Richard Michael "Goose" Gossage (born July 5, 1951 in Colorado Springs, Colorado) was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 9th round of the 1970 amateur draft. Gossame made his major league debut in April of 1972 with the White Sox. Goose Gossage played 22 seasons from 1972 to 1994 for nine different teams, spending his best years with the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was one of the earliest examples of a dominating modern closer, with wild facial hair and a gruff demeanor to go along with his blistering fastball. He led the American League in saves three times and was runnerup twice; by the end of the 1987 season he ranked second in major league history in career saves, trailing only Rollie Fingers, although by the end of his career his final total of 310 had slipped to fourth all-time. Respected for his impact in crucial games, he recorded the final out to clinch a division, league or World Series title seven times. His eight All-Star selections as a reliever were a record until Mariano Rivera passed him in 2008; he was also selected once as a starting pitcher.
The New York Yankees of the late 1970s and early 1980s arguably pioneered the set-up/closer configuration, which is used by every team today. One difference between Gossage and more recent closers is that Gossage often pitched as many as three innings to finish a game, while modern closers typically pitch only the ninth inning. During his career, Gossage pitched in 1,002 games and finished 681 of them, earning 310 saves.
Gossage led the American League in saves in 1975 (26), 1978 (27) and 1980 (33). On October 2, 1978, he earned the save in the Yankees' dramatic one-game playoff against the Boston Red Sox for the AL East title, entering with one out in the seventh inning and a 4-2 lead following Bucky Dent's legendary home run; although he allowed two runs in the eighth inning, he held on to preserve the 5-4 victory, getting Carl Yastrzemski to pop up to third baseman Graig Nettles with two out and two men on base in the ninth inning to clinch the division championship. He missed some of the 1979 season with the Yankees due to a thumb injury sustained in a locker-room fight with teammate Cliff Johnson. Ron Guidry, the reigning Cy Young Award winner, volunteered to go to the bullpen to replace him. Gossage recorded saves in all three Yankee victories in the 1981 AL Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, not allowing a run in 6%u2154 innings, and he was again the final pitcher when they clinched the 1981 pennant against the Oakland Athletics. In eight of his first 10 seasons as a closer, Gossage's ERA was less than 2.27. Over his career, right-handed hitters hit a minuscule .211 against him. In 1984, Gossage clinched another title, earning the save in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series and sending the Padres to their first World Series; after San Diego had scored four runs in the seventh inning to take a 6-3 lead against the Chicago Cubs, Gossage pitched the final two innings, getting Keith Moreland to hit into a force play for the final out. On August 4, 1994, Gossage became the third pitcher in major league history to appear in 1,000 games.
Goose Gossage was one of the few pitchers who employed basically just one pitch, a fastball. However, his fastball was one of the best of all time, routinely throwing in the 98 - 102 mph range in his prime, with pinpoint accuracy. Even into his 40s, in the early 1990s, he still threw regularly in the mid-90s, though he did not close games as often as he did in his youth, serving as a capable and intimidating setup man. Goose Gossage was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008, receiving 86% of the total votes.