open. Please don’t compare me to these one inning guys. I was not a one inning guy. Today it’s a joke,” Gossage said.

Gossage retired after the 1994 season, and was on his first Hall of Fame ballot in 2000. That year, he received 33.3 percent of the votes. It was a nine-ballot climb to reach the 75 percent needed to unlock the doors to Cooperstown. Gossage was inducted in 2008.

“Baseball taught me a long time ago, control what you can control. Obviously, that was something that was totally out of my control. Everybody said ‘You should’ve been in years ago.’ The way I look at it is, the longer you have to wait for something, the sweeter it is,” Gossage said.


By the time he was on the Hall of Fame ballot, Gossage’s career saves, among the best all-time when he retired, had started to slide down the list. He now sits at number 22 all-time, behind unhistorical greats like Joe Nathan, John Wetteland, Francisco Cordero, and Tom Heinke.

“Let me tell you, it’s a different animal. When you’ve got to get out of the eighth, then go sit down, then go back out for the ninth, it’s huge,” Gossage said. “Mo (former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera), they say he’s the greatest closer of all time. Well, he might be the greatest one inning guy. Do what we did and we’ll compare apples to apples.”

A generation of New England baseball fans remember Gossage as the man who got Carl Yastrzemski to pop out to New York Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles for the final out of the one game playoff that decided the American League East title in 1978. You remember, Bucky “Bleepin'” Dent.

That day, Gossage pitched 2 2/3 innings of relief of starter Ron Guidry in a 5-4 New York win. The night before the game, Gossage went to bed thinking he would face Yaz for the final out, with the game on the line.

After George Scott’s single off Guidry with one out in the bottom of the seventh, New York went to Gossage to get the final eight outs of the game.

“I’ve never been so nervous in a ballgame in my life. I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I was shaking when I came out of the bullpen to go on that mound. I’d never been in a game of that magnitude,” Gossage said.


Gossage got out of the seventh without allowing a run. In the eighth, the Red Sox touched him for a pair of runs, cutting the Yankees lead to one run. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Dwight Evans led off with a flyout to left field. Then, Gossage walked Rick Burleson. Jerry Remy hit a solid single to right field, where Lou Pinella made what Gossage called one of the most important plays of the game. With the sun in his eyes, Pinella lost the ball, but he acted as though he had it the whole way, forcing Burleson to hold up at second base.

“I haven’t seen it since. I’d hate to watch it, because it might end up different,” Gossage said.

Gossage then had to get out two consecutive future Hall of Famers, Jim Rice and Yaz. Rice hit a deep fly out to right, sending Burleson to third base with the tying run. Had Burleson been able to go to third on Remy’s single, Rice’s hit would’ve been a game-tying sacrifice fly. Yaz stepped to the plate.

“When Yaz came up, I said, well this is what you went to bed last night thinking,” Gossage said. “I had a couple minutes there to gather my thoughts, and I said ‘Why are you so scared?’ I started talking to myself and answering myself. I said ‘What’s the worst thing that could happen?’

“It wasn’t raucous. The tension, you could feel it. You could cut it with a friggin’ ax. It was that heavy. I’d never experienced that ever before. The fans, it was packed, and it was quiet. You could hear that crowd noise, but it was real low. It was unlike any game I’ve ever been involved with, since or before,” Gossage said. “Here comes Yaz to a standing ovation. I’ve always played this game for the fun of it, why change it now? It felt like it was the first time all day I’d taken a deep breath, and I felt relaxed. The first pitch to Yaz was down in the zone, a ball, and I knew it was the hardest pitch I’d thrown all day. Next pitch was a ball that came into the middle of the plate and then tailed in. My ball moved, depending on how I released it. The ball tailed in on him and he popped it up to Nettles.

“After the game I’m in the training room. It’s chaos. The clubhouse was just a friggin’ zoo. I’m in the training room, getting some ice on my shoulder, having a beer. Sweating and thinking about what had just happened, kind of just getting it all together. (catcher Thurman) Munson comes in, he goes ‘Where’d you get those pitches? Those last two pitches had another foot on anything you’d thrown all day.’ I said ‘I relaxed.’ He goes ‘What the hell took you so long?'”


The 1978 season was Gossage’s first with the Yankees, who went on to beat the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

“The playoffs and World Series were like spring training games compared to that Red Sox game,” Gossage said.

• • •

Gossage has no time for some of the rule changes in Major League baseball in recent years.

“I don’t care what facet of the game you want to talk about, it’s different. My job was to make that hitter as uncomfortable as I could make him. They’ve let money totally dictate this whole game. When we were making $12,000, they didn’t give a damn about us. I figure if you’re an owner and get into the sweepstakes of owning a Major League team, those are inherent risks,” Gossage said. “Don’t change the whole face of the game because you’ve got so much money tied into these guys. And they wanted to put offense in the game. All the old numbers baseball was all about for a hundred years? It’s gone.”

Don’t even bring up instant replay.


“Replay? We don’t need replay. What do we need replay for? Because we’ve got to control everything? Who’s died over the last hundred years because of a bad call? That’s the greatest thing about baseball, is that it’s like life itself. You can’t control baseball. It has a mind of its own,” Gossage said.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to play baseball, and at clinics like this one at Harold Alfond Fenway Park, Gossage tries to pass on what he thinks is the right way.

“The good is easy to take. I tell these kids, don’t take it for granted. I come into (yesterday’s) game and I have a disaster, that’s a tough pill to swallow… If I come into tonight’s game with that disaster still in my head, I am going to have another disaster. I’ve seen so many guys with so much talent that couldn’t get out of their own way, that couldn’t get over that disaster last night. You’ve got to. That’s how your great players survive.

“I found out at an early age, somebody passed the torch me, how to act. I have to pinch myself that I had the kind of career that I had. I couldn’t imagine getting big league hitters out. I really couldn’t. I didn’t think I could get Mickey Mantle out. These guys were cartoon characters that didn’t even exist. I’d never met a big leaguer in the flesh,” Gossage said. “All I wanted to do when I started out was put on a big league uniform one time, and that one time turned into 22 years.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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