I had the honor of sitting down with MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Rich “Goose“ Gossage, who is currently partnering with Hormel Foods, as they promote a “No-Hassle” tailgate in advance of the 2015 MLB All-Star Game. “Goose” was the most interesting interview I’ve ever done, and I wish I would’ve had more time with him, but we were able to cover a number of topics in the 15 minutes I had with him. For the purposes of this interview dialogue, RantSports will be defined as “RS,” and “Goose” Gossage will be “GG.”
RS: You pitched 22 years in the major leagues, 21 of which were as a reliever, how did you end up as a starter during the 1976 season with the Chicago White Sox?
GG: I had already come into my own as a reliever in 1975, as I won the “Fireman” of the Year award. Back in those days, you did not want to be in the bullpen. It was a junk-pile old starters went to who couldn’t start anymore, but it had started to really evolve into the more specialized position it has become, even more specialized today than it was back then. I still had my sights set on starting, 1976 rolled around, Roland Hemond, the general manager, called me and said “Listen, we need arms in the rotation, would you mind moving into the starting rotation?” I said no, I’ll do whatever you guys want me to do, and that’s how it evolved that I would go into the rotation. I enjoyed it. I had 14 or 15 complete games that year, and had a great year, I thought, as a starter. It was probably the worst team I ever played on in the big leagues. We couldn’t catch the ball and didn’t have any offense, but the following year, Chuck Tanner traded for me in Pittsburgh, and that’s when they moved me into the bullpen. When I got the call from Tanner, he said “Hey, we traded for you, and you’re back in the bullpen.” I didn’t like the four or five days off between starts, I loved to come to the ballpark with the opportunity to get in the game that night, in a big situation, with the game on the line. I had become to love that, and it was music to my ears to be put back in the bullpen.
RS: I know you used mostly a fastball during your appearances, but did you ever consider developing another pitch as a strikeout pitch?
GG: With the length of my appearances, it’s not like the guys today. Most of the workload has been taken off, you see the set-up guy pick up such an important part in the success of your team, and now your closer is kept specifically for the ninth inning, so he stays available all week, and stays fresh. We didn’t have that luxury. Let me tell you, those were grueling outs, every out, every pitch was maximum-effort. Every pitch the game was on the line, and that may start in the sixth-inning, coming into a bases-loaded situation, where I couldn’t even allow the ball to be put in play. That’s where I really shined, was getting those key strikeouts in key situations, and then finishing the game. Possibly finishing up the seventh, eight and ninth innings, if I came into the seventh and got out of that jam, then I’d have to go back out and pitch the eight and ninth. They say Mariano’s the greatest closer of all time, I wasn’t a closer, so don’t even put me in that category; I take offense to that.
RS: Do you ever wish you would have intentionally walked Kirk Gibson in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series like your manager Dick Williams wanted you to?
GG: No, no, not at all. I’m not making excuses, but I hadn’t pitched in seven days. How many times do these closers today go seven days without pitching? They don’t. I hadn’t pitched in seven days. I don’t think I was as sharp as I could’ve been. I hadn’t pitched in the World Series yet, so I had to get my feet on the ground. And now, I had to get my feet on the ground facing Gibson, and possibly elimination from the World Series, so it was the last nail in the coffin, that home run to Gibson. I had tremendous success against Kirk, and that was my idea of why I didn’t want to walk him. I’ll go to my grave, maybe I’m stupid, but I would face Kirk Gibson again in that situation. He got me that time. That Detroit Tiger team was one of the best teams. We had some guys out, Kevin McReynolds was hurt, and he was our big thumper too, and so we missed some key guys in that World Series. Detroit that year, started out 35-5, or 35-3, or some sort of crazy record to start off the season, and they just went right through the league and had a great season, and the World Series was no different. I think it would’ve been different if we had a couple more of our key players that were injured. We weren’t deep, and no team is going to miss a couple of their starters, and fill those gaps. I think we ran into a buzz-saw with that Detroit team. I’m not making excuses, they beat us fair and square, and I was the culprit that gave up the winning home run. Hey, you have to have a short memory, it’s a beautiful thing.
RS: What are your thoughts on fan voting in the All-Star Game with home-field advantage in the World Series on the line?
GG: I have never agreed with the All-Star Game dictating home-field advantage in the World Series. I feel that was a huge mistake and I think it’s a bunch of b.s. If they’re going to do that, then lets play good old-fashioned hardball like the National League and American League used to do. I think inter-league play has diminished that rivalry between the National League and American League. I had the privilege of playing in both leagues, and I noticed a little edge, as the National League wanted to win. Now, I think the winner of the All-Star Game dictates who is going to get home-field advantage in the World Series is very wrong, and I think the game is manipulated by the fans. I don’t think they should change giving the fans a vote, but giving home-field advantage to the winner, I think that is wrong. Maybe the team with the best record in the National or American League should get home-field advantage.
RS: What are your thoughts on Pete Rose, and whether he should be reinstated into baseball?
GG: We learned as young players, do not gamble on the game or you will be suspended. I think Pete thought he was bigger than the game. I don’t think he thought anyone was going to do anything to him. I think Pete’s gambling, there’s more to the story than we will ever know, I’ve always said that from day one. Finally, Pete came clean that he gambled on the game, and I don’t think he should be elected into the Hall of Fame. If Pete is elected into the Hall of Fame, then gambling and everything else, the horse is out of the barn. An old man told me one time that there’s a paddle for everyone’s a**, and the Hall of Fame is probably Pete’s paddle.
RS: What are your thoughts on instant replay?
GG: Instant replay? I hate it. I absolutely hate instant replay. They’re going to do away with the umpires eventually, I think that’s where we are headed. People will say a kid lost his perfect game, or a World Series game was lost by a bad call. Who has died because of a bad call? Everybody likes the manager to come out and argue calls and get kicked out of a game. It fires up the game, it fires up the fans to see an argument. I think a lot of the character is lost out of the game because of instant replay. A lot of times, they look at the plays and you can’t even tell on replay, so leave it up to the umpires. The umpires do a great job, but I think there has to be a little more pressure on the umpires to do their jobs. These guys, it seems like they get a job, they get it forever. I think there has to be measures put in that puts more pressure on the umpires to do a great job. We had tremendous umpires back in my day. I didn’t want to know who was behind the plate, because I didn’t want that to be a mental issue with me out there on the mound. We had tremendous umpires back in the day, and I think that’s lost today, the pressure put on umpires. Their jobs are minimized now, to the point they get to look at the video tape, and there’s no pressure on the umpires to do a good job. I don’t like it, I hate it. It slows down the game, it’s boring, and a lot of the times you can’t even tell on replay. Leave it up to the umpires, and put the character back in the game. It’s losing character right and left, as far as I’m concerned. One point that I made about the kid (Armando Galarraga) that lost the perfect game, that kid’s more famous for not pitching the perfect game, then for pitching it, so what’s the big deal? They are changing the game today, to the point where it’s not even the same game. The numbers don’t match up. 500 home runs don’t mean what 500 home runs used to mean because they manipulated the game to put more offense in the game, and now the old numbers pale in comparison to what the numbers are today. I don’t think it’s because the players are better. Ballparks are smaller, you can’t pitch inside, you can’t come close to the hitter, the hitters are protected. The first thing hitters used to think about was they might get knocked on their a**. The last thing these guys think about at the plate is that they might get knocked on their a**, and when they do get knocked on their a**, they take exception to it, and they want to fight. Back in the day, guys got up and tried to hit a line-drive off your face, that’s what they tried to do, and that’s the difference in the game today. I think the game has gotten soft in a lot of areas. You can’t block home-plate, are you serious? Tell Pete Rose, and those guys back in the day. They’ve let money manipulate the game to the point that it’s not even the same game. They’ve got so much money tied up in these players, you can’t let money change the face of baseball, and it has.
RS: Can you tell me a little bit about your partnership with Hormel Foods, and the “No-Hassle” tailgating?
GG: I’ve been a fan of Hormel Foods since I was a little kid. As far back as I can remember, Hormel chili was my favorite. Our family, living here in Colorado, we live such an active lifestyle, and Hormel Foods is a perfect way to take stuff with you in backpacks, tailgating, obviously tailgating, Hormel Foods goes great with that. Hormel Gatherings, we use those here when we have gatherings at our house. The Hormel Rev Wraps are new, they sustain energy, it’s real meat, real cheese. The Hormel Natural Choice Meats are lunch meats, with real cheeses and no added nitrates or nitrites, and are very healthy for your family. Hormel Foods’ products are great, and in summer time, I like to take them out on the rivers with me fly fishing, backpacking, and even in the fall and winter, when we go hunting, we take them in our backpacks. I’ve been a fan of Hormel Foods all my life, and they’ve come out with some great products in the meantime, and they’re still continuing to evolve.
For your next no-hassle major league tailgate, make sure you pack Skippy Peanut Butter, which is great for making a pre-game PB&J sandwich for the kids. If you’re tailgating with a group of friends, try Hormel Gatherings Party Trays, which comes ready to eat, with pre-cut cheeses, meats, and crackers for a convenient tailgate. To sustain energy throughout the game, consider Hormel Rev Wraps, which combines real meat and cheese plus 15 grams of protein or more in a wrap. These delicious wraps are ready to go and fit right into your jacket or purse. For a delicious preservative-free option, try Hormel Natural Choice Meats, to make great-tasting, all-natural sandwiches or snacks that you and your family can feel good about.