Thursday, March 3, 2011

Goose Gossage among the Pineapples

After meeting Joe Torre at the Bronx Zoo and his book signing in '98, I found I was definitely bitten by the autograph experience bug.  My girlfriend and I were on the hunt to find more opportunities to meet sports figures and get an idea of who they were outside of their sport.
The interesting thing is my girlfriend (now wife) grew up in Queens, and was a die-hard Mets fan.  I grew up just north of the Bronx and have always been a true blue Yankee fan.  The Joe Torre meeting was a great experience for both of us, as I knew him as the Yankee Skipper, and she remembered him fondly blowing big pink bubbles in the Mets dugout in the mid-late 70's.
I just knew she didn't follow the Yankees back then.  I was quite surprised when she informed me that Goose Gossage was going to be at a local Shoprite supermarket to do a free signing.
"How do you even know who he is?" I asked her.
"I was a Mets fan, I wasn't dead," she replied.  "I saw the sports highlight reels.  I am familiar with classic, great players."  Duhhhhhhh.....
A supermarket?  Really?!  I was reluctant, but we trudged out to Warwick, NY, a good 45 minute drive from our house.  What was the great Yankee reliever doing out there in the sticks anyway?
When we got there, we were directed to the produce department.  There, among the pineapples and grapefruits was a rectangular table and two chairs, and a line of mostly men my age with their sons.
Mr. Gossage was late to the signing, and practically ran through the store with his assistant, who was lugging a box of 8x10 photos.  He immediately apologized to the small crowd of 45 people for being tardy.
We were at the middle of the line, and probably had to wait about an hour before we got to meet him.  So I really got a good idea of who Gossage was as a sports figure. 
Gossage was actually spending a good 5 minutes with each person on the line.  He would shake hands with the adults, but he would really focus on the kids.  The amazing thing was, most of them weren't old enough to have seen him play.  But he knew most of them played the game themselves, or were fans of the Yankees.
So he would ask the kids who their favorite player was, what position did they like to play and who they admired.  He took pictures, sometimes a few at a time with them, shook their hands and told them to practice.
I don't really remember much else from that signing.  But I learned that Gossage loved his fans, and fans of the sport of baseball.  And all of that 9 years before he was voted into the Hall of Fame.

For a continuation of this story, check out Goose Gossage Part II:


  1. What a great story! Isn't it great when a well known sports figure really takes the time to connect with the fans? Even better when it comes to kids.

  2. Great story having watched goose sign during spring training last year I was amazed at how long he stood there signing and talking to everyone..a legend who really gets it...all around good Guy!

  3. And to clarify: I am a Mets fan, but I love the Yankees too. I just didn't follow them in the 70's and 80's because my Dad used to harass me about loving the "muts." He piped down in 1986. :)

  4. Great story. Great player