Miles away, Yanks cheer for Goose
Players, coaches watch former closer inducted in Hall of Fame
BOSTON -- Goose Gossage looked out from a podium at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. A four-hour drive away at Fenway Park, the Yankees hung on to his every word.
An assemblage of Bronx Bombers players and personnel huddled around a flat-screen television in the visiting clubhouse on Sunday afternoon, absorbing Gossage's remarks on his induction day for the sport's most exclusive club.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Gossage's memories about growing up with baseball dreams struck a familiar chord. So many schoolboys have done that, of course, but Gossage's remarks reinforced to Girardi just how fortunate he is.
"You pay closer attention to every word and you get locked in," Girardi said. "You're happy for guys that you've played with or been friends with and being able to reach that achievement.
"A lot of people believe that he should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer because of what he did, and he was kind of a pioneer. I believe that as well. Now that he's in, I don't think he really cares how he got there. He's a great Hall of Famer, and he brought a lot of excitement to a lot of people."
Gossage was inducted wearing a Yankees cap on his plaque, and he has maintained his connection to the organization, for whom he pitched with from 1978-83 and again briefly in '89.
"I've known Goose for a long time, since I came up here," Derek Jeter said. "Goose and I have always had a good relationship. That's one of the things you get spoiled with being with this team is that you've got all of the old players coming back.
"I've enjoyed spending time with Goose and with his son coming in all the time, so I'm extremely happy for him. It should have happened years ago, but I'm happy that he's finally got what he deserves."
Gossage had commitments this spring related to his pending induction, but Girardi welcomed him to Yankees camp as a guest instructor with open arms.
"I just told Goose, talk to the guys and do your thing," Girardi said. "Goose had some prior arrangements because of the Hall of Fame. I just said, 'You know what, Goose? Whenever you can be here, I just want you here.' I loved having him around."
Of course, the always-opinionated Gossage can still unload a few fastballs now and again. Joba Chamberlain has been one of his favorite topics to discuss in the current game, believing that Chamberlain's value to the Yankees is best as a late-inning reliever and also stating earlier this season that the 22-year-old should tone down his enthusiastic celebrations on the field.
Chamberlain and Gossage had a telephone conversation in April to hammer out that prominent disagreement. On Sunday, Chamberlain said that having Gossage around in Spring Training had been a "great" experience, and he watched with great interest from the leather couch in the clubhouse.
"That's the reason you're playing the game, to be in the Hall of Fame," Chamberlain said. "If you're in the game for 22 years, you're doing something right. Just to see all of the people that have played with him, obviously that means a lot to him, because that's the kind of guy Goose is."
Current third-base coach Bobby Meacham was a 23-year-old rookie with the '83 Yankees, Gossage's final full season in pinstripes, and he said that the hard-throwing closer played prominently in memories of Meacham's first stints in a big league uniform.
"He's one of the guys that I didn't forget," Meacham said. "I was only here for a portion of one year with him, but he was the first guy to say, 'Welcome to the team,' when I got called up. When I got sent down, he said, 'Hey, good luck down there and hurry back.' He made a point to welcome me and wish me well on my way out. He's a class act on top of an unbelievable pitcher."
Gossage's remarks regarding Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner also drew Meacham's attention.
"One thing that stood out was the way that he was thankful to Steinbrenner," Meacham said. "I think all of us feel like that playing for George. When you're here, you don't get it or you're mad at him and wonder what the heck he's trying to do. But when you leave, you realize that this is the one atmosphere that winning is the one core of everything you do."
For the record, Jeter said that he has been to Cooperstown once before as a small child, though he did not remember much of the trip. Watching Gossage look out with the red, white and blue backdrop of the Hall of Fame logo did not inspire Jeter to take notes for a possible future speech.
"It never crosses my mind," Jeter said. "I'm just trying to make it through the day."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.