The role of the relief pitcher in baseball has changed extensively over the years. One of the men who served as a fulcrum between the old era and the modern era of the closer is Goose Gossage. He was the dominating force that took the mound to lock in a victory at the end of the game.
Gossage was a vital piece of MLB for many years, but where is he now?
Rich "Goose" Gossage was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado and was drafted out of high school in the ninth round of the 1970 Major League Baseball Draft by the Chicago White Sox. Like most pitchers, Gossage began his career in the minor leagues as a starting pitcher. When he debuted in MLB in 1972, he was already primarily working out of the bullpen. He did get a few starts in his first few seasons, though.
In 1975, Gossage was established as the White Sox's primary reliever and closer. He pitched in 62 games, all out of the bullpen, and led the majors with 26 saves. Goose also pitched in his first All-Star Game that year.
Given how successful Gossage was in the bullpen in 1975, the White Sox naturally made him a starter in 1976. Goose started 29 games, completed 15 of them (ah, the good ole 1970s) and even made the All-Star Game. However, he also went 9-17 and posted a 3.94 ERA.
Perhaps the South Side squad would have kept Gossage as a starter, but we'll never know. He was traded after the 1976 season to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Buccos immediately put him back into a closer role. It paid off. Gossage pitched in 72 games while posting a 1.62 ERA and 151 strikeouts. He struck out a career-high 10.2 hitters per nine innings, too.
Goose Gossage vs. George Brett. Pine Tar Game. pic.twitter.com/loTmTrUg21
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) January 7, 2020
It would not be long before Goose returned to the American League, though. A free agent after his one year with the Pirates, Gossage signed with the New York Yankees, which is the team he is perhaps most synonymous with. Mainly because, you know, they are the Yankees.
Gossage's performance in his debut season with the Yankees definitely bolstered his reputation as well. After leading the AL in saves once again, Gossage was on the mound when the Yankees beat the Red Sox in a one-game playoff for the AL East title, the Royals in the ALCS and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1978 World Series.
After a thumb injury hampered his 1979 season, Gossage returned on a mission in 1980. He led the majors with 33 saves and finished third in both the Cy Young and MVP voting. In 1980, he was on the mound when George Brett hit a home run with a smidge of pine tar on his bat.
Goose stuck around with New York through the 1983 season. Still, he was sick of the folks at Yankee Stadium, namely George Steinbrenner and manager Billy Martin. As such, he decided to sign with the San Diego Padres as a free agent. He made his last two All-Star Games with the Padres and pitched in the 1984 World Series, when the team lost to the Detroit Tigers.
Following his time with the Padres, Gossage played for a few different teams. He tried to keep his career going in his last thirties and early forties. Gossage spent seasons with the Chicago Cubs, the San Francisco Giants, the Texas Rangers, and the Oakland Athletics. His final season was with Seattle Mariners in 1994 strike-shortened season when he was 42. After that, Gossage retired.
Goose Gossage Now
— Bryon Holz (@BryonHolzROCKS) July 5, 2021
Gossage is 70 now.
In his career, Gossage made nine All-Star Games and won one World Series title. He is considered to have one of the best fastballs ever, which helped him rack up 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings in a 22-season career.
He's only 26th in career saves now, and some argue that only the most elite relief pitchers should be in Cooperstown. Nevertheless, Gossage was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.
Goose was given a plaque in the Yankees' Monument Park in 2014, and he used to be a regular at spring training for the team. That is until he got banned after 2018. You'll never believe it, but Gossage is the rare older retired athlete who thinks the game was better in his day.
He went on a rant about analytics, stats "nerds" and how he was a better closer than Mariano Rivera. Actually, calling himself better than Rivera is something Gossage has mentioned a few times, on account of the fact he used to pitch more than one inning per game.
— UCCS Baseball (@UCCSBaseball) January 26, 2017
In an interview with the Tampa Times, Gossage said he doesn't even watch baseball anymore because of analytics. He blamed Yankees GM Brian Cashman for banning him from Yankees spring training. Gossage even threw in another dig at computers when slagging off Cashman.
When Gossage isn't complaining about baseball's current state, he's hunting and fishing out by his Colorado Springs cabin that sits on a lake.
Gossage intimated pitchers on the mound, and he intended to. He was fierce, forceful and talented. Now, though, he's the one being intimidated but by statistics, launch angles and bat flips.
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