Take a gander at The Goose: He's still bringing it in clutch

May 10, 1994|By Jerome Holtzman | Jerome Holtzman,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- The Goose is hanging in. Jeff Reardon was released last week. Three weeks ago, it was good bye for Dave Righetti and Bobby Thigpen. Dennis Eckersley is struggling: three blown saves and three losses.

In Detroit Sunday, Goose Gossage was summoned in the seventh inning. One-run lead, one out, tying and winning runs on base, Travis Fryman and Cecil Fielder coming up. The Goose fanned Fryman. He knocked down Fielder with his first pitch, then struck him out. Two batters, two strikeouts.

"He was throwing 93-94 mph," reported Ron Fairly, the former major-league player now a broadcaster with the Seattle Mariners. "The Goose is amazing. He just keeps going."

Gossage caught on with Seattle, his seventh big-league club, in the final week of spring training. When he arrived last night with the Mariners at Comiskey Park, I asked him if he was throwing almost as hard as ever.

Not true, the Goose said. When he was in his prime, his fastball was often clocked anywhere from 98 to 102 m.p.h.

"I don't pay much attention to it anymore," he said.

But he conceded he's in the low 90s, ever since Seattle pitching coach Sammy Ellis corrected a flaw in his delivery.

"I was extending my arm too far from my shoulder," Gossage revealed. "It's like arm wrestling with your arm extended. No power there."

In the long ago, the prevalent belief was that a heavy-duty reliever couldn't have two good years in a row; he would throw his arm out. It was an old wives' tale.

Gossage, 43 in July, is in his 25th professional season, 21 years in the majors and another in Japan, and has never had a serious arm problem. He has been in 974 big-league games; the last 786 appearances have been in relief, most of them under pressure, the game on the line, when strikeouts were needed.

"I've been blessed," Gossage said. "Good pitching mechanics, good genetics."

But there's something else equally, or more important. The Goose is a ferocious competitor. Always has been.

I asked if the fire is still burning.

"When the fire isn't burning, you're done," he replied. "Yesterday, in Detroit, my adrenaline couldn't have been any higher."

"You can take the mule out of the engine," said Chris Bosio, one of the Mariners' starting pitchers, "but you can't take the heart out of the mule. That's what the Goose is -- a warhorse."

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