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Bad for the Goose, Bad for the Gander

I think that one of the factors that hurt Rich Gossage's Hall of Fame candidacy is that he hung around the game a bit too long. Whether or not he deserves to be punished for that is a matter for another discussion, but he's topical, or was last week at least, when Gossage griped to anyone who would listen that he should have been elected along with Bruce Sutter.

The freshest memory I have of Gossage is not that of the dominant, overpowering Hall of Fame worthy closer, who was one of the key members of World Series bound Yankees and Padres squad, but rather of a chunky, over the hill, overthrower who played a role in one of the weirdest walk-offs in Mets history.

The game to which I am referring took place on May 19, 1989 between the Mets and San Francisco Giants. The Mets were a first-place team at that point in the season with hopes of defending their 1988 National League East Division title. David Cone started for the Flushing 9 that day and had to really battle his way through the first inning. The Giants scored once but left the bases loaded, then extended their lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning on a home run by Earnest Riles.

Giants starter Don Robinson was pretty good (he always seemed to pitch well against the Mets, to the tune of a 2.43 career ERA) but not totally flawless. He yielded an unearned run in the fourth and then a game-tying home run to Darryl Strawberry in the sixth. Robinson ceded to Jeff Brantley after six innings and Brantley got through the next two frames unscathed, matching Cone, who got better as the game went along. Southpaws Randy Myers and Craig Lefferts survived the ninth innings, with Lefferts dancing around a runner-on-third-one-out-jam so this one went the bonus baseball route, even at two.

Things got dicey for Myers in the top of the 10th inning as he loaded the bases with two outs, but a double switch had moved Riles out of the game and Myers got his replacement, Ed Jurak to fly out harmlessly to right field to end the threat.

Lefferts tried to work through a second inning and got the first two outs without issue, but then suddenly his control disappeared. He walked lefty-swinging Len Dykstra, then gave Tim Teufel, pinch-hitting for Gregg Jefferies, a free pass as well. Giants manager Roger Craig sensed that Lefferts was gassed and yanked him. In came barely-used 36-year-old Gossage, whose better days were long since in the past, to pitch to Howard Johnson.

Johnson barely had to lift the bat off his shoulder. He walked on five pitches to load the bases and set up a battle between Gossage and Strawberry with the game on the line. When 'The Goose' was in the prime of his career, this was the type of moment in which he thrived, and the same could be said for Strawberry. But as classic confrontations go, this one was a total dud. One of the signs that Gossage was over the hill was that he lost his ability to find the strike zone. In this instance he threw four pitches to Strawberry, none of which were close to the plate (think Kenny Rogersesque). The Mets won the game on a bases-loaded walk.

In fairness, Gossage wasn't really that bad during the tail end of his career and it probably is a little bit of a stretch to say that it was performances like this that hurt his Hall of Fame cause, but I didn't get to see him dominate quite as much as I'm guessing some of my readers did. I don't remember him so much for gooseeggs as I do for this one particular Goose egg and that may explain why I don't feel an overwhelming amount of passion towards encouraging more support for his candidacy.

True Metssages know...Rich Gossage was the losing pitcher in the Padres-Mets game on August 27, 1986, best known for a game-ending, 11th-inning 8-2-5 double play turned by Len Dykstra, John Gibbons and Howard Johnson.


Metstradamus said…
I knew I was at this game...but for some reason I thought he was with San Diego when he did that. Thank you for reminding me he was a Giant.

And to think they made the series that season.
Luis said…
I saw the Goose in his prime-scrarily intimidating- in 78 wi the Yankees he had 2 relief outings of FIVE innings and one of SEVEN!!!(courtesy of retrosheet)
Anonymous said…
I remember this game well. I was a few weeks shy of my 10th birthday and it was the first time I'd ever seen a walk-off walk. When Goose threw the third ball, I remember wondering if it was indeed possible for a game to end with a walk. Thanks Goose for answering that question!

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