“I saw first hand the total evolution from what (relief pitching) was to what it has become,” he said. “When I started the bullpen was not a place you wanted to be … It was kind of a junk pile for old pitchers.”
Drafted in the ninth round of the 1970 draft by the Chicago White Sox, Gossage said he was surprised to find himself in the major leagues. His father Jake – who passed away while Goose was in high school – had always told him he would play in the majors, but he said growing up in Colorado Springs, it was hard for him to tell how good he was.
“I knew I was good for Colorado, but I never knew on a world level,” he said.
Gossage spent two seasons in the minors as a starter, but was put in the bullpen when he made the Sox in 1972. At the time, he was the seventh youngest player in pro baseball. When he retired in 1994, 22 years and eight more teams later, Gossage was the oldest player in the game.
Although he also played with the Pirates, Padres, Cubs, Giants, Rangers, A’s, Mariners and a season in Japan, to many people – especially in New York – Gossage will always be a New York Yankee. The lasting image of him, which is now 35 years old, will be of him on the mound on Oct. 2 getting Carl Yastzemski to pop up to Graig Nettles to end the one-game playoff with Boston and cap the “greatest comeback in baseball history.”
The Yankees, who had won the 1977 World Series, were 14 games behind the Red Sox on July 18 and tied them on the last day of the regular season. Gossage, who also got the final outs that year to win the American League Championship Series against Kansas City and the World Series against Los Angeles, credits himself for the comeback in a backhanded way.