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Gossage on PED users in the Hall: "I really don't know what we'd do"

Jan 13, 2010, 3:13 PM EDT

Goose Gossage.jpgSo earlier I asked if someone had Rich Gossage’s cell.
Seems someone did, and I just got off the phone with the Goose.  Nicest
guy in the world, by the way. If you’re going to talk to a Hall of Fame
reliever today, I highly recommend that you make it Gossage.

Anyway, the reason I called him was because I wanted to know, in light of his feelings on Mark McGwire and other steroid users,
what he’d think if Jose Canseco was proven right and we found out that
a current member of the Baseball Hall of Fame used performance
enhancing drugs. And Gossage was honest: he has no idea.

“I don’t really know what I’d do,” Gossage said.  “We’d have to find
out all the facts,” he said. “It’s a big dark cloud. I don’t know what
the scenario would look like.”

Gossage went on to say that it would probably depend on what the
writers did going forward with steroid users like Barry Bonds and Roger
Clemens — guys who are sure shot Hall of Famers if they hadn’t used. 
“If they let in some of those guys, I guess things are different.  What
I said about integrity yesterday still stands, but as for the Hall,
we’d have to see how the writers handled it. I can only speak for what
I believe.”

Gossage wouldn’t speculate about whether it would be appropriate to
remove someone from the Hall of Fame.  And though I didn’t ask him, he
volunteered that he has no idea what member, if any, could have
possibly used steroids, and doesn’t know one way or the other if anyone
had (he wouldn’t comment on the issue of Canseco’s credibility).

To date, no member of the Hall has ever been de-inducted, as it were,
and I could find nothing that suggests that the Hall even has a
procedure for doing so. Of course, if they wanted to, the Hall could
simply call a meeting of its board and make a rule in about five
minutes.  But let’s face it: if the Football Hall of Fame hasn’t taken
out O.J., what are the odds that the Baseball Hall of Fame would remove
a juicer?

But back to Gossage, who was gracious enough to chat with me a bit
longer than I thought he might:  He thinks that there’s a difference
between drugs of abuse and performance enhancing drugs.  He says “Dave
Parker was one of the top five baseball players I ever played with.” He
does not think that his — or Tim Raines or any other player’s –
cocaine use should be held against them in Hall of Fame voting. 
“Parker belongs,” he said. “What he did, with the cocaine, that
decreased his performance, it didn’t enhance it. If he hadn’t done that
stuff we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”  Gossage clearly thinks Parker would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer absent his mid-career cocaine-induced swoon.

“It all boils down to one word: integrity,” Gossage said.  “When it
comes to steroids, you have to talk about the records, and records are
something huge.  The home run record is the greatest record there is.”

I had to ask, of course: is Aaron still the home run king?  “In my mind
he is.  Not only was he the best. But look at where he came from. All
he did. That’s a Hall of Famer.”

I came away from our conversation with the impression that Goose
Gossage is a reasonable and level-headed guy when it comes to this
stuff. He believes what he believes, but he knows others disagree. 
He’s not out to moralize on the subject or tell others what to think.

It’s easy to get the opposite impression of the man, however, from
reading some of the reporting about him that we’ve seen in past couple
of years.  Some of that stuff has made him look like a fire-breather on
the subject of Hall of Fame standards in general and steroids in
particular. It’s enough to make one wonder if the writers who have
elicited all of those juicy quotes from him are trying to make him seem
more of a crusader than he really is.

To me he just seems sensible. But then again, he’s from Colorado, and I’ve never known anyone from Colorado who was anything but sensible.

  1. lar @ wezen-ball - Jan 13, 2010 at 3:24 PM

    Good read, Craig. Glad to see it. It’s nice to see that there’s a reasonable man there behind the media portrayals. Way to earn your extra-large bacon and pepperoni pizza today!
    I’ve gotta ask, does he have any thoughts on the differences between greenies and steroids? Or any of the differences between eras? I know we can’t expect everybody to have nuanced, easy-to-explain opinions on such edgy topics… just wondering if it was discussed at all.

  2. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 13, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    I’m kicking myself that I didn’t ask him that, lar. I suppose I should follow up with him on it.

  3. APBA Guy - Jan 13, 2010 at 3:41 PM

    Brent Mayne had something interesting about cocaine on Buster’s Blog today:
    “As in, cocaine is a DRUG. They both make you feel like superman. People are consistently undervaluing the effect of the mental edge steroids/PEDs give an athlete. At the highest levels confidence is HUGE, feeling good is HUGE.”
    Of course, over time Goose is right, cocaine is a performance decreaser when used in excess.
    But I think the Mayne may be right overall, and for Hall purposes, getting back to what Old Gator said earlier about sin, namely, sin is Sin. Is it a Hall about baseball or a Hall about morals?
    By the way Craig, nice lead follow-up. This journalism thing seems to come naturally.

  4. Chris - Jan 13, 2010 at 3:41 PM

    Did you mention to The Goose when you identified yourself that you were sitting on your couch in your pajamas? (Or did you get dressed up to talk to him? I probably would have been so nervous about talking to Goose Gossage, even on the phone, that I would have put on a tie.)

  5. Luke - Jan 13, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    Craig-that’s awesome. I loved Goose, and to talk to him would make my day!

  6. GBSimons - Jan 13, 2010 at 4:03 PM

    Way to go, Craig. I’m with lar in wanting to know Goose’s feelings re: greenies vs. steroids. A follow-up call would be great, but the question is, when? I know Seinfeld struggled with that after he met “(I’m) Keith Hernandez.”

  7. RobRob - Jan 13, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    I know he wasn’t born there, but wouldn’t you classify Hunter S. Thompson as being “from Colorado”? He was many things, but sensible was not one of them.

  8. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 13, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    He just lived there. HST was a Kentuckian, born and raised. And he definitely fits the profile of Kentuckians I know.

  9. Phil - Jan 13, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    But then again, he’s from Colorado, and I’ve never known anyone from Colorado who was anything but sensible.
    How many people from Colorado do you know? I lived there for 5 years in the ’90s smack dab in the middle between the People’s Republic of Boulder and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family whack jobs down in the Springs.
    There was the time the Bolder police shut down a presentation of the play Grand Hotel because the actors were smoking. Or the guy down in the Springs that collected miltary assult vehicles and armored half-tracks because you never know when you might need to defend yourself against Uncle Sam. Or the group of folks who used to ride around in a school bus on Sundays picking up kids out of their yards and taking them off to be baptized without their parents knowledge.
    You need to get out more, Craig. ;-)

  10. Evil EmpireE2010 - Jan 13, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    Goose is a Yankee, YOU MUST HAVE CLASS TO WEAR THE PINSTRIPES!!

  11. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 13, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    I’m rather partial to Salida and Ouray.

  12. Bear - Jan 13, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    Craig — your list of seven makes a guy think. You could make a case that any one of those guys could have used steroids — or Ripken for that matter. Adding to that line of thinking: Reggie Jackson introduced Canseco to Curtis Wenzlaff. Wenzlaff was convicted by the FBI in operation equine for distributing steroids. This alone proves nothing, but it’s a link. And maybe it’s a guy Canseco never played with. He correctly fingered A-rod and never played with him.

  13. Evil EmpireE2010 - Jan 13, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    I’m scratching Colorado off my list of places
    to visit, thanks alot Craig.

  14. Evil EmpireE2010 - Jan 13, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    Could be Ricky Henderson…….

  15. Moses Green - Jan 13, 2010 at 4:47 PM

    Bear, your comment reminds me of the disgraceful congressional testimony of Mr. Ed, where suddenly he couldn’t speak English and had to tap things out to Wilbur with his front hoof. No English, and then that Shannon Sharpe look alike had the impunity to say he wasn’t there to talk about the past. The nerve.

  16. Old Gator - Jan 13, 2010 at 4:47 PM

    The Donner Party gets my vote for most sensible folks from Colorado, or in Colorado, or whatever. When the rescuers finally reached the survivors in the Spring, they found sixteen unopened cartons of horsemeat and velveeta sandwiches in the chuck wagon.

  17. Phil - Jan 13, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    Colorado was a lovely place to live and I would live there again. But the idea that everyone was sensible, well…
    Actually all the weirdos were part of the charm. You could drive up to Nederland and it was like a time machine – 1967 and the Summer of Love all over again. And as for baseball – hard to beat a venue where you can sit down the first base line on a cool spring evening and watch the sun set over the Rockies.

  18. Bear - Jan 13, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    Moses Green, your comment makes no sense to anyone reading this blog. Are you trying to be funny? At no point did that post come close to a relevant thought, we are all now dumber after reading it, and may god have mercy on your soul.

  19. dlf - Jan 13, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    Purely speculation, but if forced at gunpoint to finger one existing HOFer as a ‘roid user, I’d be looking at Carlton Fisk. Change in physique from a guy called “Pudge” to a very muscular player; incredible increase in home runs and durability as an aged catcher; widely discussed weightlifting routine during the period when body builders were using … plus any teammate of Bill Lee had to have tried at least one illegal drug.

  20. Moses Green - Jan 13, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    I was definitely not Bear-baiting, but I seem to have attracted your dangerous attentions anyhow. I’m not trying to be funny, I’m not trying to be anything. I yam what I yam. I’m just sharing my thoughts, and that’s what your post made me think of, Congressional Equine Steroid Hearings. I put it to you, dear readers of the CTB comment board, was my response above even remotely amusing to any of you? Please vote below for the Bear, or for me, the sometime Dark Poet of Rage on the CTB Comment Boards.

  21. RoyceTheBaseballHack - Jan 13, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    Kudos, Craig. nice little write up. Dig the picture, too. One thing I missed really about your move from the original Shysterball site to HBT was the pictures you’d sometimes post. And, I like what Gossage said about Dave Parker, as well – considering him as one of the top guys playing in that time. A damned shame his career evaporated into a pile of cocaine, but still, that guy could play. I never hear or read of anyone mentioning him in discussions about the NL, during that period.

  22. archilochusColubris - Jan 13, 2010 at 7:11 PM

    Woo, Craig, i know you’ve already gotten some praise for this one, but i want to highlight why you’re like the best reporter that ever was: when you interview someone, i have a good feeling that i have an accurate understanding of their point of view.
    Strange coincidence how most people you interact with seem like sensible human beings with a particular opinion instead of raving loonies who insist that some ridiculous idea must come to fruition.
    Some serious thanks for being an intelligent head on honest shoulders.

  23. Moses Green - Jan 13, 2010 at 7:40 PM

    Woo hoo – serious man-love for the Shyster. That’s one for the bio, Craig “An intelligent (bald) head on honest shoulders.”
    I second that emotion – without CC’s fastballs here I wouldn’t have gotten so hooked on that CTB feeling.

  24. Joel Wolford - Jan 14, 2010 at 8:06 PM

    I could be wrong, but wasn’t Pudge a nickname from childhood or high school? I was a Reds fan, and clearly remember Fisk playing in the ’75 series….he didn’t seem pudgy then…..

  25. MVD - Jan 15, 2010 at 5:14 AM

    Its funny that Gossage says Hank Aaron is still the Home Run King and that Hank Aaron say that Mark McGwire belongs in the Hall Of Fame.

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