Goose Gossage Rips Big Contracts, Standing Ovations for Players Suspended Over PED Use

Ryan Braun
Ryan Braun
Mark J Rebilas USA TODAY Sports

Many pitchers intimidated batters with their high, hard actions, but Goose Gossage is the guy who most looked the part.

All arms and legs angrily coming together to hurl his heater with a scowl to match, Gossage saved games on both stuff and reputation for a memorable period from the mid-1970s until the late 1980s. And he had between-the-eyes opinions to match. The combo booked him a front-row seat in the Hall of Fame.

The Goose’s fastball has long since disappeared. But his liberal exercise of the First Amendment is as sharp as ever in his early 60s. Call him at his Colorado home to ask if specific requirements involving PED users coming up for Hall of Fame votes should be put down in writing – the subject of years of debate by voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

The qualifier by the caller from Chicago was Mark McGwire working in his second hitting coach’s job, with the Dodgers, since admitting PED use, and Barry Bonds toiling as a Giants spring training instructor in the wake of his PED-related legal entanglements. If these guys are back on team payrolls, how does that affect eligibility for Cooperstown and the stance of the voters?

The voice from the Rocky Mountains gives you far more than you bargained for. Not only do cheaters get the Gossage chin music, but so do the good burghers of Miller Park in Milwaukee for lauding Ryan Braun in his comeback from his 2013 PED suspension on Opening Day.

“If they let these guys into the Hall of Fame, (membership) doesn’t mean anything,” said Gossage, who probably would like to lock the door in Cooperstown if any of the noted PED crowd got past BBWAA resistance.

Now Gossage was really warmed up.

“Young kids can go out to do anything, and use steroids,” he said of the examples of cheaters being restored to their former baseball status. “The bottom line, this (attitude) is in our whole society.

“Ryan Braun gets a standing ovation. He gets a standing ovation for lying to these people…He lied and lied and lied and lied. You hope those people sitting in the stands with their kids, you hope they can see they cheated, but let’s give him a standing ovation.

“It’s embarrassing to watch them make heroes out of these guys. When their kids get busted for PEDs later on, (parents) got nobody to look at besides themselves.”

Watching on TV, Gossage sat there and gaped in near-shock. Then he turned his ire toward the teams that continue to acquire players coming off suspensions. Not one of the everyday-quality players who was suspended last year is suffering from unemployment.

“These teams keep signing these guys,” the Goose huffed. “It hasn’t registered that it’s not OK. I don’t see anyone going out and talking about the downfalls of PEDs. I don’t see anyone passing that word along.

“These guys get suspended and become free agents and sign big contracts. I don’t get it. Melky Cabrera and others sign these big contracts after they’re suspended. Back in the day, you got blackballed.”

But we’re an ever-forgiving society. So when a suspension ends, and a talented player becomes available, money talks before morality. That’s show-biz.

While the cheaters continue to get jobs and McGwire and Bonds find most is forgiven to attain the coaching ranks, at least one owner actually is holding the line.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, whose business and baseball decisions have mostly turned to stone, not gold, since he assumed ownership in 2009, has not yet welcomed back Sammy Sosa into the Wrigley Field fold. Sosa, who once called the Friendly Confines “my house,” is pining to return as a hero 11 years after he used a corked bat, 10 years after he walked out on the Cubs on the season’s final day, and nine years after he suddenly forgot his pretty good English in Congressional hearings on PEDs. But Ricketts isn’t even entertaining a process by which Sosa can be restored to North Side glory.

That’s an exception if you hear out Gossage. But maybe there’s another side. The owners are charging big bucks to see the Ryan Brauns of the world. When they’re suspended, teams do not lower ticket prices. So when the parents use most of their monthly discretionary income on a baseball outing, they want to see the stars, tarnished or not.

It’s a tough thousand-channel, online world out there with a million choices for diversions. The PED stain isn’t going to get in the way of making money. Gossage thus is consigned to literally being the voice in the wilderness.

author avatar
George Castle
Chicago-based George Castle has covered sports for the gamut of media for more than three decades. He's also authored 11 baseball books, produced and hosted his own syndicated baseball radio show "Diamond Gems" for 17 years, and now is historian for the Chicago Baseball Museum. Follow George on Twitter at !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');