By Ernie Palladino
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Anyone who ever dealt with Goose Gossage the player knows that Goose Gossage the senior citizen is not going to go softly into that good night.
He’ll be screaming about something or other when the angels come. Why wouldn’t he? During a cantankerous pitching career highlighted by his Hall of Fame seasons as the Bronx Zoo Yankees’ closer, he tangled with teammates, the press, even George Steinbrenner himself.
It was no surprise then that the 65-year-old exploded to the local media when he found himself excluded from a guest instructor roster that included former teammates Ron Guidry and Willie Randolph.
The only thing new about that was the target. This time it was Brian Cashman, who by most accounts — but particularly ownership’s — has been a fairly smart general manager the past 20 years. But Gossage, an old-school guy if there ever was one, can’t stand his reliance on modern analytics, his planned micromanagement of his field general and his overall conduct.
Among other things, he called Cashman “a weasel” and “a (jerk)” who has the Steinbrenner family “tricked” into thinking he knows his stuff. Only he didn’t say “jerk.”
And he added a lot of other modifiers that generally get managers and players thrown out of games.
But that’s Gossage. He has always had, shall we say, a loose hold on language and opinions.
Some of his outbursts have become the stuff of legend. Like the time in 1982 when, with the glory years of the late ’70s in the past, he turned the heat up on the press and fans for their rough treatment of Ken Griffey.
“Everybody, the way they boo Griffey and everybody else,” Gossage started. “And all you (guys) with the (stupid) pen and the (silly) tape recorder, you can (just) turn it on and take it upstairs — to the Fat Man! Okay?”
Feel free to insert your strongest expletive for the words in parenthesis, because that’s what he really said.
Oh, he wasn’t done.
“Cause I’m (really) sick of the negative (ridiculous garbage), ya got it? Everything you guys write, the dumb (gentlepeople) in the seats read, and we hear the same (hurtful) lines. Negative (writers). No wonder you’re carrying a pad and a paper around. You’re not worth a (plugged nickel) to do anything else, you (horrible human beings).”
Teammates were not immune.
He got all over third baseman Graig Nettles for a mound visit to remind him to look a runner back to first base in Kansas City.
Gossage, holding a rosin bag when Nettles arrived, slammed it into the dirt.
That’s when Nettles knew he was in trouble.
“He started yelling and screaming at me,” Nettles recalled in his book “Balls.” “He said, ‘Get of my (stinking) mound. Get back to your position. Get off my (posterior). Stop bothering me. I’ve been doing this for 13 years, so stop (freaking) bothering me!”
This humble typist wasn’t immune, either. As a backup Yankees writer — a young one at that — yours truly had accompanied the team to Cleveland and found myself in a breezy, friendly chat with Dave Winfield hours before game time. Gossage spotted a notebook — closed by the way — in hand.
“If you write anything you hear in this locker room, I’m gonna take that tablet and shove it up your (butt),” Gossage threatened as he walked to his locker. “You hear that?”
In no mood for any of it, the 24-year-old newcomer subsequently informed Gossage in terms he could easily understand that he’d know darned well when he or anyone else was being interviewed for publication.
“I was just kidding,” Gossage said in the apologetic tones of a scolded youngster. “I’m just kidding.”
But that’s how Gossage the pitcher was — profane, spontaneous, unbridled, irascible.
He’s still crazy after all these years. Tick him off and you’re going to get blasted.
Please follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino