In lieu of actual baseball, I’ll be posting snippets that were cut from The Baseball Codes as a way of amusing myself and, hopefully, you. Today’s theme: Criticizing teammates.
Goose Gossage had a rough initiation with the New York Yankees in 1978, losing three games and blowing two saves in his first seven appearances after signing a rich free-agent contract to take over the closer’s duties from defending Cy Young Award-winner Sparky Lyle.
Things got so bad that as Gossage was being ferried to the mound in the Yankee Stadium bullpen cart before one of his appearances, center fielder Mickey Rivers threw himself across the hood of the vehicle, impeding its progress. Gossage screamed at the outfielder to get off the hood, to no avail. “No, don’t bring him in again, don’t bring him in!” wailed Rivers, as recounted in Bob Cairns’ Pen Men. When an umpire ordered him off the vehicle, all Rivers could say was, “We’re gonna lose. Sure as hell, Mr. Umpire, we’re going to lose this game.”
Ever the competitor, Gossage wasn’t about to take it passively. “Get your ass off of this car and get ready to chase down line drives!” he yelled, with a surprising amount of self-deprecation as possible for somebody being shown up in front of a stadium full of people.
True to form, a line drive was hit into the right-center-field gap, with the batter kept from extra bases only by a spectacular, diving catch by Rivers. When the team returned to the dugout after the inning, recalled Gossage in his book, The Goose is Loose, Rivers stopped at the top step and, loud enough for the entire bench to hear, announced, “Hey, where’s the Goose? You know, he told me to be ready to run one down. That motherfucker wasn’t kidding, was he?”
Even Gossage saw the humor, and used the moment to help turn his season around, finishing the year with 10 wins, 27 saves and a 2.01 ERA.