Richard Michael "Goose" Gossage (born July 5, 1951) is a former Major League Baseball right-handed relief pitcher. During a 22-year baseball career (from 1972–1994), he pitched for nine different teams, spending his best years with the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres. The nickname "Goose" came about when a friend did not like his previous nickname "Goss", and noted he looked like a goose when he extended his neck to read the signs given by the catcher when he was pitching. Although Gossage is otherwise generally referred to as "Rich" in popular media, a baseball field named after him bears the name "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 runner-up twice; by the end of the 1987 season he ranked second in major-league career saves, trailing only Rollie Fingers, although by the end of his career his total of 310 had slipped to fourth all-time. When he retired he also ranked third in major-league 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 pitched primarily in relief. He also is the career leader in blown saves (112). 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, Gossage 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 was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. He now works in broadcasting.
|Born: July 5, 1951|
Colorado Springs, Colorado
|MLB: April 16, 1972, for the Chicago White Sox|
|NPB: July 4, 1990, for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks|
|MLB: August 8, 1994, for the Seattle Mariners|
|NPB: October 10, 1990, for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks|
|Earned run average||3.01|
|Earned run average||4.40|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Vote||85.8% (ninth ballot)|
Gossage led the American League (AL) in saves in 1975 (26). After the 1976 season, the White Sox traded Gossage and Terry Forster to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Silvio Martinez and Richie Zisk. He became a free agent after the 1977 season, and signed with the New York Yankees.
Gossage again led the AL in saves in 1978 (27) and 1980 (33). On October 2, 1978, he earned the save in the Yankees' 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 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 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 September 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 4-3 lead by striking out the next three batters in 11 pitches.
He missed some of the 1979 season with the Yankees with 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. 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 ten seasons as a closer, Gossage's ERA was less than 2.27. Over his career, right-handed hitters hit .211 against him.
Gossage became upset with Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner for meddling with the team. In 1982, he called Steinbrenner "the fat man upstairs", and disapproved of the way Yankees' manager Billy Martin used him. Gossage became a free agent after the 1983 season, and insisted that he would not resign with New York. He signed with the San Diego Padres. 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 Jody Davis 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.
Before the 1988 season, the Padres traded Gossage and Ray Hayward to the Cubs for Keith Moreland and Mike Brumley. 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. Released by the Cubs in March 1989, he signed with the San Francisco Giants in April. The Yankees selected Gossage off of waivers in August. He pitched for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball in 1990.
Gossage signed with the Texas Rangers for the 1991 season. On July 23, 1991, a statistical coincidence was noted when he recorded his 308th career save to preserve Nolan Ryan's 308th win. Gossage signed one-year contracts to pitch for the Oakland Athletics in 1992 and 1993.
Gossage signed with the Seattle Mariners for the 1994 season. On August 4, 1994, Gossage became the third pitcher in major league history to appear in 1,000 games. Gossage entered a game against the California Angels 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 save of three innings—his first in over 15 months—in the Mariners' 14-4 win over the Rangers, retiring all nine batters he faced; José Canseco flied out to left field to end the game.
Gossage had a record 112 career blown saves. ESPN.com noted that blown saves are "non-qualitative", pointing out that the two career leaders—Gossage and Rollie Fingers (109)—were both inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fran Zimniuch in Fireman: The Evolution of the Closer in Baseball wrote, "But you have to be a great relief pitcher to blow that many saves. Clearly, [Gossage] saved many, many more than he did not save." More than half of Gossage's blown saves came in tough situations, with the tying run on base when the pitcher entered. In nearly half of those blown tough saves, he entered the game in the sixth or seventh inning. Multiple-inning outings provide more chances for a reliever to blow a save, as he needs not only to get out of the initial situation but also to pitch additional innings in which to possibly lose the lead.
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.
Gossage and top relievers of his era were known as firemen, relievers who entered the game when a lead was in jeopardy—usually with men on base—and regardless of the inning and often pitching two or three innings while finishing the game. Gossage had 17 games where he recorded at least 10 outs in his first season as a closer, including three games where he went seven innings. He pitched over 130 innings as a reliever in three different seasons. He had more saves of at least two innings than saves where he pitched one inning or less. The ace reliever's role evolved to where he was reserved for games where the team had a lead of three runs or less in the ninth inning. Mariano Rivera, considered the greatest closer of his era, earned only one save of seven-plus outs in his career, while Gossage logged 53. "Don't tell me [Rivera's] the best relief pitcher of all-time until he can do the same job I did. He may be the best modern closer, but you have to compare apples to apples. Do what we did," said Gossage.
During his career, Gossage pitched in 1,002 games and finished 681 of them, earning 310 saves. Per nine innings pitched, he averaged 7.45 hits allowed and 7.47 strikeouts. He also made nine All-Star appearances and pitched in three World Series.
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- to 102-mph range in his prime, with pinpoint accuracy. Occasionally he would throw a slurve 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. Despite his reputation as a pitcher who intentionally threw at hitters, Gossage stated that he only threw at three hitters in his career: Ron Gant, Andrés Galarraga, and Al Bumbry. 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 kind of pitch left little need for communicating with the catcher. He would stand on the mound and pitch from the stretch position as soon as the batter was in the batter's box.
Gossage lives in his home town, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and is active in the community promoting and sponsoring youth sports. In 1995, the city of Colorado Springs dedicated the Rick "Goose" Gossage Youth Sports Complex, which features five fields for youth baseball and softball competition. He also owned a hamburger restaurant in Parker, Colorado, called Burgers N Sports.
He has written an autobiography, released in 2000, entitled The Goose is Loose (Ballantine: New York).
Gossage coached the American League team in the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game in Anaheim, California on July 12, 2010.
At the Hall of Fame induction in 2008, Gossage expressed gratitude to a number of baseball people who had helped him through his career, and several times described his Hall of Fame week experience as "amazing". The inductions included Dick Williams, his manager at San Diego. After the ceremonies, the two of them sat together for an ESPN interview on the podium, taking audience questions and gently ribbing each other, especially about the upper-deck home run Kirk Gibson hit off Gossage in the 1984 World Series.
After one year in Chicago, "experimenting with off-speed pitches to compensate for a diminished fastball," he was released. The 1989 season featured a stop with the San Francisco Giants and a brief return to the Yankees.
Sutter and Gossage had more saves where they logged at least two innings than saves where they pitched an inning or less.