Excerpts of the Jim Bouton classic book “Ball Four” with some references to Greg Goossen, who we took a look at his one season with the Seattle Pilots that started 40 years ago today (linked here):
I know a lot of guys on the club. Greg Goossen is one. He’s a catcher, a New York Met castoff, and is up out of Triple-A. Two years ago, I was playing against Goose in the International League. There was a bunt back toward the pitcher and Goose came running out from behind the plate yelling, “First base! First base!” at the top of his lungs. Everyone in the ballpark heard him. The pitcher picked up the ball and threw it to second. Everybody safe. And as Goose walked back behind the plate, looking disgusted, I shouted at him from the dugout, “Goose, he had to consider the source.”
I guess I got to him, because the first time he saw me — two years later — he said, “Consider the source, huh?”
Had our first spring training game, the first real test for the shiny new Seattle Pilots. today was the day. This was it. For keeps. The big one. Against Cleveland. Greg Goossen was the designated pinch-hitter under the experimental rule that allows one player to come to bat all the time during the game without playing the field. “Are they trying to tell me something about my hands?” Goossen went around saying. “Are they trying to tell me something about my glove?” And after that he became the first Seattle Pilot to say, “Play me or trade me.”
One of the pitchers who was taken out of the game got cut today — Bill Edgerton. He figured to get cut because he was one of the five or six guys who were asked to move their lockers to the visiting team locker room. … By coincidence, most of them were cut today. The only one I was really interested in was Greg Goossen, whom I’d come to like, mainly because he had the ability to laugh at himself.
Death came calling today. (Manager) Joe Schultz gathered a bunch of guys in his office and told them that because of space requirements they’d have to work out on our other field with the Vancouver (Triple-A) squad. “You’re not cut,” Joe said. “Your stuff is still in your locker and you’re still on the team. Don’t draw any conclusions from this.” …
Sure enough, after the two workouts today on the two fields, the Grim Reaper struck. Five or six of the guys who were told not to worry this morning were cut this afternoon. Sheldon, Goossen, Lockwood, Bill Stafford and a couple of guys I don’t know.
As I drove home after the game I passed the Vancouver practice field and saw Goossen working out at first base. He’s hard to miss, with his blocky build and blond, curly hair, working without a hat. I was already missing him and the nutting things he does and I thought here’s a field that’s only fifty yards away and yet it’s really hundreds of miles away, the distance between the big leagues and Vancouver. … They moved into a different world when they got cut from the big club. There were no tears, no sympathy, no farewells and no handshakes. And no one goes down to that field to tell Goose to hang in there. One day he’s here and the next he’s gone. It happens every day and it’s a reality to all of us, yet I can’t help thinking how strange it is. … Once in a while maybe we should stop when we drive by the practice field and give Goose a wave and let him know we still like him and that he’s still alive.
Honolulu, at Triple-A Vancouver
There are compensations to being in the minors. Like Hawaii. Arrived here today and it’s beautiful. …
On the plane I discovered that Greg Goossen is afraid to fly. On the takeoff he wrapped himself around his seatbelt in the fetal position, his hands over his eyes. Then as we were landing, he went into a frenzied activity, switching the overhead light on and off, turning the air blower on and off, right and left, opening and closing his ashtray and giving instructions into a paper cup: ” little more flap, give me some more stick, all right, just a little bit, okay now, level out.”
I asked him, “What’s the routine?”
“I always feel better when I land them myself,” Goose explained.
When I called my wife after my third save, there was a gathering of Vancouver Mounties outside the phone booth. So on the bus today I was asked if I always call home after a save or a win, and I said yes, I did. And Greg Goossen said, “Big deal. It means about three phone calls a year.”
Word is that Greg Goossen, who was with us in spring training, will be up to replace Mike Hegan when he goes into service for two weeks. Goossen is a burly guy with kinky blond hair and looks like a bouncer in an English pub. He is also a flake.
(Pagliaroni) had a good story about Goossen. He remembered sitting in a bar with him and the Goose was putting them down pretty good.
“Don’t you have a game tomorrow?” Pag said.
“Yeah, we got a game,” Goossen said.
“You’re drinking a little heavy, aren’t you?”
“You know something?” Goossen said. “I found I can’t play if I feel good. I’ve got to have a little bit of a hangover to get the best out of me.”
(In recalling a game in which Bouton recorded his second win of the year, coming in relief with a 5-0 deficit and being taken out for a pinch hitter during a six-run Pilots’ outburst):
The big hit was a three-run homer by McNertney. … Greg Goossen played his first game and went 3 for 3, including a tremendous line-drive home run into the left-field seats.
(Goossen actually went 1-for-3, according to the box score, linked here. Bouton may have been thinking about Goossen’s “real” first game, the night earlier, when he went 3-for-4 with a homer during a Mariners’ loss).
Greg Goossen hit two home runs and we won 4-3.
Another example of a general manager generously giving a ballplayer money that he is absolutely entitled to. Greg Goossen told the story. He lost $200 in rent when he was called up (from Triple-A) and (GM) Marvin Milkes put his hand on his shoulder and said, “We’re picking up your rent check. (It’s a rule that he has to.) And since you’ve signed a major-league contract, today you start on the pension plan.”
“He made it sound like a special gift from him, a pot sweetener,” said Goossen. “It was only after I left his office that I realized there was no way he could prevent me from starting on the pension plan today, even if he wanted to.”
Greg Goossen was doing his Casey Stengel imitation and he remembered the best thing the old man ever said about him. “We got a kid here named Goossen, 20 years old, and in 10 years, he’s got a chance to be 30.”
Started the trip with Steve Hovley assigned to room with Greg Goossen and me with Steve Barber. I told Gabe Paul that Hovley and I wanted to room together and he said, “Marvin Milkes has to approve roommates. Why don’t you say where you are until we hear from Milkes?”
I agreed to, reluctantly.
When we met at the hotel desk to pick up our keys, however, Hovley and I decided it was all very silly … for Milkes to worry about something like roommates and silly for us, as grown men, to care. So we switched, simply by having Steve Barber swap keys with Hovley. Paul was furious.
On the bus from the airport to the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, we passed a huge government building that had a bronze plaque on the front announcing it had been “erected in 1929.” And Greg Goossen said, “That’s quite an erection.”
Hovley and Goossen were put in the same room again, so I assumed I’d been put in with Barber again and switched keys with Goossen. Then I went to Gabe Paul and told him Hovley and I wanted to room together again. And he said, “Well, I’ve got you in a room by yourself on this trip.”
I try, but it remains most difficult to convey the quality of the banter in the back of the bus. There is zaniness to it, and earthiness, and often a quality of non sequitur that I find hilarious. Have an example from our trip to the Washington airport.
Greg Goossen: “Hey does anybody here have any Aqua Velva?”
Fred Talbot: “No, but I gotta take a shit, if that’ll help.”
The best gift Tommy Harper got on his Night was from Dewey Soriano: A trip to Hawaii for him and his wife. Greg Goossen said he didn’t think that was much. “(Team owner) Soriano sent me to Hawaii, too,” he said. “Of course, I went there as a Vancouver Mountie.”
“If we get a lead tonight boys,” Fred Talbot said, “let’s call time out.”
We did get a lead, 3-0. And Fred called time out. Didn’t do a bit of good. Pretty soon we were down 4-3. Greg Goossen tied it with a home run, but they got two off Talbot to make it 6-4. In the ninth we scored a run and had two runners on – again – and lost 6-5. Ten in a row.