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Good for the Goose

I'm in the mood to wish a Happy Hanukkah to someone and since I've already written about the likes of Shawn Green, Elliott Maddox, and Norm Sherry, I thought I'd offer a friendly shout-out to former Mets catcher Greg Goossen, since obscurity seems to be our specialty here.

Goossen appeared in 99 Mets games from 1965 to 1968, serving as a third-string catcher behind Jerry Grote his first three seasons and a backup first baseman in his last Mets campaign. That he not well remembered (other than for Casey Stengel saying "He's a 20-year-old kid. In 10 years, he has a chance to be 30.") may have something to do with the fact that in those 99 games, the Mets only won 28 times (they lost 70 and tied once). In 1967, his appearance virtually assured a Mets defeat, as he played in 37 games and the New Yorkers were victors only thrice.

The next year, Goossen had a little bit more good fortune. In a season bereft of walk-off victories, Goossen had the opportunity to partake in two of three. He even played an integral role in one.

We're referring to an otherwise fairly insignificant Mets-Reds game which took place on May 16, 1968. Goossen was in the midst of a streak in which he was playing regularly, which lasted about two weeks. Since Tom Seaver was pitching, this was the kind of game that could go against the Goossen odds and be a Mets victory.

While Seaver pitched well, the Mets had offensive troubles of their own against Gerry Arrigo. With two outs in the home second, Goossen doubled, a liner that news accounts describe as having scooted under Vada Pinson's glove in center field . Jerry Buchek followed with an RBI single, scoring Goossen and producing the game's only run until the Reds tied it in the sixth on a Tony Perez single.

That 1-1 deadlock held, with both starting pitchers remaining in until the 9th inning. Seaver was sharp, escaping trouble in both the 8th and 9th inning against the likes of Johnny Bench and Pete Rose. In the home 9th, Goossen came up with two outs and nobody on and this time, he worked out a walk. Alas, Gil Hodges realized that the Mets chances of victory were better with Goossen out of the game, so he removed the first baseman for pinch-runner Don Bosch. It was Bosch who came home with the victorious run, following singles by Buchek and Tommie Agee, for whom the hit made him 12-for-99 for the season.

While the performance was good enough to earn Goossen a three-word subheadline within the text titled "Goossen Spurs Attack," such come-throughs were not good enough for him to maintain his status with the Mets. In 1969, he was sold to the Seattle Pilots, and while he was productive on a part-time basis for them, his career ended two seasons later, his batting average .241 in 193 career games.

But shed no tears for Greg Goossen because I believe his tale to be a happy one. After his baseball career, Goossen found other work. Besides assisting his brother, a boxing promoter whose clients included Mike Tyson, Goossen became a movie "star" and has enjoyed lengthy employ as stand-in for none other than Gene Hackman. He also has some good fortune this year. This year, he gets to celebrate both his birthday and Hanukkah on consecutive days, as he turned 61 this past Thursday.

True Metssen know...Gene Hackman won an Oscar for his portrayal of Popeye Doyle in the movie, The French Connection. The character was based on Eddie Egan, a New York City police detective and former minor league ballplayer, who had the distinction of being replaced upon joining the marines by Mickey Mantle.

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