Gossage's signing pushed Padres over the top

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

The San Diego Padres were ready to win heading into the 1984 season.

Goose Gossage was prepared to lead the way.

The combination worked for both the team and the pitcher, as Gossage agreed to a five-year contract with the Padres on Jan. 6, 1984 – putting in motion San Diego’s National League championship season.

“We spent a lot of time with (general manager) Jack McKeon and (manager) Dick Williams and some players, talking about our team,” Padres president Ballard Smith told the Associated Press. “Gossage let it be known that he didn’t want to go to a club that didn’t have a chance to, one, win in 1984, and, two, didn’t have an opportunity to be successful for the next five years that he would be with the club.

“I feel good that Gossage decided to come here because he feels and we feel that we’re in a position to win the National League Western Division in 1984.”

Gossage, coming off a six-year run with the Yankees where he cemented his reputation as one of the most dominating relief pitchers in baseball, agreed to a five-year deal worth a reported $5.5 million. Following three postseason appearances, two American League pennants and one World Series championship with the Yankees, Gossage had many suitors – and few easy choices.

“Many nights, I would wake up and just lay there for an hour, mulling over the contract,” Gossage told the Associated Press after agreeing to join the Padres. “This negotiating… I’d much rather pitch than negotiate.”

Gossage’s pitching had already earned him seven All-Star Game selections through the 1983 season, and in his final year with the Yankees he was 13-5 with a 2.27 ERA and 22 saves, striking out 90 batters in 87.1 innings. In 1984, Gossage would post his fourth Top 5 finish in his league’s Cy Young Award voting, going 10-6 with a 2.90 ERA and 25 saves – working 102.1 innings over 62 appearances.

“I’ve got to throw it and they’ve got to hit it,” said Gossage, describing his pitching style – one that relied heavily on a crackling fastball. “I’ve never fooled anybody in my life.”

The Padres advanced to their first-ever postseason in 1984, winning the NL West by 12 games over the Braves and Astros. In the National League Championship Series vs. the Cubs, San Diego fell behind 2-games-to-0 before rallying for three straight victories at home to advance to the World Series.

Gossage pitched in all three of those wins, earning a save in Game 5.

The Padres lost the World Series in five games to the Tigers, but the tide had been turned in the history of the franchise with a season no one would forget.

Gossage pitched four seasons for the Padres before being traded to the Cubs prior to the 1988 campaign.

He retired following the 1994 season with a record of 124-107, a 3.01 ERA and 310 saves in 1,002 appearances.

On Jan. 8, 2008 – 24 years and two days after he signed with the Padres – Gossage was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series