Goose Gossage: A Hall of Fame pitcher perhaps best known for his handlebar mustache, and for opting to be known as “Goose”, rather than for his Hall of Fame résumé, has been in the news lately.
In one of the hottest takes of the MLB off-season, Gossage took players like José Bautista and Yoenis Céspedes to task for their celebratory bat-flipping ways. Talking to ESPN, Gossage rather explicitly called Bautista, “A fucking disgrace to the game,” before going on to say that he was an embarrassment to all the Latin players who came before him. Harsh! Gossage further decried the loss of home plate collisions, the influence of nerds with computers on the game, and the fact that Batman doesn’t dance anymore.
For his part, Bautista took the high road on this one, stating, “I don’t agree with him. I’m disappointed that he made those comments, but I’m not going to get into it with him. I would never say anything about him, no matter what he said about me…” This is about as civilized a response to getting called “a fucking disgrace” that you will ever read. Credit given where it is due to Bautista for not engaging in a flame war with one of baseball’s original firemen.
I however, am a firm believer that what goes around, comes around. If Bautista was unwilling to slam Gossage right back, then I would find someone who was. So I thought to myself, “What about players from before Gossage’s time? What do the men who played in earlier eras have to say about the baseball career of Goose Gossage?”
Luckily, thanks to some inside connections I have with the spirit world (the grim reaper owed me a favor after I beat him in a high-stakes game of Battleship,) those questions can be answered. I took a trip to that big baseball diamond in the sky, and briefly spoke with a handful of all-time greats, getting their Goose Gossage takes.
“Honestly, when I read about these guys trotting out on the mound to only pitch a handful of innings, I get sick to my stomach,” Cy Young tells me. “If you are just a glorified vulture, picking up the pieces of another man’s work, how can I respect you? I hold the record for wins, innings pitched and complete games. How often do you think I needed some other loser to come in and get a W for me, huh?”
This prompts me to point out to Mr. Young that he also holds the record for losses, and that maybe he could have notched even more wins if he had a dominant closer to back him up. Immediately, he shoots me the kind of look that you can only give someone when there is an award for excellence at your position named after you. Cy Young would not be the last deceased legend I angered that day.
“What ever happened to the nickname?” asks Walter Johnson. “I was ‘The Big Train’, rumbling down the tracks to hit you head on. There is a power of intimidation in being known by that moniker. Who has ever been frightened by a goose? A goose is something you shoot for sport. For that reason alone, I know that Goose Gossage could never go toe-to-toe with me.”
You would think utilizing the age-old schoolyard bullying tactic of calling someone’s name stupid would be below someone like Walter Johnson, but I guess you learn something new every day. Man…Walter Johnson is kind of a dick!
Seeing as both he and Gossage are enshrined in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park, I figure Babe Ruth will have some valid opinions on the matter at hand. “I think I had four goose burgers in between games of a double header one time, says Ruth. “Tastes great, but makes you real gassy. Anyway, what was the question?” Not exactly the type of valuable insight I was hoping for.
“Gossage? Is he one of those full-handers? Please.” This is Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown, a pitcher probably best known for only having three fingers. He goes on, “Look, until one comes around with less fingers than me, I do not want to hear anymore about these so-called ‘great pitchers of the modern era.’” I do not have the heart to tell him about Jim Abbott, so I let him finish his rant. “Far as I am concerned, they are all cheaters! I only had three fingers, and I won a World Series, WITH THE CUBS! TWICE! No one will ever be on my level.” Honestly, pretty hard to dispute that logic.
One player who was just as hate-filled and terrifying as I expected him to be was Ty Cobb. “I’ll tell you one thing,” he snarls at me. “If Gossage ever threw inside on me, knocked me down or beaned me or whatever, I would kill him.” I try to uncomfortably laugh this statement off, but Cobb grabs me by the shirt collar, daggers in his eyes. “I MEAN IT. No hesitation, no exaggeration. He is a straight up dead man.”
Having peed myself out of fear just a little bit, I figure it best to finally head on home. On my way out though, I bump into Johnny Vander Meer, and figure I might as well get a quote from him. Predictably, he invokes the only stat he is kind of known for by people who have heard of Johnny Vander Meer. “Who is this Gossage clown? Did he ever throw back-to-back no hitters? No! Because I am the only one to ever do that, and another thing…” His voice trails off as I slowly back out of the room. We get it, Vander Meer. You did a cool thing once.
Back in my quiet Brooklyn apartment, I reflect on the experiences I had with the spirits of these dead ballplayers, and come to a realization. Older generations will always worry about the young kids coming up from behind, taking away their edge. They used to be with it, but then what was “it” changed.
The more that players from today innovate, excite, and amaze, the more that players from yesterday are threatened by the specter of their own irrelevance. We have seen it in the NBA a lot recently, with seemingly everyone who played in the league prior to 2009 coming out of the woodwork to say that this year’s historic Golden State Warriors team could not hang with them and their squad back in the day. And that is the feeling that Gossage was angrily expressing through his comments. What he is “with” is not “it” anymore, and what is now “it” seems weird and scary to him.