“We were 14 games back and that was definitely my doing,” he said. “The Yankees were the World Series champions in 1977 and they had all those greats, Reggie (Jackson) and Thurman (Munson). Sparky Lyle was one of the great pitchers for them, and I came in and was basically given his job before the season started. I put a lot of pressure on myself.
“George Steinbrenner put on the inside of our World Series rings ‘greatest comeback in history.’ I said, without me it never would have happened because I dug us that deep hole.”
Gossage played in two more World Series, but lost them both: in 1981 when the Dodgers got revenge on the Yankees and in 1984 when the Padres lost to the Detroit Tigers. He said Padres manager Dick Williams told him to walk Kirk Gibson in the eighth inning of game five. Instead Gossage gave up a three-run home run to Gibson that clinched the series for the Tigers.
There were other memorable moments in his career: In 1986, Gossage struck out Pete Rose, in Rose’s final at bat. He gave up a three-run home run to George Brett on Oct. 10, 1980 which helped the Royals sweep the Yankees in the ALCS. But it was a July 24, 1983 home run by Brett against Gossage that would make for even greater baseball lore, as that game would come to be known as the Pine Tar game.
“Everybody thinks it was Billy Martin who spotted the pine tar, but it was Graig Nettles,” Gossage said. “He said, ‘if he gets a hit here, we’re gunna get his bat.’” Nettles had seen the same rule violation – too much pine tar across the handle of the bat – cost Munson a hit, Gossage said. (Nettles now tells the story that he was the one who was originally robbed of a hit.) So for weeks, the Yankees were on the look out for a good time to protest Brett’s illegal bat.