Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Rich "Goose" Gossage: Hall of Famer a Gentle Giant

In the early 1980s, while confidant to the New York Yankees, I developed a rapport with several players who were not only great athletes but were also men of character. In particular, I was impressed with the character of Bucky Dent, Brian Doyle, Ron Guidry, Johnny Oates, Dick Howser and Willie Randolph.

I also had the privilege of getting to know Rich "Goose" Gossage, an extraordinary athlete and a person of character, who was elected into National Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, January 8, 2008.

Rich Gossage was a fierce competitor, a relief pitcher with a menacing and overpowering fast ball who always had fire in his eyes and feared no hitter. Make no mistake, "The Goose" was known for his occasional rantings against the media. Yet, I always found him to be respectful, thoughtful and courteous in all of my observations and interactions with him off the field.

Following is a letter to the fans written by Rich Gossage for inclusion in my book And on the Eighth Day God Created the Yankees published in 1981.

[Reprinted from And on the Eighth Day God Created the Yankees]

Dear Fans:

I was never a good student, so I am extremely appreciative of my athletic abilities. Sports have helped me set a wholesome pattern of living for myself. While many of my peers were hanging out and wasting time I was applying myself to improving my athletic talents. As a result of my participation in sports, the qualities of discipline, loyalty and teamwork have become important aspects of my life.

Sports can teach these same values to everyone. I am glad that boys and girls have the opportunity to become involved in sports. I failed my first year in school, so my younger sister caught up with me. Growing up side by side with her made me realize that athletic opportunities for girls were so very limited. But now girls can play on many different athletic teams and thereby enjoy a more active sports life. Therefore, the deeper values offered by sports can now be experienced firsthand by both girls and boys.

Make use of all the opportunities you have to receive a solid education. I had been in a fine parochial school until my parents could no longer afford it. But now my career makes a fine education possible for my children—an education which will help them grow totally in mind, body and spirit. I am happy that I will be able to help them learn about their religion and their God.

Rich "Goose" Gossage

I would like to offer my congratulations to Rich "Goose" Gossage on his election to Baseball's Hall of Fame.

[Reprinted from the Red Orbit website –]

Goose Gossage the Lone Player Voted to the Baseball Hall of Fame

MILWAUKEE _ Rich "Goose" Gossage began his day by shoveling six inches of snow off his driveway and sidewalk Tuesday in Colorado Springs.

A few hours later, he was engulfed by an avalanche of emotion.

After eight failed attempts, Gossage was finally elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, receiving 85.8 percent of the 543 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

"It was very emotional, off the charts," said Gossage, one of the most feared late-inning relievers in the game during a 22-year career. "I can't even describe the feeling."

Gossage, 56, was the only former player on the ballot to receive the requisite 75 percent of the votes for election. In his next-to-last year on the writers' ballot, Jim Rice received 72.2 percent of the votes cast, falling a mere 16 short.

Gossage said he hoped Rice would get in next year, and also voiced support for Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven, who received 65.9 percent and 61.9 percent of the vote, respectively.

"I think Jim Rice does belong in the Hall of Fame," said Gossage, who retired with 310 career saves. "I've said all along that no hitter scared me, but Jim Rice came the closest."

Mark McGwire continued to be ostracized for his possible connection to steroid use, receiving the exact same number of votes _ 128 _ as in his first try. Because two fewer votes were cast than a year ago, McGwire's percentage rose from 23.5 percent to 23.6 percent.

Gossage empathized with voters struggling with what to do with players from the so-called "Steroid Era" and said it was time for all who cheated to come clean.

"This steroid thing is hanging over baseball," Gossage said in a conference call with baseball writers. "Maybe we can put this behind us and give you guys a defining path in how you should vote for these guys.

"I'm glad the Mitchell Report was done. I think it was something that needed to be done. The best thing they can do is come clean and `fess up, and life will go on. It is important to take care of this, because of the great history in the game that took place before these guys."

Gossage said he now considered Roger Clemens in the same category as Barry Bonds, as elite players whose accomplishments are in question because of suspected steroid use. Bonds is facing charges of lying to a grand jury about steroid use and Clemens was accused in the Mitchell Report of being injected with steroids by trainer Brian McNamee.

"I think they are on the same level now, no question about it," said Gossage. "They had some of their best years at a time when some Hall of Famers' talents were diminishing.

"If they find they did do performance-enhancing drugs and HGH, I think it needs to be dealt with. There's too much at stake with the great players that came before them. Now we've got to figure out who's telling the truth."

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