It’s official. It’s no longer a wild “Goose” chase for relief pitchers to be voted into the Hall of Fame. With Goose Gossage set to be honored on July 27, three relievers will have been enshrined in the past four years: Dennis Eckersley (2004) and Bruce Sutter (2006). That said, it still took nine years on the ballot for Gossage to be elected.
It does seem fitting, however, that the fiery right-hander will be feted on the 30th anniversary of his best season. In 1978, in his first campaign with the Yankees, Goose racked up 10 wins, topped the American League in saves (27) and pitched on his only World Series-winning squad.
Owner of a 98-mph fastball, the menacing moundsman hurled for 22 big-league seasons and often pitched more than two innings for his saves, hence his disdain for being compared to today’s closers, who generally toss just one inning.
But despite his pitching heroics and now Hall-of-Fame career, hobbyists have been slow to collect Gossage cards and memorabilia.
“There aren’t too many people looking for relief pitchers,” said Kevin O’Donnell, owner of Kevin’s Sports Cards in Philadelphia.
Joel Pankey, who owns the No. 1 Gossage player set on the PSA Set Registry, has noticed the same trend. So far, he has had little competition in building his set.
“There really aren’t a lot of people on the Gossage PSA Set Registry,” he said.
Jim Kramer, owner of Southpaw Cards in Roseville, Minn., has only seen a small rise in demand for Gossage cards since the Hall’s voting results were announced in January. George Kruk, owner of Kruk Cards in Rochester Hills, Mich., has had a similar experience.
“His cards are getting a little more popular,” he said.
One of the most difficult Gossage singles to obtain is his 1972 Puerto Rican League sticker. Part of a rare issue that consists of 231 stickers linked to the Puerto Rican Winter League, this single measures 21/4-by-3 inches. Color photos are showcased on the front of these stickers, and biographical information is featured in Spanish on the back. An album was produced for these stickers to be pasted in. As a result, they’re sometimes found with glue residue or paper tears.
“I don’t even know what the Gossage (1972 Puerto Rican sticker) looks like. I haven’t even seen one. It’s certainly the most challenging (Gossage) card to get,” said Pankey.
Another elusive card is Gossage’s 1973 O-Pee-Chee rookie (No. 174). Just 25 of these have been graded by PSA, and the sole PSA 10 copy netted $8,865 on eBay in January 2007.
“In general, O-Pee-Chees in any condition are much scarcer than Topps. O-Pee-Chee cards are famous for their rough edges due to substandard cutting equipment at the factory where they were produced,” explained veteran hobbyist Bob Fisk.
Also highly coveted is Goose’s Topps rookie (1973 Topps, No. 174). Savvy collector Rick Probstein purchased one of the two PSA 10 Topps rookies for $3,217 on eBay in January 2008.
“I bought it more as an investment. I think an Eckersley PSA 10 rookie once sold for like $7,500, so I just felt that the Gossage rookie was underpriced,” he said. “I was prepared to pay a whole lot more.”
Prices have also jumped for PSA 9 rookies since the induction announcement. For example, in March 2007, a PSA 9 rookie was purchased on eBay for $121, but by Jan. 9, 2008, the price of a PSA 9 had rocketed to $455.
There has also been an increase in interest in Gossage’s autographed memorabilia.
While Goose has always been popular in the New York area, Chris Console, account director at Steiner Sports, says his company is now receiving orders from all across the U.S.
“Any time you reach the distinction of being named a Baseball Hall of Famer, your popularity does rise to that national level,” he said.
Steiner offers a variety of signed items – including balls, pictures and jerseys – that boast Gossage’s “HOF 2008” inscription
“Baseballs are really our best sellers,” said Console.
And more hobbyists are bound to scoop up Goose collectibles as his day in Cooperstown nears, but, for now, his non-graded cards and memorabilia remain relatively affordable.
“I think those Hall-of-Fame relievers are pretty undervalued. They (closers) do play an integral part in the game, and I think eventually they’re going to get their due,” said Kruk.
“The closer’s position has become more critical in today’s game, and I think the hobby has begun to really embrace the dominance that a closer can bring,” said Console.
All of this could translate into a wild “Goose” chase for Gossage’s rarer collectibles in the future.