A lot confused me about this card when I was a kid. And for some of you seeing it for the first time, there may be some different confusion.
When I was a kid, I got this card and was perplexed. It was 1978 and I was just starting to learn who the players were (beyond Jim Rice, Fred Lynn and Butch Hobson with the Red Sox.) I knew Rich Gossage was on the Yankees.
But wait, this picture is of Rich Gossage wearing a Pirates uniform. My Topps card had him in a Yankee uniform. (I did not realize it was airbrushed.)
So which team WAS he on? When I flipped the card over, it listed his team as a Yankee. But the last stats showed him with the Pirates.
So which was it?
And thus began my education of players moving around via Free Agency.
Gossage was called Goose of course. I think it has a lot to do with his name starts with letters that remind people of the word “Goose.”
Hall of Famer Goose Goslin also had a G-O-S in his last name which made Goose a logical nickname. Lots of people have tried to say that Gossage was called “Goose” because of the way he stuck his neck out and how he had the posture of a goose.
Stop it! It is because of his last name! Would you spend a lot of time breaking down the reasons people call me Sully? My last name is Sullivan. So Sully is a natural nickname. Not hard to figure out.
Other people might be confused by this picture because two things people associate with him are not seen in this card.
Gossage was, in most people’s eyes, primarily a Yankee and a Padre. So here he was wearing the yellow unis of the We Are Family Pirates.
And he is clean shaven! His mustache was such a part of his image that it was mentioned on his Hall of Fame plaque.
Actually the mustache-less Gossage originally was a member of the Chicago White Sox, who drafted him out of high school in Colorado in 1970. The value of being a relief pitcher was still somewhat revolutionary. It was where you stuck pitchers who couldn’t make it.
But the likes of Tug McGraw and Rollie Fingers and the Reds deep bullpen made some people see relief as more than a dumping grown for failed arms.
Gossage struggled with the White Sox in 1972, 1973 and 1974. But at age 25, he made the 1975 All Star team. He threw 141 2/3 innings, all in relief, to a 1.84 ERA. He won 9 games, saved 26 and struck out 130. He was a force to be reckoned with on the South Side when new ownership took over in 1976.
So what happened in his follow up year? Manager Paul Richards put Gossage in the rotation. He made his second All Star Game, completing 15 games and finished the season with a 3.94 ERA over 224 innings. His record was 9-17, but the team was no good so don’t blame him for the record.
Who knows what would have happened if he stayed with the White Sox. He was 25 years old going into 1977 and was a two time All Star. Maybe he would have stayed a starter and found great success.
Instead he was flipped to the Pirates in a deal involving Richie Zisk. The Pirates put him back in the bullpen and made it back to the All Star team. He threw to a 1.62 ERA over 133 innings. Notice that innings total. He was averaging better than 2 1/3 innings an appearance. He struck out 7 in 5 shutout innings in a game on August 16th. Four other times he threw 4 shutout innings. 13 times total he threw 3 or more innings. As Gossage reminds us today ad nauseum, he was not a 1 inning specialist.
The 1977 Pirates were star studded and won 96 games. But the Phillies won over 100 and took the Division. Gossage did not stick around. He went to the Yankees, who already had a Cy Young winning reliever on the team.
The combination of lefty Sparky Lyle and righty Goose Gossage was supposed to create the best relief tandem ever. The Yankee fans loved Lyle. Billy Martin loved Lyle. Gossage was an overpaid outsider and didn’t belong. He was a Steinbrenner pet, not a real Yankee.
It did not start well for Gossage. His first game as a Yankee, he took the loss. His second game as a Yankee, he took the loss. His fourth game as a Yankee he took the loss. By the end of April, he was 1-3 and was 0-2 in saves.
Let’s just say he didn’t win many Yankee fans over. But he settled down in May, saving 6 games and threw 7 innings of relief in a 6-5 win over the Blue Jays on May 28th.
Gossage earned his love from Yankee fans for all time by saving the one game playoff against the Red Sox. (He let up 2 runs in 2 2/3 innings, but who is counting.)
The mustache would show up later. So would the fights with teammates, writing books and disputes with management. (All of which fly in the face of his current persona of “Old Man Complaining How These Players Today Don’t Respect It The Way I Do” geezer.)
He would clash again with Billy Martin and left for San Diego where he broke the hearts of Cubs fans by clinching the 1984 pennant.
After his time in San Diego, he played for a mess of teams I bet you forgot employed the Goose.
He was a Cub for a year and a Giant for half a year. He returned briefly to the Yankees in 1989 before heading to Japan for 1990. In 1991, he appeared with the Rangers. In 1992 and 1993 he played for the LaRussa A’s. In 1994, he pitched for the Mariners.
In his final game, he threw 3 innings for a save. Baseball went on strike and when play resumed, Gossage was no longer playing.
He was a pioneer in many ways. He was a star millionaire reliever before every team seemed to have one. He played for LaRussa at the end of his career, ironically being part of the bullpen that turned the closer into a one inning assignment.
While his tandem with Sparky Lyle did not work, he saw success combining with Ron Davis and Craig Lefferts among others. And eventually found himself in the Hall of Fame with a Yankee hat on his plaque.
He didn’t have the hat on in this card, and I found that to be confusing.