This weekend, the Yankees will honor Tino Martinez by dedicating a plaque in his honor in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park. Later this summer, Paul O’Neill will get his plaque.
No disrespect to Constantino, shown at right, and the Warrior, who were key components of the Yankee teams that won four World Series in five years between 1996 and 2000. But there are plenty of other Yankees who are long overdue this honor.
What about Yankee Hall of Famers? Goose Gossage will be getting a plaque this weekend as well. But the Yankees have never recognized old timers like Jack Chesbro and Wee Willie Keeler, pitchers Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock and Catfish Hunter, and hitters like Tony Lazzeri, Earl Coombs, Johnny Mize and Dave Winfield, to name a few. All are enshrined in Cooperstown, yet none have made the Yankees Monument Park Hall of Fame.
Tommy Henrich and Charlie Keller are certainly worthy of consideration. Each man was on more World Series winners than Martinez or O’Neill. So were Joe Collins, Charlie Silvera, Hank Bauer, Gene Woodling, Gil McDougald, Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat and Frank Crosetti. Yet you won’t find any of them on the hallowed walls of Monument Park.
More recent Yankees like Bobby Murcer, Willie Randolph and Graig Nettles never made the big wall in the Bronx. Nor did four-time champions Bernie Williams and David Cone.
MVP Joe Gordon (1942) and Cy Young Award winners Bob Turley (1958) and Sparky Lyle (1977) have never had plaques bestowed upon them either. (As for Roger Clemens and Alez Rodriguez, let’s not go there.)
The Yankees will retire Joe Torre’s #6 on August 23, with Derek Jeter’s #2 to follow inevitably, meaning no Yankee will ever wear a single digit number again.
Martinez and O’Neill were great Yankees who wore the pinstripes with pride and produced champions. But they’re two guys on a long, crowded list of great Yankees.
It was the signature moment in the career of Hall of Famer Rich “Goose” Gossage.
October 2, 1978, a cool, crisp New England afternoon in Boston. Hint of autumn in the year. Yankees vs. Red Sox at Fenway Park. American League East title and a playoff berth on the line.
A game within a season, and a season within a game. Winner makes the playoffs, and the loser goes home. Does it get any better than this?
“I wanted the ball in those situations,” Gossage said in an interview with Memories and Dreams, the Hall of Fame magazine. “This was the biggest game I ever pitched in — by far. It seemed like the playoffs and World Series were anticlimactic after that.”
Goose to the Rescue
Be careful what you wish for. That afternoon, Gossage came on to relieve Ron Guidry with one out in the seventh inning. The Yankees had just taken the lead on Bucky Dent’s three-run homer.
The Goose wasn’t perfect that day. He gave up a couple of runs in the eighth and stood there on the Fenway hill in the ninth, two outs, runners on the corners, Yankees leading 5-4, Carl Yastrzemski coming to bat.
The night before, Gossage had dreamed up this exact situation. Dreams really can come true.
Gossage kicked around the mound, fussing, muttering to himself. Then it hit him.
“I starting telling myself ‘Why are you so nervous?’ Goose recalled. “This is supposed to be fun. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If you lose, you’ll be back home in Colorado tomorrow hunting elk.”
Relaxed, Gossage got Yaz to pop out to Graig Nettles at third, and the Yankees were on their way to their 22nd World Series title.
22 Years, 310 Saves
Through his 22 years in the major leagues, Goose Gossage pitched for nine different clubs, saved 310 games, won 124 and fanned 1,502 batters in 1,810 innings of work. He led the AL in saves three times and was selected to nine All-Star teams–six AL squads and three NL clubs.
It took him a long time to get there, but the Goose was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame on a hot Sunday afternoon in July, 2008. Making the trek through the Catskills to Cooperstown, I was there to cheer Gossage on, to bellow “Goose” a few more times.
Although Gossage made it back to the World Series in 1981 with the Yankees and 1984 with the Padres, 1978 was his only championship. Several of his teammates from that 1978 squad, which made up a 14-game deficit to beat the Red Sox, were there to see Goose go into the Hall. Reggie Jackson, now a fellow Hall of Famer. Jim Beattie, Mickey Rivers, Graig Nettles and Roy White.
“I’m proud to wear a Yankee cap into the Hall of Fame and be part of their tradition,” told the crowd at Cooperstown.
Some dreams do come true, Some memories do last a lifetime.