Richard Michael "Goose" Gossage (born July 5 1951 in Colorado Springs, Colorado) is a former right-handed relief pitcher in Major League Baseball who played 22 seasons from 1972 to 1994 for nine different teams, spending his best years with the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres. The nickname "Goose" is a play on his surname. Although otherwise known as "Rich" in popular media, to himself and his friends he goes by "Rick".
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was one of the earliest manifestations of the dominating modern closer, with wild facial hair and a gruff demeanor to go along with his blistering fastball. He led the American League in saves three times and was runnerup twice; by the end of the 1987 season he ranked second in major league history in career saves, trailing only Rollie Fingers, although by the end of his career his final total of 310 had slipped to fourth all-time. When he retired he also ranked third in major league history in career games pitched (1,002), and he remains third in wins in relief (115) and innings pitched in relief (1,556⅔); his 1,502 strikeouts place him behind only Hoyt Wilhelm among pitchers who primarily pitched in relief. He also is the career leader in blown saves (112), three more than Rollie Fingers. From 1977 through 1983 he never recorded an earned run average over 2.62, including a mark of 0.77 in 1981, and in 1980 he finished third in AL voting for both the MVP Award and Cy Young Award as the Yankees won a division title.
Respected for his impact in crucial games, he recorded the final out to clinch a division, league or World Series title seven times. His eight All-Star selections as a reliever were a record until Mariano Rivera passed him in 2008; he was also selected once as a starting pitcher. He now works in broadcasting. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.
Pioneer of the closer role
The New York Yankees of the late 1970s and early 1980s arguably pioneered the set-up/closer configuration, which is used by every team today. The most effective pairing was Ron Davis and Gossage, with Davis typically entering the game in the 7th or 8th innings and Gossage finishing up. During one stretch with that pairing, the Yankees won 77 of 79 games in which they led after six innings.
One difference between Gossage and more recent closers is that Gossage often pitched as many as three innings to finish a game, while modern closers typically pitch only the ninth inning.
During his career, Gossage pitched in 1,002 games and finished 681 of them, earning 310 saves. Per every nine innings pitched, Gossage averaged 7.45 hits allowed and 7.47 strikeouts. He also made nine All-Star appearances and pitched in three World Series.
Gossage led the American League in saves in 1975 (26), 1978 (27) and 1980 (33). On October 2, 1978, he earned the save in the Yankees' dramatic one-game playoff against the Boston Red Sox for the AL East title, entering with one out in the seventh inning and a 4-2 lead following Bucky Dent's legendary home run; although he allowed two runs in the eighth inning, he held on to preserve the 5-4 victory, getting Carl Yastrzemski to pop up to third baseman Graig Nettles with two out and two men on base in the ninth inning to clinch the division championship. He was also on the mound five days later when the Yankees clinched the pennant in the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals, entering Game 4 in the ninth inning with a 2-1 lead and a runner on second base; he earned the save by striking out Clint Hurdle and retiring Darrell Porter and Pete LaCock on fly balls. He was again on the mound ten days later when they captured the World Series title against the Los Angeles Dodgers for their second consecutive championship, coming on with no one out in the eighth inning of Game 6; he retired Ron Cey on a popup to catcher Thurman Munson to clinch the win. One of his most impressive performances was on Sept. 3, 1978, in a game vs. the Seattle Mariners. Replacing Sparky Lyle in the top of the 9th with runners on second and third and no outs, he preserved a fragile 4-3 lead by striking out the next three batters in 12 pitches.
He missed some of the 1979 season with the Yankees due to a thumb injury sustained in a locker-room fight with teammate Cliff Johnson. Ron Guidry, the reigning Cy Young Award winner, volunteered to go to the bullpen to replace him. In the first game of a doubleheader on October 4, 1980, Gossage pitched the last two innings of a 5-2 win over the Detroit Tigers, earning his career-high 33rd save as New York clinched another division title. Gossage served up two of the more memorable home runs in major league history. On October 10, George Brett of the Royals hit a tide-turning three-run homer off Gossage into Yankee Stadium's right-field upper deck to lead the Royals to a three-game sweep in the AL Championship Series, after the Yankees had defeated the Royals in three consecutive ALCS from 1976 to 1978. Almost three years later during the regular season, Brett got to the Goose again in the Bronx, blasting a go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the ninth in a game memorialized as the "Pine Tar Game."
Gossage recorded saves in all three Yankee victories in the 1981 AL Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, not allowing a run in 6⅔ innings, and he was again the final pitcher when they clinched the 1981 pennant against the Oakland Athletics. In 1983, his last season with the Yankees, Gossage broke Sparky Lyle's club record of 141 career saves; Dave Righetti passed his final total of 150 in 1988. Gossage holds the Yankees career record for ERA (2.14) and hits per nine innings (6.59) among pitchers with at least 500 innings for the team.
In eight of his first 10 seasons as a closer, Gossage's ERA was less than 2.27.  Over his career, right-handed hitters hit a minuscule .211 against him.
In 1984, Gossage clinched another title, earning the save in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series and sending the Padres to their first World Series; after San Diego had scored four runs in the seventh inning to take a 6-3 lead against the Chicago Cubs, Gossage pitched the final two innings, getting Keith Moreland to hit into a force play for the final out. On August 17, 1986, Gossage struck out Pete Rose in Rose's final major league at bat. On August 6, 1988, while with the Cubs, Gossage became the second pitcher to record 300 career saves in a 7-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, coming into the game with two out in the ninth and two men on base and retiring Phil Bradley on a popup to second baseman Ryne Sandberg.
On July 23, 1991, while Gossage was with the Texas Rangers, a statistical coincidence was noted when he recorded his 308th career save to preserve Nolan Ryan's 308th win. On August 4, 1994, Gossage became the third pitcher in major league history to appear in 1,000 games. Pitching for the Seattle Mariners against the California Angels, he came into the game with two out in the seventh inning and runners on second and third base, trailing 2-1; he picked up the win when the Mariners scored three times in the eighth for a 4-2 victory. In his final major league appearance on August 8, he earned a typically long save of three innings – his first save in over 15 months – in the Mariners' 14-4 win over the Rangers, retiring all nine batters he faced; José Canseco hit a fly ball to left field to end the game.
Goose Gossage was one of the few pitchers who employed basically just one pitch, a fastball. However, his fastball was one of the best of all time, routinely throwing in the 98 - 102 mph range in his prime, with pinpoint accuracy. Occasionally he would throw a curveball or a changeup, but mainly just came right at hitters with heat, not afraid to knock them down to keep them from crowding the inner half of the strike zone. Even into his 40s, in the early 1990s, he still threw regularly in the mid-90s, though he did not close games as often as he did in his youth, serving as a capable and intimidating setup man.
Gossage had a reputation as a no-nonsense no-frills pitcher who wasted no time on the mound. Throwing only one pitch left little need for communicating with the catcher. Goose would stand on the mound and pitch from the stretch position as soon as the batter was in the batters box.
Gossage lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and is active in the community promoting and sponsoring youth sports. In 1995, the city of Colorado Springs dedicated the Rich "Goose" Gossage Youth Sports Complex, which features five fields for youth baseball and softball competition. He also owns a burger joint in Parker, Colorado, called Burgers N Sports.
He has written an autobiography, released in 2000, entitled The Goose is Loose (Ballantine: New York).
Gossage's son Todd Gossage plays professionally for the Golden Baseball League's Chico Outlaws.
Hall of Fame candidacy
Gossage was first eligible for induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame in the 2000 balloting, but received only 33% of the votes of the BBWAA, less than half the required 75%. In the years that followed, he campaigned openly for induction, expressing frustration and disappointment during the years when he was not elected. His failure to be elected in his first several years on the ballot was often attributed to a lack of appreciation of the role of closer, a relatively recent innovation in baseball strategy. When Gossage became eligible in 2000, the only relievers who had been inducted to the Hall were Hoyt Wilhelm and Rollie Fingers, both of whom had held the record for career saves for over ten years. In addition, many voters expressed their disappointment with the later part of Gossage's career as he generally relinquished the role of closer, pitching for six different major league teams over six seasons in addition to one year in Japanese baseball.
Another factor hindering his election was difficulty in evaluating and comparing relievers, given the rapidly changing conventions of major league relief pitching; closers in the 1980s and 1990s had been increasingly expected to make more numerous but noticeably shorter appearances, usually only when their team was leading, whereas earlier closers were regularly brought into games earlier, often when their team was tied or even trailing. As a result, saves became more numerous over the years, despite closers pitching fewer innings in often less demanding situations. For example, Tom Henke – who retired just a year after Gossage – passed Gossage's total of 310 saves in just over 12 seasons, despite pitching fewer than half as many innings. Though Gossage had more saves than anyone but Fingers by late 1987, and ranked fourth all-time when he retired, his 310 saves ranked only eighth by the time he became eligible for the Hall and had dropped to 17th all-time by the time of his election in 2008.
The devaluation of the save had a drastic effect on Hall of Fame arguments as, in the late 1980s and into the early 1990s, a total of 300 career saves was becoming regarded as a similar standard for comparison as 300 wins and a likely rationale for election. This was particularly problematic due to the save being thought of as the single most accessible benchmark for evaluating a reliever's quality. This view was demolished by rapidly escalating save totals; although only one pitcher had earned 300 saves by 1987, and only five by 1994, sixteen more pitchers would reach that level by 2007. It was obvious that not all of them could be regarded as being of Hall of Fame caliber, and so there were new efforts to compare the relative quality of saves by different pitchers from different eras. After improving to 44% of the vote in 2001, Gossage's vote totals declined in each of the next three years as voters strove to find useful ways to evaluate his impact.
By the 2005 election, more substantial data regarding saves began to become available, specifically examining how long pitchers lasted in each save and how precarious a situation they faced when entering the game. Using these standards, Gossage compared quite well with Fingers and Bruce Sutter, with a marked advantage over later closers such as Dennis Eckersley (who was elected to the Hall in his first try in 2004) and Lee Smith. Statistician Alan Schwarz noted Gossage's averages of outs per save (4.72) and inherited runners per game (.86), which roughly matched the figures of Fingers (4.82, .86) and Sutter (4.73, .67) but were well ahead of those for Eckersley (3.33, .49) and Smith (3.72, .50). However, Eckersley had the advantage of a substantial career as a starting pitcher and, like Fingers, had won an MVP Award as a closer.
By 2008, Gossage's supporters had further noted that he had saved 52 games in which he needed at least seven outs to close out the win; by comparison, Eckersley only had five such saves among his total of 390, while Trevor Hoffman had two out of 524, and Mariano Rivera just one out of 443 (that being his fifth-ever major league save in 1996). Gossage had 193 saves which lasted at least four outs, compared to 55 for Hoffman and 98 for Rivera, and 24 in which he pitched at least the final three innings.
The induction of Sutter in 2006 made him the fourth reliever in the Hall, and Gossage was widely seen as next in line. Gossage publicly voiced his displeasure at the decision of the writers to enshrine Sutter prior to himself. Following the January 2007 election of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr., to the Hall of Fame, both publicly mentioned their disappointment that Gossage was not to be inducted alongside them. He received 388 votes, with a percentage of 71.2, as he fell only 21 votes shy of induction; it was a positive sign, as historically candidates who receive at least 65% of the vote are nearly always elected the following year if they are still eligible.
Gossage was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008, receiving 86% of the total votes. He was the only player inducted in the class of 2008; two managers and three executives were chosen in separate balloting. The day after his election, he was highly critical of steroid use in baseball's recent years, noting the effect it was having on Hall voting; however, he also conceded that he probably would have used steroids and other performance enhancing drugs during his career, saying, "I would have probably done it. I'm a free spirit. I like to have fun. I was a competitor. Chances are I would have done it too."
- List of Major League Baseball saves champions
- List of Major League Baseball all-time saves leaders
- Sept. 3, 1978 Yankees box score: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA197809030.shtml
- Famers on the Fringe. ESPN.com. Retrieved on 2008-08-01.
- Schwarz, Alan. "When a Game Saved Was a Game Earned", The New York Times, 2005-01-02, p. D8. Retrieved on 2008-01-08.
- National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum: Hall of Fame Vote Totals
- Puma, Mike. "The Juicy Goosey", New York Post, 2008-01-10. Retrieved on 2008-01-12.
- Official site
- baseballhalloffame.org – Hall of Fame biography page
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
- 2008 Hall of Fame candidate profile
- Goose enters Hall, realizes lifelong dream
- Goose grows emotional as induction nears
- BaseballLibrary - biography, career highlights and SABR bibliography
- SI.com: The Goose was a rare breed of durable relief pitcher
- ESPN: Is Goose Gossage a Hall of Famer? - December 2007 discussion by Sean McAdam and Phil Rogers
- ESPN: Five for the Hall of Fame - December 2001 column by Rob Neyer
- Goose Gossage hopes Hall of Fame vote provides relief
|Awards and achievements|
|American League Saves Champion
1980 (with Dan Quisenberry)