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'Storybook career' leads Goose to Hall

'Storybook career' leads Goose to Hall

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Rich "Goose" Gossage, who overcame repeated episodes of youthful doubt to become a ferocious pitcher who planted doubts in the heads of Major League batters for 22 years, accepted the final affirmation of immortal status Sunday afternoon.

With his late parents and benefactors in his heavy heart and former Yankees teammates in his sight at the Clark Sports Center, Gossage took bows as the valedictorian of the Hall of Fame class of 2008.

After being the last of three award winners and six inductees introduced by Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark, Gossage held aloft his freshly minted plaque to elicit another round of "Goooose!" calls from the sun-baked crowd.

"This is truly an out-of-body experience," Gossage said, launching into a 17-minute acceptance speech, during which he often appeared close to breaking. "The most amazing thing, outside of the birth of my three boys, that I've ever been through.

"My whole career has been storybook. I've kept running into the right people at the right time. I've often said that I was like a kid on a ride at Disney World, and I didn't get off for 22 years. To my hundreds of teammates through the years ... thanks for sharing the ride with me. It was amazing."

Some of those teammates were sitting right below, looking up at him on the stage: Graig Nettles, Ron Guidry, Jim Beattie and Roy White. All former Yankees, part of a team contingent that also included general manager Brian Cashman, COO Lonn Trost and vice chairperson Jennifer Steinbrenner.

The entourage reflected Gossage's induction in a Yankees cap, although he had played for eight other teams during his big league career.

"I thank the Yankees contingent that came to share this great moment with me," Gossage said during his speech. "I'm very honored to be wearing a Yankee cap into the Hall of Fame today, and to continue that great tradition."

Fulfilling his promise to be present might have seemed difficult for Cashman, but he said he didn't have a hard time at all breaking away from his team's most important series of the season.

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"I'm proud to be here as another great player representing the Yankees joins the greatest ever," said Cashman. "I'll listen to the game [in Boston] tonight in the car on the way home. There's nothing else I can do to help there anyway.

"I'm humbled to be here," Cashman added. "This is hallowed ground."

Gossage thus became the 25th Yankee in the Hall of Fame -- but the first born in Colorado.

"There's something else I can't even put into words," Gossage confided in a brief meeting with the media immediately after the ceremonies. "All I ever wanted to do was put on a big league uniform one time ... and it turned into 22 years."

He never imagined it would come to this, even during a considerably proficient prep athletic career in his native Colorado Springs.

He would respond to predictions of future big league stardom by his father, Jake, who passed away when Gossage was in the 11th grade, with, "Aw, c'mon dad, that's never going to happen."

Sandlot catches would begin with getting goaded by his older brother, "You're throwing like a sissy," and Gossage responding by putting everything, and more, behind the next pitch.

"I'd be all arms and legs flailing, coming right at you," he recalled. "That's where I got that motion."

So unconfident was Gossage that as he neared high school graduation, he applied for a job as a Little League coach. He got the position, and stormed excitedly into his house to share the news with his mom.

Susanne Gossage said, "That's nice, son. Well, this gentleman has a job for you, too."

And Gossage followed her gaze to the man sitting on the couch, Bill Kimble, a scout for the Chicago White Sox, who had just taken him in the ninth round of the 1970 First-Year Player Draft.

Later that year in Appleton of the Midwest League, "All my worst fears were realized," Gossage said. "I couldn't get anybody out. After that season, I later found out, the Appleton manager had decided to release me but was talked out of it. I'm glad he was."


"My whole career has been storybook. I've kept running into the right people at the right time. I've often said that I was like a kid on a ride at Disney World, and I didn't get off for 22 years. To my hundreds of teammates through the years ... thanks for sharing the ride with me. It was amazing."
-- Rich "Goose" Gossage

Susanne Gossage said, "That's nice, son. Well, this gentleman has a job for you, too."

So were the nine teams for which Gossage posted 124 wins and 310 saves and the two (1978, 1980-81 Yankees and 1984 Padres) he pitched into the postseason.

The nine included the Pittsburgh Pirates, in 1977, much too briefly to soothe Andrew Dreyfuss, the great-grandson of charter Pirates owner, Barney, one of three inductees Sunday through the Hall's Veteran Committee on pioneers and executives.

"I just wish you were in Pittsburgh for more than one year," Dreyfuss said during his own acceptance speech on his great-grandfather's behalf. "You turned out to be pretty good, and we could have used you."

Pretty good, indeed.

The Goose bent, but never broke. His chin quivered a few times, and he had to focus on his notes through moist eyes now and then. But he needn't have worried about challenging 2001 inductee Bill Mazeroski's brevity record of 2:15.

He got to the end, and probably just in time.

"I want to thank the Hall of Fame staff for making me feel so special. And I want to thank the fans here and watching on TV ... you are the reason baseball is as great as it is today," Gossage said, then turned from the lip of the stage toward the 56 other Hall of Famers waiting to throw their arms around him in an eternal embrace.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["hall_of_fame" ] }
{"content":["hall_of_fame" ] }