|Delighted Tanner calls protege Gossage `My Marilyn Monroe'|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 08 January 2008 23:32|
Not in the starting rotation, where the good young arms of the day went. No, manager Chuck Tanner stuck him in the bullpen alongside fellow wunderkind Terry Forster, along with assorted junkballers, mopup men and demoted starters.
Tanner, always ahead of his time in handling a bullpen, knew that as important as the outs in the first and second innings were, they were more important still in the eighth and ninth.
It was a Hall of Fame decision.
``Roland Hemond and I had gone to see him pitch at Appleton when he was 18-2 and I said, 'Sheesh, I don't care if he's 14 years old, I want him,''' Tanner said Tuesday, referring to the former White Sox general manager. ``He had so much confidence, with that 100-mph fastball and the way he went after hitters. I said, 'He's going to be the guy who carries us.'''
Gossage left the bullpen for only one season during the rest of a dominating career that became complete Tuesday when he became only the fifth reliever elected to baseball's Hall of Fame.
``That's just the greatest news,'' said Tanner, who recently rejoined the Pirates as a special adviser to the general manager. ``He should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was the Sandy Koufax of the bullpen. You weren't going to hit him and you weren't going to beat him.''
Luckily for Tanner, his successor as the White Sox's manager, Paul Richards, made Gossage and Forster into starters, and bad ones at that with a combined 11-29 record in 1976. Their poor seasons allowed the Pirates to trade for Gossage and Forster shortly after Tanner became their manager before the 1977 season.
With his Fu Manchu mustache and don't-dare-look-at-me scowl, Gossage quickly developed into the most feared reliever of his time with 310 saves - 52 of seven outs or more. When he entered a game, more often in the seventh or eighth inning than the ninth, a female ball girl walked a goose in foul territory at Three Rivers Stadium.
``We wanted them to know, 'The Goose is here. And your goose is cooked,''' Tanner said, laughing.
Gossage signed a big-money free agent contract with the Yankees and went on to win the World Series in 1978. But if Pittsburgh had offered close to the money the Yankees did, Tanner is certain he would have had Gossage and Kent Tekulve in the bullpen of his 1979 World Series champions.
``He wanted to stay. I'm sure he wouldn't have left,'' Tanner said. ``But I couldn't do that to him. The Pirates wouldn't give him the money and I couldn't tell him to stay. I remember thinking, 'You just cost yourself a job.'''
Tanner said he got goose bumps - no pun intended - when he learned the news about Goose, a man he considers to be another son.
``I remember one time in spring training in Sarasota, he came to me and said, 'Hey, Chuck, I can pitch better than anybody on this staff,''' Tanner said. ``I put him up against the wall and said, 'Who the hell do you think you are? Show me, baby, don't talk to me about it!' You know what? He loved that. It made him more determined.''
Tanner treated him like a son, too.
Closers of the day almost never pitched one inning, with Gossage working 133 innings in 72 games in 1977. While he pitched five innings that season in an extra-inning game, there was only one sequence in which he pitched multiple innings on consecutive days.
``I knew what I had,'' Tanner said.
Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew of Minnesota knew, too.
``He said, 'When you play the White Sox, you'd better get to them by the seventh. If you don't, put your bats in the bag. Goose is coming in, and you might as well go home,''' Tanner related. ``That was a Hall of Famer talking.''
Tanner credits former White Sox star Dick Allen with strongly influencing Gossage, emphasizing to him the importance of pitching inside. Former White Sox pitching coach Johnny Sain also was a major help, working with Gossage to develop a changeup.
``He was the most dominating reliever I ever saw. He looked like he was 10 feet tall,''' Tanner said. ``I kidded him once and told him he was my Marilyn Monroe. He looked at me and said, 'What?' And I said, 'I know I'm never going to take her out. I'm never going to take you out, either.'''
The Goose received 466 of 543 votes (85.8 percent) of the vote in his ninth time on the ballot, easily surpassing the necessary 75 percent threshold.
Jim Rice was passed over yet again in his next-to-last year on the ballot, getting 392 votes (72.2 percent), up from 346 (63.5 percent) last year but 16 short.
``Today's results are obviously a disappointment,'' Rice said in a statement. ``I believe my accomplishments speak for themselves, and a majority of the voters seem to agree. It is tough to come this close, but I remain hopeful for the 2009 results.''