Rich “Goose” Gossage will never forget the first time he tried out for a neighborhood baseball team. Actually, it wasn’t a tryout. “They just told me I was the pitcher,” Gossage said. And a career was born.
From a dominating high school pitcher at Wasson (1968-70) to a rapid rise through the minor leagues, then 20 illustrious years in the majors, the Goose distinguished himself at every level.
He also became a feared, intimidating force and one of the foremost saves specialists of his era.
But Colorado never forgot the kid who was throwing 100mph fastballs in high school…not always knowing where they were going.
His friends and fans here also followed Gossage as he scaled huge pinnacles, becoming only the second major-leaguer ever to reach 300 career saves. They cheered him when he helped lead the New York Yankees to victory in the 1978 World Series, his first year with the team.
That was the season when Gossage emerged as a bigger-than-life superstar, with that broad 6-foot-2 frame seeming far bigger on the mound, helped by his menacing stare, the Fu Manchu look…and, of course, that rising fastball at 100 mph.
In that season of 1979, Gossage backed up his image with results. He had 10 wins, 27 saves and a sterling 2.01 ERA in 134 innings. Those weren’t the days of one-out saves, either. Before the event of set-up men, relievers like Gossage would often throw two innings at a time.
Ironically, toward the end of his career, the Goose became a set-up reliever for the Rangers and the Athletics. He was still throwing well past 90mph, but he had the additional advantage of mixing in such other pitches as the split-finger with success.
“I’ve always said I would stay in the game as long as I could pitch and still enjoy it,” Gossage said. “I love the game, and I love throwing the ball.”
Decades later, he still has 117 career wins, 308 saves (still high on the all-time list), a 2.94 ERA in 900-plus appearances and more than 1,600 major league innings.
They just told me I was the pitcher.