Yankee Stadium has always been hallowed ground for Goose Gossage

06/24/2014 10:27 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Since retiring, Goose Gossage has been a staple in the Bronx for Old-Timers' Day.(AP)
Rich "Goose" Gossage was immortalized with a plaque in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park on Sunday, calling it the greatest moment in a career that included 22 seasons in the majors, a 1978 World Series championship and election into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

Gossage had nine different homes (10 if you count Cooperstown) in his career, and although Yankee Stadium was only his residence for six seasons (and a brief return in 1989), it has been hallowed ground for all of the nearly 63 years he has been alive.

"When I made the White Sox in 1972, the first person I called was my mom. My father had passed away my junior year of high school, so he didn't get to see me play, but they were huge Yankees fans," Gossage recalls. "When I made that club, I remember a few hours later I thought, 'oh my god, I get to go to Yankee Stadium.' And as a visiting player with the White Sox that season was the first time I stepped into the old Yankee Stadium."

When Gossage says old, he means it; Yankee Stadium in 1972 wasn't just the old structure where Macombs Dam Park is now, it was the old structure before it was closed for renovation, the original configuration that lasted through the 1973 season.

The structure itself no longer even stands, but Gossage remembers every bit of a trip that occurred now a full 42 years ago.

"I remember the airplane ride coming into New York, and on the bus ride to the stadium, I was like a little kid," he beamed. "The bus pulls up and everybody piles off into the bowels of the stadium, and I asked the guard outside the clubhouse where the dugout was, because I wanted to see Yankee Stadium, He tells me to follow this little rubber mat down the path and into the tunnel; I did, and when I saw the daylight at the other end, the anticipation was amazing. I popped out into the dugout, and it was another out of body experience."

He also remembers the first moment he stepped out onto the field "for real," and how a moment in the fifth inning of a September 1 game felt like the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series.

"I got into the game and I could barely put one foot in front of the other," he recalled. "I got to the mound and I looked around, and the umpires were like 'come on kid, what are you doing?' but I sat there, and I was in my own little world, shaking. I didn't think my legs could hold me up, and I looked around and said 'dad, this is for you.' That was a very special moment for me."

It meant more, even, than the day in 1970 when the Sox had made him an official pro, which he recalled was the first time in his pro career he had cried.

"I negotiated my first contract when the White Sox drafted me out of high school; they offered me $5000 and I held out for $8000," he laughed, "and I cried all day the day I signed that first contract. I borrowed my brother's Jeep and went up into the foothills of the Colorado Rockies and sat there and cried under a tree, because I didn't know what I was getting myself into."

The number of tears Gossage has shed since then are uncountable, but there weren't many, at least publicly, on Sunday. Sure, there was joy, but crying would only have taken away the ear-to-ear smile he had on his face as he was added to the very same Monument Park (theoretically, anyway) that he first laid eyes in in 1972.

Even if it was a moment that made him have to pinch himself to believe it.

"I knew I was good for Colorado, but I had no idea how good I was for trying to make it to Major League Baseball," he said, "so I promised myself that first day that I would give it everything I've got, no 'coulda, woulda, shoulda' and no ifs, ands or buts. That turned into 22 years, and the rest is kind of history."

And now, that history includes a tribute to Gossage on the most hallowed section of his hallowed ground.

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