Hank Aaron described him as the “nastiest he ever faced.” George Brett, Tony Gwynn, or any MLB hitter whoever faced Rich “Goose” Gossage, all described an imposing figure on the mound and how much they respected the Hall of Fame pitcher and his game. Unfortunately, Gossage no longer respects the game and refuses to watch anymore. Why? What happened?
Goose Gossage defeated his opponent mentally before he did physically
Back in the mid 1970s, there was no better relief pitcher in the game. When Rich “Goose” Gossage made his way out of the Yankees bullpen to the mound, two things were guaranteed to happen: Gossage would stare down the hitter the moment he stepped out of the dugout and started walking to the batter’s box, and once he arrived, he would receive a steady diet of fastballs.
“They wouldn’t look at me. But I’d follow them up. I’d size them up. They’d just look away. They didn’t want any part of me,” Gossage said in the baseball documentary Fastball.
He was right. Batters didn’t want to face Gossage not only because he could bring the heat at 100 miles per hour on a consistent basis, but because they were never sure if the pitch would be over the plate or in their earhole.
“He had the windup. He was very scary. He was big. He was very mean. He was probably the nastiest I ever faced,” Hall of Fame legend Hank Aaron said.
Eddie Murray, another Hall of Famer, agreed. “The arm is everywhere. His head could be violently shaking as he threw it. You just hoped he had home plate zeroed in there.”
In Gossage’s 22-year career, intimidation worked. The numbers don’t lie.
Gossage pitched his way into the Hall of Fame
When Goose Gossage debuted as a 20-year-old for the Chicago White Sox in 1972, no one knew what to expect from the youngster. Over the next three seasons, he established himself as a hard-throwing right-hander who could either start or come out of the bullpen.
In 1975, the White Sox elected to utilize Gossage solely as a relief pitcher. That season, he pitched 141.2 innings in 62 games and had 26 saves. He earned his first All-Star game appearance. It was a role he relished.
After another All-Star season in Chicago, Gossage played one season in Pittsburgh before landing in the Bronx with the Yankees. In New York, he thrived. That first season he made 63 appearances, tossed 134.1 innings, earned 27 saves and had a stellar 2.01 ERA. Gossage capped off the 1978 season winning Game 4 of the World Series in 10 innings as the Yankees defeated the LA Dodgers for the title.
Gossage never won another World Series title but did spend five more years with the Yankees that included three more All-Star appearances. Gossage played for another decade on six different teams before retiring in 1994.
Gossage speaks out about the game and how much it has changed
Since retiring to Colorado, Gossage has been active in the community promoting and sponsoring youth sports. For years he stayed connected with the Yankees organization working each year as a spring training instructor and participating in Old-Timers’ Day. Until he was banished.
In 2018, the Yankees had had enough when Gossage answered a reporter’s question with an expletive-laden response blasting the current game of analytics “nerds,” bat flips, and relievers like Mariano Rivera, and how they had it easy regularly throwing a single inning.
Two years have passed, but Gossage’s sentiment remains the same. In an interview last month with the Tampa Times, he talked about how he doesn’t recognize the game because it’s changed in a variety of ways, including analytics.
“I don’t even watch the game anymore. It breaks my heart that I can’t sit down and watch nine innings of baseball because it’s not the game I was brought up playing and respecting and loving. The strategy of the game — where do we start talking about the differences? It’s all become so computerized.”
The former pitcher then took direct aim at Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who he believes was responsible for his banishment two years ago.
“Go ahead boys, take all the credit — fire up your computer, put in all the information and see what it comes up with. Cashman has 20 of them (guys) running around. He stops and 20 of them bump into each other.”
Today, now 68, Gossage, clearly yearns for a simpler game where there was no such thing as shifts, launch angles, or relief pitchers who threw a single inning to close out the game. While his frustration with the game he loves so much won’t likely subside anytime soon, he’ll never stop caring. That’s exactly what you would expect from someone who has contributed so much to the game, including his uncanny ability to intimidate some of the game’s greatest hitters.