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Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2006 | Hall-of-Fame inductions are keeping Rich “Goose” Gossage busy this month, even if he didn’t get the call from Cooperstown that he deserved.
The Hall of Champions is my day job, and Gossage will be inducted into San Diego’s Breitbard Hall of Fame for his time with the Padres at tonight’s 61st annual Viejas Salute to the Champions dinner at the Town and Country Hotel.
And then next week, Gossage, who grew up in Colorado Springs, will be inducted Monday into the Colorado High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame.
“You start out your career and you never think of these kinds of honors,” Gossage said. “All I ever wanted to do was put on a big-league uniform one time.”
Gossage, who was one of the most dominant relievers in the game and routinely threw fastballs in the high 90s, put on a big-league uniform for nearly a quarter-century.
He played four of his 22 Major League seasons with the Padres (1984-87) and was a nine-time All-Star who won the 1978 American League Rolaids Relief Award with the New York Yankees. He played on the Yankees’ World Series championship team in 1978.
Gossage is identified with the Yankees, but his time and impact on the Padres was great. The Padres’ acquisition of Gossage on the eve of the 1984 season strengthened San Diego’s credibility as contenders for post-season play for the first time in franchise history.
The Padres went on to win the National League West division and beat the Chicago Cubs in National League Championship Series for the NL pennant before falling to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.
Gossage was a two-time All-Star for the Padres in 1984 and 1985. He was on the mound when the Padres clinched the NL West in 1984 and led the team with 25 saves. He also led the team with 26 saves in 1985 and 21 in 1986.
In the latest National Baseball Hall-of-Fame voting announced on Jan. 9, Gossage nearly joined Padres teammate Tony Gwynn and Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. in the Class of 2007. Gossage collected 71 percent of the vote, but 75 percent is required.
However, Gossage is positioned well for the Class of 2008. There are no players such as Gwynn and Ripken considered first-ballot players that are eligible in 2008. In addition, players who have topped 70 percent in the voting have historically earned enough votes the next year.
“I have that to look forward to; hopefully next year it will happen,” Gossage said after the 2007 vote was announced. “It’s out of my control and hopefully next year it will happen, but there is nothing I can do about it.”
When Gwynn was introduced at a press conference on Jan. 9 at Petco Park, recognizing his election to the Hall of Fame, one of his first comments was, “I’m disappointed Goose fell a little bit short, because I really believe he’s a Hall of Famer. I’m sure Padres fans like me agree he’s deserving and should be a Hall-of-Famer.”
The role of relief pitchers and their place in the Hall of Fame is still evolving. Although today’s closers have higher save totals, they typically only pitch one inning.
Gossage routinely pitched two or more innings — entering games in a jam in the seventh or eighth — to close out a victory. He pitched 102 1/3 innings for the Padres in 1984 and 134 1/3 for the Yankees in 1978.
In today’s game, Padres reliever Trevor Hoffman, another San Diego reliever deserving of a call from Cooperstown five years after he retires, was asked to pitch only 63 innings last year while recording 46 saves.
Gossage brought a presence to San Diego when he signed as a free agent. He said he narrowed his choices to the Padres, California Angels and Atlanta Braves. He met with then-owner Ray Kroc in his hospital room about a week before Kroc passed away.
“I sat with Ray a little bit and visited with him,” Gossage said. “He said it was great to have me with the team. I wish he could have lived a little longer to enjoy the title we won that year.”
Despite his identity with the Yankees, Gossage says his time with the Padres was special. San Diego is the only city where his family lived with him year-round.
“We had a great bunch of guys that fought hard to go to the World Series,” Gossage said. “When (third baseman) Graig Nettles came, we all felt it was the final piece of the puzzle that we needed to win a championship. I still have a lot of friends in San Diego, and some of my fondest memories are from playing for the Padres.”