To some, Rich “Goose” Gossage needs no introduction.
He has that trademark mustache, a Hall of Fame Major League Baseball career with nine teams, and an unforgettable outspoken and unapologetic approach to sharing his views on the game he loves.
Wednesday at Isotopes Park, the 6-foot-3 Gossage donned a crisp, clean No. 54 New York Yankees jersey while he gave an impassioned 15-minute speech to a group of two dozen kids from Albuquerque and Rio Rancho Boys & Girls Clubs about the beauty of baseball, pursuing their dreams and using the sport to conquer their fears.
When the Hall of Famer was done, he took questions and one young girl’s right hand instantly darted in the air above her head.
“Do we get to meet Orbit?”
The all-time great pitcher was quickly told Orbit was the mascot of Albuquerque’s Triple-A franchise and said he’d like to meet Orbit as well.
Gossage, who also had a rather impassioned session with local media earlier in the day (see below), was speaking to the kids on behalf of Grassroots Baseball Route 66 Tour, an initiative to bring instructive clinics, free gloves and balls (all available Wednesday to the kids on hand) and the opportunity to meet some of the game’s all-time greats in an effort to promote, celebrate and grow amateur baseball.
Co-founders Jeff Idelson, formerly the President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and Jean Fruth, one of baseball’s longtime elite photographers, had their new venture make a stop Wednesday in Albuquerque — a first-time stop for both despite lifetimes of travel around the world working in baseball.
“As I was traveling around shooting professional baseball — traveling the world shooting major league baseball and professional baseball around the world, I always took time to shoot the amateur game — the grassroots game,” said Fruth.
As she did, a soft spot in her heart began to grow for amateur baseball in all forms, from little league to adult rec-leagues or just kids playing in dirt lots with sticks.
Teaming with Idelson, the two decided to try to grow the game in cities without MLB teams.
“When you think about the pillars of American culture, you think of Americana which is Route 66 and you think of baseball,” Idelson said. “Nothing ties American culture together like baseball and Route 66. At the same time, you have these forgotten smaller towns … where the game isn’t promoted and celebrated.”
More information on the Grassroots Baseball Route 66 Tour can be found on GrassrootsBaseball.com.
Goose is loose
Prior to talking and helping teach the kids on the field, Gossage held court with local media like only he can.
Among the topics:
THE GAME TODAY: “I don’t know what they’re playing today. I don’t even recognize it. It’s very distressing to me to see the changes in the game. I think they’re unwarranted changes. We had it right for more than 100 years and now we’re seeing something that I don’t even know. We’ve got a strike zone on the TV. It just drives me crazy. Replay? Who’s died in the last 100 years because of replay? Why do we need replay? Leave it alone.”
• • •
“The nerds have created this. … They’ve created this 100 pitch count (thing). When we made $20,000 we didn’t break down. We built up arms strength and we built up endurance. Five innings and you’re gone? And now you turn it over and have eight relievers come in and it takes four hours to play. It’s a joke.”
ON HANK AARON: “There isn’t a classier man on the planet than Hank Aaron and the cheaters broke his record. Bonds broke his record. It’s like the most sacred record of all. They oughta reinstate his record. Bonds did it cheating. It shouldn’t be.”
PETE ROSE A HALL OF FAMER?: “No. He broke the cardinal rule of gambling. I love Pete Rose. It’s only a formality. He’d be in the Hall of Fame. He’s one of the greatest players ever, but he broke the cardinal rule. …
“If you really stop to think about it, it’s the only thing that could really ruin the game. I could go out and kill somebody and it’s going to ruin my life, but it’s not going to ruin baseball. If we thought the game was being manipulated by gambling, what would it mean?”
(Note: Gossage struck Rose out in Rose’s final career at-bat on Aug. 17, 1986.)
HALL OF FAMERS ON STEROIDS: “If it ever comes out that they did steroids, I think they oughta take their plaque down.”