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07/17/08 5:02 PM ET
Williams, Gossage excited for induction
Pair to be enshrined in Hall of Fame, with four others, on July 27
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
The speeches are almost written and travel plans have been made. It is nearing induction ceremony day at the National Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., for Rich "Goose" Gossage and Dick Williams. A year after Tony Gwynn was elected, along with Cal Ripken Jr., the induction ceremony -- at 1:30 p.m. ET on July 27 in Cooperstown -- will again have a distinct Padres flavor. Gossage, who may be better known for his first tour with the Yankees (1978-83) and will be inducted wearing a dark blue cap with the famous interlocking "NY," was elected in his ninth year on the ballot. He'll join Williams, his former Padres manager, on the stage behind the Clark Sports Center. "I'm excited as can be," Williams said during a conference call on Thursday arranged by the Hall of Fame. "Being in New York [at the All-Star Game festivities] and all the happenings there, I'm getting excited and maybe a little nervous. Goose said he feels the same way. Goose and I have been at a lot of events and signings [this year]. We've talked a lot. It's been so darned wonderful. "It's like a new life. I figured it was going to be different, but I didn't think it was going to be this different. I get chills even thinking about it." Both men haven't received this much notoriety in decades. Williams' career ended in 1988 and Gossage hasn't picked up a baseball in competition since 1994, although his days as a dominant closer were over well before the end of the 1980s. "It's amazing," Gossage said during his own conference call a few hours later. "I can't imagine standing up there on that stage at Cooperstown. The anxiety's killing me. Just the anticipation is overwhelming. I don't really know what I'm in store for. This is a first experience for me. And first experiences we have to go through to experience it. I'm looking forward to it so much." Williams, now 79, won the World Series twice (1972-73) as manager of the A's and will go in wearing an Oakland cap. He teamed with Gossage and Gwynn in 1984 as the Padres won their first National League pennant in franchise history but lost a five-game World Series to Detroit. Williams also won the American League pennant in 1967 as a rookie manager with the Red Sox. Williams was one of five managers and executives elected late this past year by separate, newly formed Veterans Committees. He received 13 of the 16 votes from the committee assigned to vote only for managers and umpires. World Series-winning managers Williams and Billy Southworth of the Cardinals were elected along with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and two pioneer owners, Walter O'Malley (Dodgers) and Barney Dreyfuss (Pirates). Although all will be inducted, Williams is the only living member of the quintet. This past January, Gossage was the sole player elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Williams and Gossage were among living Hall of Famers who were honored on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium prior to the AL's 15-inning, 4-3 victory in the 79th All-Star Game. During the emotional ceremony, this year's All-Stars were introduced at their fielding positions along with 49 of the soon-to-be 65 living Hall of Famers. At the end, George Steinbrenner, the venerable 78-year-old chairman of the Yankees, made a rare on-field appearance, along with his son, Hal, and daughter, Jennifer. "When I went over and met George on the field, I hugged him, and he remembered me," said Williams, who almost managed the Yankees in 1974, but the late A's owner Charlie Finley wouldn't let him out of his contract. "And that gave me a chill, and he had tears in his eyes. That was a thrill. What a day that was, and I know [the induction] is going to be even better, if that's possible." Gossage, who had his memorable battles with "The Boss" -- once challenging Steinbrenner to a fight -- said he was equally moved. "I just hugged him," said Gossage, who added that Steinbrenner should get his own spot in the Hall of Fame some day. "He was crying and I started crying. Just to see him was very, very emotional for me. I believe he's the best owner that baseball's ever seen. No one wants to win more. Playing for him was a tremendous experience." Williams led six teams in a managerial career that began in 1967 with the Red Sox and ended in 1988 with the Mariners. But his success in Oakland under the cantankerous Finley will be his lasting legacy. He'll go into the Hall wearing a green and gold cap because of three first-place finishes in the AL West and 280-198 record in his three Oakland seasons. Overall, he had a 1,571-1,451 record (.520 winning percentage) in his 22 seasons as a big league manager. "My job there was easy," Williams recalled about his Oakland days. "They all hated Finley, so they loved me. That made my job a lot easier." Williams is only the fourth manager from his era to be enshrined in the Hall, joining Sparky Anderson of the Reds and Tigers, Tommy Lasorda of the Dodgers and Earl Weaver of the Orioles. Williams had several epic World Series battles with Anderson. Williams' A's defeated Anderson's Reds in the 1972 Fall Classic, while Anderson's Tigers whipped Williams' Padres in 1984. "I was fair, but I was demanding," Williams said. "I wasn't the nicest guy in the world, although I certainly wasn't a tyrant. [These days] I'd get fired within in a week. My style of play doesn't fit in with all these millionaire's now. Listen, more power to the player. He's getting that money. They're bigger, they're stronger, but I don't think they know baseball as well as we knew it or still know it." Gossage, who just turned 57 years old and fell short by 21 votes in 2007, was named on 466 of 543 (85.8 percent) ballots cast this past December. Gossage had one of his best years under Williams in 1984, his first of four seasons with the Padres, finishing 10-6 with 25 saves and 84 strikeouts in 62 games (102 1/3 innings). He was on the mound in the ninth inning of Game 5 against the Cubs in San Diego to close out the NL Championship Series, his final postseason save. "I couldn't understand why Dick wasn't put into the Hall of Fame earlier," Gossage said. "He didn't have to take a back seat to anyone. He and Chuck Tanner were the best managers I ever played for. I loved playing for [Williams]. He was a tough guy." Gossage's 23-year career is a road map of baseball stops around the world: Chicago (White Sox and Cubs); Pittsburgh; New York (Yankees, twice); San Diego; San Francisco; Fukuoka, Japan; Arlington; Oakland and Seattle. His 1978 Yankees team, after Gossage pitched the final 2 2/3 innings to vanquish the Red Sox in a one-game playoff, went on to defeat the Dodgers in a thrilling six-game World Series. Gossage, a nine-time All-Star, was the winner of Game 4 of that World Series, pitching the final two scoreless, hitless innings of a 10-inning, 4-3, come-from-behind win. He also saved the first two games against the Dodgers in the 1981 World Series. It was the second time in the past three years that a premium reliever was the only player elected by the writers to the Hall. Two years ago, Bruce Sutter was elected in his 13th year on the ballot. Sutter, who had 300 saves in a 12-year career shortened by arm injuries, was preceded by Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley -- three closers who, like Gossage, also started during their stellar careers. Sutter is the only reliever inducted who never made at least one start. Gossage finished with 310 saves, but remarkably, 52 of them came in games in which he was required to record seven or more outs. By comparison, of his 390 saves, Eckersley pitched five such games. Trevor Hoffman, the all-time leader, has two of 541, and Mariano Rivera one of 466. "I've always said what they do today is easy compared to what we used to do," Gossage said. "Certainly the numbers that these guys are putting up is the reason why it took awhile [for the writers] to figure out where they were going to put relievers [in the Hall]. They're so dominant in that one-inning role, they kind of forgot what we used to do."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.