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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
A rotund cannon with a Fu Manchu mustache, herky-jerky delivery, and 98-mile-per-hour fastball, relief pitcher Richard "Goose" Gossage brought showmanship and competitive drama to his role as closer. In his entertaining autobiography, The Goose is Loose, Gossage recounts his 22 years of major league experience with honesty, candor, and the sheer personality that made him famous.
The Goose debuted with the White Sox in 1972 and finished his career with the Seattle Mariners in 1994. In between, he toured the majors: Pirates, Yankees, Padres, Cubs, Giants, Rangers, A's, and even the Daiei Hawks in the Japanese League. Over his career, Goose amassed 310 career saves to go along with 124 wins, a 3.00 ERA, and 1,502 strikeouts in 1,809 innings. In his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility, he and Bruce Sutter were the top vote getters among relievers, though each fell short of the 375 votes needed to qualify (Sutter received 192 votes, Goose 166).
Goose respected the game of baseball and couldn't stand losing. His voracious appetite for life was renowned, as was his pedal-to-the-metal style. The night that San Diego won the 1984 pennant, Goose hosted the team celebration. Three guesses who corralled Padres owner Joan Kroc (complete in evening gown and coiffed hair) and tossed her into the deep end of the swimming pool.
On occasion, Goose got outpranked. Once, while with the Cubs, he was sitting on the can and enjoying his Sporting News -- which Ryne Sandburg proceeded to stealthily light on fire. And in a scene that has to be read to be believed, Goose was lured into a mud-wrestling engagement with a female version of himself.
Goose's days with the White Sox, where he alternated between starting and relieving, soured in the infamous 1976 campaign. "Play for a team that wins 64 games (out of 161) in six months and you'll discover just how interminable a baseball season can be. Try keeping your composure, never mind a straight face, when you're forced to play in short pants." From the White Sox, Goose was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he had a breakout year (11 wins, 26 saves, 1.62 ERA, 151 K's in 133 innings) and established himself as an overpowering closer. The Pirate team was a loose bunch that, several years later, would win the World Series, and who, like the White Sox, sported unfortunate uniforms: "Occasionally, we wore a solid yellow uniform, which made Willie Stargell and Dave Parker look like giant bananas."
During his career, Goose participated in many of baseball's memorable games and pivotal events. Two innings after Bucky Dent hit his "Shot Heard 'Round the World," Goose preserved the 5-4 victory by vanquishing Carl Yazstrzemski with runners on first and third. Several years later, Goose served up George Brett's pine-tar home run. He witnessed Pete Rose's 4,192nd hit, and the following year made Rose's final major league at-bat a three-pitch strikeout (the last pitch was "a nasty backdoor slider. A bastard pitch"). Goose saved the first night game at Wrigley Field, and when Nolan Ryan notched his 308th career win, Gossage closed the game -- for his 308th career save.
In addition to the memorable games, Goose recalls some of baseball's worst tragedies. Goose was vacationing with his wife in Puerto Rico when Roberto Clemente was killed, and he was a friend and teammate of Thurman Munson's when Munson's plane went down.
Goose was forced to undergo a drastic change in lifestyle after a doctor told him he would have to give up booze to keep pitching. "As you may have surmised," writes Goose, "the list of things in life I love more than beer is short. One of the few items on it, however, is baseball. If my being physically able to pitch hinged on giving up beer, so be it. That's what I'd have to do." Effective to the end, Goose didn't retire willingly -- he simply ran out of job offers and has since stayed off the sauce.
Gossage finishes his book by mentioning his chances at going to Cooperstown: "If it happens, fine. If not, that's okay, too. I have many fond memories from my long years of service in the major leagues, and not a single regret." One senses that Goose is graciously understating his feelings about the Hall of Fame, and that Cooperstown would be a fitting place for this well-traveled baseball talent and personality. (Brenn Jones)