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Yankees honour Gossage with Monument Park plaque

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The Canadian Press
6/22/2014 3:35:19 PM
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NEW YORK -- On a day when dozens of Yankees greats were back on the field in pinstripes, Goose Gossage was overwhelmed to be the centre of attention.

The Hall of Fame reliever with the blazing fastball and bushy moustache was honoured by the team on Old-Timers' Day with a plaque to be put in Monument Park.

"This is the greatest day I've ever had," he told the sellout crowd of 47,493 at Yankee Stadium.

Joined on the field by his family and old-timers from Yogi Berra to Bucky Dent, Gossage unveiled his plaque at home plate and grabbed the microphone Sunday to chants of "Goooose" before New York hosted the Baltimore Orioles.

"I played for nine different teams, and putting on the pinstripes was like the closest thing to an out-of-body experience I've ever had," Gossage said.

"Outside of the day my kids were born and going into Cooperstown, it doesn't get any better than this. It's awesome," he added later. "Just an amazing day. I can't even put into words what it means."

Gossage pitched for the Yankees from 1978-83, helping them to a World Series title during his first season in pinstripes. He returned for 11 games in 1989.

Back in his day, closers routinely pitched multiple innings -- and Gossage was no different. He went 42-28 with a 2.14 ERA and 151 saves for the Yankees, leaving him third on the club's career list behind Mariano Rivera (652) and Dave Righetti (224).

"What he did in his era was just incredible," former New York pitcher David Wells said.

After spending so much time in the bullpen at the previous Yankee Stadium, just a few steps from Monument Park, Gossage said he never could have imagined having his own plaque out there with all the others.

The inscription on his marker begins by calling Gossage "one of the most intimidating pitchers ever to don pinstripes."

It becomes the 28th plaque grouped behind the centre-field fence, where seven monuments commemorate such all-time greats as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, along with late owner George Steinbrenner.

The tribute came one day after the Yankees presented Tino Martinez with a Monument Park plaque in a similar celebration.

Gossage tipped his cap to the crowd, and a video montage of his Yankees highlights preceded his speech. Diana Munson, the widow of former batterymate Thurman Munson, gave the pitcher a framed replica of his plaque, and the team presented him with a flashy No. 54 ring outlined in diamonds.

"I can't tell you what it means to me and my family," said Gossage, recalling that Old-Timers' Day was always his favourite day of the year during his Yankees tenure. "I don't even really know what to say. It's totally overwhelming to me."

When the ceremony was over, the old-timers took the field for a four-inning game.

Ron Guidry was on the mound, Rickey Henderson led off with a double and Mickey Rivers made a smooth catch in right-centre to rob Martinez of extra bases.

Jesse Barfield homered into the left-field corner off David Cone, who trotted from first to third right alongside the ex-slugger.

"I always wanted to run the bases," Cone said. "The only way I could do it was to piggyback off Jesse."

Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui each made their first appearance at Old-Timers' Day, both drawing a big hand. Matsui came in from left field to pitch to Reggie Jackson in a made-for-Hollywood matchup of Godzilla vs. Mr. October.

Berra and fellow Hall of Famer Whitey Ford, both in their 80s, waved from a golf cart and received standing ovations.

Later on, still wearing his full uniform, Gossage threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Yankees played the Orioles.

Goose Gossage (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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