With everything that’s been going on lately—hamster birthdays, the Chowda Series, the discovery that I can, in fact, be buying my paintball supplies wholesale—I haven’t had a chance to acknowledge Goose Gossage and his induction into the Hall of Fame. Before I proceed, I just want to make sure that we’re all on the same page about something: Goose, unlike Coco, is not a dumb nickname. For starters, it’s not an unfortunate name he received as a child and didn’t have the good sense to shake when he made his way into adulthood. It’s a name that was given to him by his rookie year roommate, Tom Bradley, on account of his undeniable likeness to a goose. So he came by it honestly.
This is not to say that it is impossible for a player to ever wear a childhood nickname well. One of my readers pointed out to me, and rightly so, that Mookie Wilson had a semi-ridiculous nickname, and it totally worked. His, given to him by his grandma, was inspired by his inability to pronounce milk as a child. It’s cute, true. But more importantly, it's not a name that screams out, “I have no business being a professional athlete. Beat me up.” On the contrary, it actually sort of sounds like it could be an adjective describing someone big and tough. (But in a cute way.) It’s a name a player can carry off with class, and we all know that that’s exactly what Mookie did.
As for my reader who suggested that Joba’s name might possibly be considered as ridiculous as Coco’s, I am afraid we are going to have to agree to disagree on that one. Sure, it’s weird. But different is not inherently ridiculous. And Joba’s a goofy enough guy to warrant having a name that’s a little out there. Not to mention the fact that his nickname was bestowed upon him by his niece. You run the risk of being infantile by keeping your grandma’s nickname, but it’s just patently adorable to keep your niece’s. And I’m pretty sure we can all agree that Joba is patently adorable.
The fact is that Coco Crisp is possibly the worst idea for a name ever. Coco is a perfume, it’s my late grandmother’s toy poodle, it’s an abomination. Throw in the last name and what you’ve got is a disaster of catastrophic proportions. I don’t know. Maybe C squared’s great grandmother shared the same child rearing philosophy as the father of the guy from Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” and figured that, if she gave him the most humiliating name ever, it would give him some character. Either that or she might have been really old and out of it, as great grandmothers often are, and could only communicate through the use of free association. She heard “Crisp,” she said, “Coco.” Leaving all this aside, one obvious point remains, which is that Goose just categorically isn’t a dumb or embarrassing name as evidenced by the fact that it was the nickname for one of the fighter pilots in Top Gun. I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that the air force doesn’t go handing out names that can’t be taken seriously.
But back to what I was originally saying, which is that Gossage is officially a member of the Hall now. In addition to having the best moustache ever (yes, unlike Youkilis or Giambi, I believe Goose has facial hair that actually works), Gossage is best known for having pioneered the closing role. And like our good friend Mo, he was known for having the uncanny ability to slay a batter, despite the fact that he essentially had just one pitch. And also like Mo, that pitch was a fastball so powerful that, even though you knew it was coming, you were hard pressed to hit it. Gossage was an outspoken, rough-around-the-edges, competitive son of a bitch. He pitched twenty-two seasons, made nine different All-Star appearances and earned 310 saves. Though we all like to think of him as a Yank, he played for a whopping total of nine teams during the span of his career. It took him a few years to get there, but I’d say Goose has definitely earned his plaque. There’s simply no denying that he was a hell of a ballplayer.
But that’s not the only reason we love him. We also love him because, when asked about Crapelbon’s classless display of classlessness at the All-Star Game—claiming himself better suited to close than Mo before demonstrating to the press that, while his command of the English language may be questionable, he is familiar with all of its expletives—Gossage responded simply, “He’s out of his mind.” That he is, Goose. That he is.
As a side note, Gossage displaced another great pitcher, Sparky Lyle, from the Yankees bullpen only a year after he had earned the Cy Young Award. I want to take a second to talk about Lyle because I learned something that I found very interesting about him while I was watching his Yankeeorgaphy. When asked what it was that made Sparky so special, former teammates responded simply that the guy just loved to sit in birthday cake. No, you read that right. LOVED to sit in birthday cake. I don’t really know what the psychology is behind someone who LOVES to sit in birthday cake, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same as the psychology that prompts someone to put up a sign indicating that his store is open when it’s actually closed. It’s the psychology of a comedic genius. All I want to know is where was Sparky Lyle yesterday when I was actually celebrating my birthday? And, before you even go there, true, the name Sparky is a little borderline, but we just established that the man liked sitting in birthday cake. Not to mention the fact that it was the seventies, and those were different times. There was a Catfish and a Gator, and no one laughed at either of them.
I’m sure it will not surprise anyone to know that Brett Farv (I’m just going to start spelling it that way because someone has to stop the madness) is still busy being an idiot and that we still don’t care.
Speaking of Johnny Cash, did I mention the fact that, if I ever have a son…I think I’m going to name him Bill or George anything but Coco Crisp. (I still hate that name.)