Monday, December 10, 2012

1978 TOPPS RICH GOSSAGE

AN ARTSY AIRBRUSHING.
GEORGE SCOTT  HIT A 2-RUN HR OFF GOOSE IN THAT ALL-STAR GAME.

THE FRONT PAGE

  • With the Yankees, Rich Gossage was the first fireman I remember who had a signature look: Let's call it Mega-Machismo. With bushy hair, a gunman's scowl and later a prominent mustache, he took the mound looking like he just drowned the batboy in the clubhouse toilet. When he entered the Bronx Zoo, it was perfection, in an evil sort of way.

THE BACK PAGE

  • "He throws extremely hard.'' Yes, he did. 
  • Like steals, Topps didn't think the save was a noteworthy stat.
  • He was coming off a 26-save season with the Pirates when George Steinbrenner, who already had '77 Cy Young winner Sparky Lyle anchoring the pen, signed him as a free agent because, I guess, you can never have enough toys -- or unhappy players.

PHOTO PLAY

  • One of the better airbrushing jobs; looks like a painting.
  • That No. 54, which he wore throughout his career, was appropriate, a linebacker's number. 
  • He was all arms and legs coming to the plate, looking like he was trying to throw each pitch through a cement wall.

EXTRA, EXTRA 

  • Goose and George Brett always will be tied together in my mind. They had some legendary showdowns, like the Pine Tar Game in '83, but the one that stands out most occurred in Game 3 of the '80 ALCS. Brett crushed a three-run upper-decker in the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium that helped the Royals sweep the series and earn a measure of payback; the Yanks had eliminated them three consecutive years ('76-'78).
  • Gossage said years later that he actually flinched after Brett made contact because of the sound. 
  • Elected to the Hall of Fame in '08, Gossage is sensitive, as he should be, about his ranking among all-time great firemen. He was from the generation that had to actually pitch a few innings to get a save, unlike the modern-day one-inning closers. 
  • Goose pitched 21 seasons and finished with 310 saves, fourth all-time when he retired after the '94 season. He is third all-time in wins in relief with 115 and innings pitched with 1,556 2/3. He's also first in blown saves with 112. 
  • He got the final out to clinch either a division, pennant or World Series seven times.
  • In the late '70s with the Yankees, he paired with Ron Davis to form what is now the common set-up/closer bullpen. 
  • Then there was Game 5 of the '84 World Series when Gossage was the Padres' closer. Down a run in the eighth inning and runners on second and third, he talked Manager Dick Williams into letting him face Kirk Gibson, who had already homered in the game. There's a famous clip of Tigers manager Sparky Anderson yelling to Gibson incredulously, "He don't want to walk you!'' Gibson then blasted a homer to clinch the Series win. Isn't it funny how closers are known at least as much for failures as successes? But, like most stalwart firemen, Goose always rebounded to fight another day.

EARNED HIS NICKNAME FOR THE WAY HE 
LOOKED WHEN GETTING SIGNS FROM THE CATCHER.

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