Tuesday, March 08, 2011

RIP Greg Goossen

As I've gotten older, I've found myself reading obituaries a bit more. I suppose it's a little morbid. Or maybe it's the fact that the people who are dying nowadays are people I recognize more often than not.

I've also come to appreciate the content that goes into an obituary, and how your life will be summarized and recorded for all time. For Greg Goossen, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers but never played a game for the Dodgers, the stories about him are funny enough that I'm sure he'll be remembered, not so much for his six-year, .241 BA MLB career, but for the memories. Which is how it should be, I might add.

Wrote Douglas Martin in the New York Times, about Goossen's passing at 65 on Saturday:

Yogi Berra called him overweight. Casey Stengel uttered a famous line about him. And Jim Bouton, the pitcher-turned-author, said he was the only teammate on the short-lived Seattle Pilots who interested him, because he could laugh at himself.

Greg Goossen broke the mold. He was once a young prospect who never lived up to expectations but who made his way around the major leagues — from the Dodgers to the Mets and teams beyond — and wound up figuring in some memorable moments in baseball history. Each might have made him only a footnote. Together they made him into something more.

He died at 65 on Saturday at his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif. The cause was thought to be a heart attack, Major League Baseball said.

The Goossen saga began in 1964 when he was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers for a six-figure bonus and then surprisingly sent to the Mets the next year for $8,000. Mets coaches saw promise in him for several years before giving up and dealing him to the hapless Pilots, who lasted one season, 1969, before moving to Milwaukee and becoming the Brewers.

In Seattle, Goossen, a free-swinging right-handed hitter, led the team in batting with a .309 average. “I would have played here my whole career,” he told an interviewer.

Tommy Davis, a much-traveled power-hitting teammate at the time, interrupted the interview to blurt, “You did!” [...]

It was Casey Stengel who made Goossen a baseball trivia legend with one remark in 1966. Stengel, having retired as the Mets manager the previous season, was visiting the Mets’ training camp when he pointed at Goossen and was reported to have said, “Goossen is only 20, and in 10 years he has a chance to be 30.”

The Stengelese may have been meant as a compliment, but Goossen, like most everybody else, regarded the remark as the ultimate insult.

Goossen was also immortalized in Jim Bouton's book, "Ball Four." Goossen also was profiled in the Daily News two years ago.

It sounds like he lived a pretty amazing life and had some great stories to tell. We should all be so lucky.

photos by Michael Owen Baker / Daily News Staff Photographer


Jason said...

I vaguely remember my Dad telling me a few stories about playing against Goossen in high school (they were both catchers). The guy sounded like a complete loon, but in a good way.

Also, I'd like to propose a rule, all SoSG posts for 2011 should be accompanied by a reasonably related photo of Vin.