NEW YORK (BVM) — Retired MLB pitcher Rich “Goose” Gossage is remembered for many things, most notably his fastball, which topped out over 100 mph. He’s also well known and recognized for his trademark, long, droopy mustache. Perhaps comparable to the one sported by cartoon character Yosemite Sam.
Early years and MLB Draft
Born July 5, 1951 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Gossage attended Wasson High School where he played both basketball and baseball. In 1970, upon graduating, Gossage was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the ninth round of the MLB Draft. Gossage spent a short time in the minors with the Sox Single-A team. There he wowed the big league managers with his pitching.
Chicago White Sox
On April 16, 1972 at the age of 20, Gossage made his major league debut against the Kansas City Royals. His career would span 22 seasons with nine major league teams. In the early years, he served as both a starting and closing pitcher, but it didn’t take long for him to become known as a dominant closer. In 1975, Gossage led the American League in saves. Unlike today’s closers, who generally pitch the final inning, it was the norm for Gossage to pitch three innings, often coming in with runners on base to save the game.
When the 1976 season ended, the Sox traded Gossage to the Pittsburgh Pirates where he spent the 1977 season earning 26 saves. The Pirates were unable to hold onto him though, and in 1977 Gossage signed with the New York Yankees as a free agent. Gossage is arguably best remembered in Yankee pinstripes.
New York Yankees
With the Yankees, Gossage was a four-time All-Star and a 1978 World Series Champion with a win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He led the AL with saves in 1978 and again in 1980. With the Bronx Bombers Gossage took to the mound numerous times to collect saves in playoff games, pennant races, and the World Series. One of his most memorable outings came against the archrival Red Sox in October 1978. The game was a tiebreaker to determine the winner of the AL East Division. Playing on the road in the famed Fenway Park, Gossage didn’t disappoint. Coming in to relieve starting pitcher, Ron Guidry, Gossage secured the save, giving the Yankees the pennant. Gossage was undoubtedly a fan favorite in the Bronx during his six seasons there. With the Yanks, he notched 150 saves and earned a 2.14 ERA.
San Diego Padres
After clashing with then-Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, the Goose left the Bronx after the 1983 season. Signing as a free agent with the San Diego Padres in 1984, Gossage helped the Padres get to their first-ever World Series. In his first season with the team, Gossage chalked up 25 saves and 10 wins. He was also honored as a two-time National League All-Star with San Diego.
End of playing career
When his time with the Padres came to a close, Gossage spent the remainder of his career in the majors bouncing around from team to team. However, he did earn his 300th career save with the Chicago Cubs in 1988. At the time he was only the second major leaguer to achieve that honor aside from Rollie Fingers. In his last hurrah as a major leaguer with the Seattle Mariners, he secured a save pitching three innings, and sending the nine batters he faced back to the dugout.
After the 1994 season, Gossage retired from the mound and MLB, but not without a long list of honors and accolades. He finished his career a World Series Champion and a nine-time All-Star, with 310 saves, 1,502 strikeouts, a 3.01 ERA, and a total of 1,809.1 innings pitched.
Gossage returned home to his roots in Colorado Springs when his playing days were done. Since hanging up his cleats, Gossage has written an autobiography, “The Goose is Loose” published in 2000. He has also been active in his hometown community promoting youth sports. In 1995, Colorado Springs dedicated a children’s sports facility in his honor, the Rich Goose Gossage Youth Sports Complex. The establishment boasts numerous baseball, softball, and soccer fields, as well as BMX and skateboarding areas. In 2008, Gossage was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and in 2014 the Yankees honored him with a plaque in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.
Today, Gossage continues to enjoy the mountains and the outdoors in Colorado Springs with his wife and family, reminding us that there really is no place like home.