We all never stop learning new things about ourselves. Former Yankee Rich “Goose” Gossage learned that he held a record with the Yankees that he wasn’t aware of. After further investigation, Gossage does indeed hold the career record for ERA for a minimum of 500 games pitched for the Yankees. The retired closer discusses just missing the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, his contributions to the game, and much more.
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The Sandlot Heading Home on DVD is the third installment in the franchise. What are your memories of your baseball playing days as a kid?
Rich Gossage: “Well, playing in a sandlot. Just kind of like the movie itself, some of my greatest memories as successful as I was in the big leagues. Some of my greatest memories were on a little league field. We didn’t even have any uniforms. When I first started out and like I said, some of those memories as a kid rival every bit of those I had as a big league player. I can’t believe how exciting the game was for me even as a little kid. This movie kind of parallels the way my childhood was.”
CY: You make it clear in your DVD feature
For The Love of the Game: Sharing Memories with “Goose” Gossage that anything worth attaining takes hard work and determination. Are shows that create instant fame and success like American Idol sending the wrong message to today’s youth about a message like that?
RG: “Well, I think our whole message, I don’t know how we got into this. These messages that we are sending our kids and the kind of lives people lead today so superficial it seems, just a lot of phony stuff. What does it mean when you really stop and think about it’s kind of stupid. Baseball as I have said before to many…many parents it’s not about wins and losses. It’s about the life lessons that are learned on that baseball field. The perseverance, the hard work that it takes, dealing with failure. The game of baseball is a game of failure because it’s so difficult to play. A 300 hitter, a superstar fails seven out of ten times at the plate. So what does that tell you about the game and its difficulty?
As I said before, every life lesson is on that baseball field. I can’t say how important it is. Like I said to parents all the time, I talk to them. It’s not about the wins and losses. It’s not about your kids a star. If he’s gonna be a star it’s going to happen and just let it happen. Let him go out and have fun and enjoy the game for the wonderful game it is. I wish they’d do that more.”
CY: What contribution if any do you feel you made to what the closer is today?
RG: “Well, I think that I had a hand in the way the evolution of the bullpen has come about. I know when I broke in 1972 with the Chicago White Sox it was kind of an old junk pile down there that’s where the old starters went that couldn’t start anymore. It wasn’t the glamorous place to be. It was kind of like a scrap heaper, a junk pile down there where like I said the old starters went. I was not looking forward to going to the bullpen at that time, but Chuck Tanner saw it differently and really in the hindsight it was the best thing that ever happened to me with Mr. Tanner, Chuck Tanner putting me in the bullpen.
I have seen it to where it was a junk pile to what it has become today. I didn’t have that luxury of just pitching one inning. They should be comparing them to us not us to them. I think that they’ve forgotten just how the role of the bullpen has changed, and like I said, how dominant these guys are in that one inning role. If I could’ve started out the ninth it’s no telling what my statistics could’ve been.”
CY: What do you feel are the reasons you aren’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame yet?
RG: “You know Chris, I really can’t answer that. I have asked different writers. I didn’t win a most valuable player award or a CY Young. I have heard those arguments. I have heard the argument that “Goose” Gossage had to face 150-pound hitters, which is a slap in the face, and this is a voting writer who can vote for the Hall of Fame that said this. I don’t know his name. He is a young guy, but that’s a slap in the face to every great player that ever played the game before this new era of steroids and muscle bound goliaths. I really can’t explain it. We had great…great players back then. Strong guys. Big guys. I don’t get that argument.”
CY: The baseball writers made you the player with the highest voting percentage not in the Hall of Fame. Is it encouraging or frustrating for next year?
RG: “I think it’s encouraging of course. The only urgency that I ever had was when my mom was alive. She died last year in September of 2006. She was my number one fan and she always said I’d love to see you go into the Hall of Fame. That was the only urgency that I ever had that I wish if I was going to go into the Hall of Fame that certainly it would’ve happen when she was around, but it didn’t and now that she’s passed. I hold the Hall of Fame in the utmost highest respect, but she’s not around. We’ll just have to wait and see how the vote goes next year.”
CY: Who should be in the Hall of Fame that isn’t?
RG: “Well, I think Bert Blyleven. I think that Jim Rice should be in the Hall of Fame. I think that Craig Nettles should be in the Hall of Fame and he didn’t even get a sniff. One of the greatest third basemen and had almost 400 homeruns and was a tremendous…tremendous player. A great clutch hitter on those great Yankee teams and everywhere else he played. He played 26 years in the big leagues and what a great player he was. I just don’t think that he got the recognition that he deserves as being a great player that he was. Bert Blyleven certainly was a starting pitcher that had tremendous success in the big leagues. Jimmy Rice, this guy if you had to face him, I tell you what he’d get your attention cause he was a great…great player. I think those guys deserve some recognition, but it didn’t happen for them. For whatever reason, I really can’t answer that.”
CY: The Yankees have had so many great players. What does it mean to hold the career record for career ERA?
RG: “Gosh! It’s awesome I guess. Who are you alluding to?”
CY: Yeah. Well, that was something that I researched that you currently hold the career record for ERA for the New York Yankees. [A Yankees public relations person informed me that he is the career ERA leader for a minimum of 500 innings pitched, but it depends on how you quantify the leaders. The Yankees media guide quantify leaders with a minimum of 800 innings, which puts Mariano Rivera at the top of the list.]
RG: “Well, I’ll be darned. I was not aware of that Chris. I really wasn’t. That’s unbelievable if that’s true. I grew up out in Colorado and I grew up a Yankee fan out there. I played for nine different teams throughout my 22-year major league career and I loved every moment of every team. The White Sox drafted me outside of high school in 1970 and I ended up playing for nine different teams over those 22 years. I grew up a Yankee fan out there like I said and I hate to even say it because I loved every team that I played with. Putting on those pinstripes for those six years that I put them on of being a Yankee fan and getting to play for them was kind of an out of body experience is I guess is the best way I can describe it. It was unbelievable.”
CY: Many players and coaches have had conflicts with George Steinbrenner. Did you ever have any problems?
RG: “Not really. I have a couple of little runins with him, but nothing of any significance. He’s a great owner, a very difficult owner to play for. If you aren’t as demanding as George is of you then you don’t belong in the pinstripes because the fans and all the tradition and the great players that played there before is overwhelming really. I put on the pinstripes and put so much pressure on myself. I struggled my first two, two and a half months with the Yanks. It was an unbelievable experience. I will treasure that. George Steinbrenner I believe is the best owner in the game. Very demanding, but I do believe he is the best owner. There is nobody that wants to win more than George Steinbrenner.”
CY: A former New York Mets employee has pleaded guilty to distributing steroids from 1995-2005 to many major league players. As a former major leaguer, why do you think we have new incidents of players taking steroids?
RG: “Well, I think there needs to be light shed on it. I don’t know what’s going to come out of the investigation that’s going on with the Major League Baseball and the government. You can’t compare. It’s not a level playing field for Hank Aaron. You are talking about the most important single record in sports history really is the homerun. It’s always been a sacred thing in baseball. Obviously the offense they put in the game today, I don’t think there is any number the homerun means what it use to mean. The homerun use to be a big deal, today it’s been watered down with the smaller ballparks, the more lively ball, the lack of pitching, the lack of pitching inside.
You come close to these guys today and you are kicked out of a ballgame. All you have to do is scare them. You don’t even have to hit them. It’s a different ballgame and they wanted to put more offense in the game. I still love the game and it’s still great game, but you can’t compare the numbers of yesteryear to the current numbers of what’s being put up today.”
CY: Finally, why do you think the Yankees have started so slow this year?
RG: “Well, injuries. Look at the amount of injuries. There isn’t any team that wouldn’t be struggling with the injuries they’ve had, all their key guys. Posada has been out a little bit. Jeter has been out from here and there. Nothing serious about Jeter, but Matsui has been out in left field. Damon in center field has been out. Not to mention the devastating injuries to their pitching staff. You can’t lose Wang and Mussina and expect to be good. It just doesn’t happen that way.
There isn’t enough pitching to go around as it is and now you miss two of your frontline starters, two of your horses. Pavano has been out, which really doesn’t surprise a whole lot of people. They were counting on him and then he got some stiffness in his forearm, as I understand it. It’s just impossible really to be at the top of your game when you don’t have all the horses, and I think that is the main reason where they are at today.”
Rich “Goose” Gossage remembers baseball memories on the DVD features of
The Sandlot Heading Home. You can find more information about the DVD at www.sandlotheadinghomedvd.com.