Friday, January 15, 2016

Meet the Brewers #18: Greg Goossen

I haven't done one of these Meet the Brewers in a while, but who better to bring it back than one of the more intriguing characters in 1960s/1970s baseball?

Greg Goossen pinch hit in the second game of the year for Mike Hegan, drawing a walk off Tom Murphy of the Angels in the bottom of the seventh inning. He left the game for a defensive replacement in the top of the eighth inning. 

Unfortunately for Goossen, his stint with Milwaukee lasted only until May 18, 1970, when the Brewers sent him down to Portland. His contract was purchased by the Washington Senators in July, and then he was traded to the Phillies as part of the exchange for the famous hold out, Curt Flood.

1970 McDonald's Brewers
Goossen is a guy who would have benefited from being in baseball about 35 years after his playing days. His major league career was nothing special -- 193 games, 514 plate appearances, .241/.316/.383 slash line, 13 HR, 44 RBI, and coming in right at the league average in OPS+. Still, you feel like he could have been more. 

Why is that? Well, he spent parts of 6 years in the major leagues between the ages of 19 and 24 years old. The only time he spent in any league where he was older than the average player was in 1969, when he hit 151 times in a rookie league as a part of the Pilots organization. Even then, at the age of 23, he was only 2.4 years older than the average in that league -- and again, that was the year he spent part of his fifth season in the majors. 

His minor league stat line promises much more than his major league performances did: in 8 seasons, he slashed .275/.361/.500 with 130 HR and 454 RBI in 705 games. Why didn't he get more of a chance? It's almost certainly because he started as a catcher and he was not known for his defense; as SI described it:
A scout once observed, "Goossen's a hell of a hitter." 
"Yeah," said another scout. "But what kind of catcher is he?" 
"He's a hell of a hitter."
Perhaps it was Goossen's introduction to major league baseball.  Goossen was signed as a six-figure bonus baby in 1964 by the Los Angeles Dodgers after turning down a football scholarship to the University of Southern California.  Yet, just 9 months later, he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Mets for the low price of $8,000.  Famously, Goossen is the player about whom Casey Stengel said, "This is Greg Goossen. He's 19 years old, and in 10 years he's got a chance to be 29."  His other Mets claim to fame was serving as Nolan Ryan's first ever major league catcher.

Goossen was traded to the Pilots in exchange for a player to be named later in February of 1969. Once again, the humor outweighed the player.  The story from Ball Four was as follows: Jim Bouton remembered playing in a minor league game against Goossen. One of Bouton's teammates bunted, and, as a catcher is supposed to do, Goossen was yelling out to the pitcher what base the throw should go to. Goossen was screaming, "First base, first base, first base!" 

The pitcher threw the ball to second base, and everyone was safe. Goossen was pissed off as he headed back behind the plate. Bouton saw this and yelled, "Goose, he had to consider the source!" On seeing Bouton in spring training in 1969, Goossen said to Bouton, "Consider the source, huh?"

Goossen is also famous for saying that he played best slightly hungover. 

1994 Miller Milwaukee Brewers

Goossen left baseball after spending the 1972 season with Union Laguna in the Mexican League. He was only 26 years old at that point -- about the time players tend to come into their own, actually.  

Instead, he started helping around the family businesses. First, he helped out his father at his dad's private investigation firm. Then, he helped out his brothers Dan and Joe with their business -- training boxers. It was in that location that he made the friendship that paid his bills for the rest of his life: he became pals with Gene Hackman.

Hackman was learning how to box for a forgettable/forgotten film called Split Decisions. Hackman and Goossen became fast friends. From that point forward, Hackman put it into his acting contracts that Goossen had to serve as Hackman's stand-in to allow for lights to get set up during films. As a result, Goossen has an IMDB page that includes a number of impressive -- and some really awful -- movies: The Royal Tennenbaums, The Replacements, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Get Shorty, Wyatt Earp, Mr. Baseball, Unforgiven, and one of the worst movies I've ever watched, Waterworld (as "Sawzall Smoker").

Goossen died on March 1, 2011, at the young age of 65 years old.

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