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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Gossage elected to Hall of Fame

NEW YORK (Ticker) - Rich Gossage's long wait is over.

Gossage, who helped pioneer the role of the modern closer in the 1970s, was the only player elected Tuesday to baseball's Hall of Fame.

Gossage received nearly 86 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers' Association - easily surpassing the needed 75 percent for enshrinement - in his ninth year on the ballot.

Nicknamed the "Goose", Gossage recorded 310 saves during a 22-year career from 1972-1994 and was a member of the New York Yankees' 1978 World Series-winning team.

"(He) was one of the greatest relievers in history," said Hall of Fame president Dale Petrovsky.

Gossage becomes the fourth closer to be enshrined in Cooperstown, joining Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Bruce Sutter, who was inducted in 2006.

In recent years, Gossage expressed anger over his exclusion but his hopes were raised last year, when he fell only 21 votes shy of election with 71.2 percent.

Chuck Tanner, who managed Gossage for the White Sox from 1972-75 and again in Pittsburgh in 1977 wholly endorsed his election.

Ranking Gossage above Rollie Fingers and Bruce Sutter, two other Hall of Famers he managed, Tanner paid tribute to Gossage's presence on the mound.

"He was always in such command, he could throw 100 miles per hour and he had that intimidating look with the Fu Manchu moustache," Tanner said. "He looked like John Wayne coming out of the corral.

"And the thing about Goose was he never had an easy save. It wasn't uncommon for him to throw two of three innings at a time to get a save. He should have been chosen the first year he was eligible. In my opinion there shouldn't be a Hall of Fame if Goose is not in it."

Former Boston Red Sox slugger Jim Rice again fell short in his 14th year on the ballot, receiving 72.9 percent of the vote and missing by just 14 votes.

Next year will be Rice's final year of eligibility on the writer's ballot. He did improve, however, on last year's total of 63.5 percent.

"Today's results are obviously a disappointment," Rice said. "I believe my accomplishments speak for themselves, and a majority of the voters seem to agree.

"It is tough to come this close, but I remain hopeful for the 2009 results. I appreciate all the kind words from so many players, including Rich Gossage, and I congratulate Goose on his well-deserved election today."

Also failing short Tuesday were outfielder Andre Dawson (65.9 percent) and pitcher Bert Blyleven (61.9 percent).

Mark McGwire, once considered a lock for the Hall of Fame after slugging 563 home runs in a 16-year career with Oakland and St. Louis, received another disappointing total in his second year on the ballot.

McGwire garnered just 23.6 percent of the vote, virtually the same total from last year (23.5).

McGwire, who is eighth on the all-time home run list, set a single-season record 70 in 1998, a mark since broken by Barry Bonds. But he was one of the first players linked to performance-enhancing drugs and many of the baseball writers have held that against him.

McGwire never has admitted to steroid use but also refused to "talk about the past" while appearing before a congressional committee investigating steroid use in baseball in 2005.

During the induction ceremony on July 27, Gossage will be joined by Dick Williams, his former manager with the San Diego Padres, who was inducted by the veteran's committee last month.

Gossage pitched in three World Series and made nine All-Star teams. He ranks only 17th on the all-time saves list and never had more than 33 in a single season.

However, he pitched in an era when saves weren't as common. Also, he often pitched two or even three innings in an appearance, unlike today's closers, who are used primarily in the ninth inning only.

During his prime, Gossage was one of the game's most intimidating pitchers with a fastball that approached 100 miles per hour.

"With a 95-mile-an-hour fastball and an intimidating presence on the mound, he revolutionized the closer's role," said Padres CEO Sandy Alderson in a statement.

"Goose was a vital part of San Diego's first National League pennant and we are happy he has now been recognized as one of baseball's greats."

Gossage pitched more than 100 innings in a season four times, something San Diego's Trevor Hoffman, the all-time saves leader with 524, never has done.

Gossage posted a career record of 124-107 with 1,502 strikeouts and 3.01 ERA.

Next year marks the first year of eligibility for Rickey Henderson, the all-time stolen base leader.

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