spreading the thunderbird1958 love
1968: january 9th

why you need more than subjectivity

Ted Robinson, a long-time sports announcer best-known for his work in tennis and, locally at least, for his years doing play-by-play for the Giants and A's, wrote the following anecdote yesterday about Goose Gossage, who was named to the Hall of Fame today. Robinson, who favored Gossage for the Hall, was explaining why he, as someone who traveled with teams as a broadcaster, understood the game better than those who practiced "dispassionate analysis."

Here’s what I know. In 1980, I stood just outside the Oakland dugout as Gossage entered in the ninth inning with a one-run lead. Billy Martin, the A’s manager, turned to summon pinch-hitters but he couldn’t find any. The lefty hitters, most likely to be drafted, had scattered. No one wanted to face Gossage in his prime. Not one batter was anywhere near the bat rack. Martin’s coaches had to round up the available men. I have never seen a similar moment.

What follows took me all of five ... no, I don't want to exaggerate so I'll err on the side of caution, took me ten minutes to look up. According to Baseball-reference.com, there is only one game that matches Robinson's description (Gossage against the A's, 1980, 9th inning, one-run lead). The game in question took place on June 14, 1980. Gossage entered the game with two outs, runners on first and second.

I took a look at the A's roster in 1980. During that season, the A's had eight players who either batted left or switch-hit. Two of those eight were not on the roster at the time of the game in question. Five of the eight were already in the game, including Wayne Gross, a left-handed batter who was the player due up when Gossage entered. That left one player ... not quite the "lefty hitters" (plural) that Ted remembered "had scattered." No, just one guy. His name was Mike Davis.

On June 14, 1980, Mike Davis had been 21 years old for three days. Yep, if he celebrated the way many Americans do, he had his first legal drink three days before. I'll assume that Mike was already shaving ... don't want to tart up the anecdote too much. Point is, he was extremely young, especially for a major-league baseball player. He was so young, in fact, that at that point he had only compiled 30 at-bats in the majors, hitting .233 with no walks and one homerun (it would, in fact, be more than two years before he hit his second major-league homerun).

Now, let's pretend that Ted got his anecdote mostly right. OK, there weren't multiple lefty hitters crying like babies because the Goose was in town, but maybe he's right about Davis. Maybe Ted looked in the dugout and saw Mike Davis was nowhere near the bat rack. Maybe Ted is right, and Mike Davis was a little nervous about facing Gossage.

Let's pretend Ted's right. As far as I can figure, this is how Ted Robinson's thinking works. Because Goose Gossage could make a 21-year-old hitter nervous, he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Nice going, Ted!