the return of the daily show and colbert report
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, 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!


Simon Bennett

Hi Steven

Like you, I was interested in fleshing out the anecdote so went through much the same exercise. There is one other game to which Robinson may be referring - 21st June. Gossage entered in the 8th inning on that occasion, but it was with a one-run lead (extended to two in the bottom of the inning). Martin did indeed go to his bench for a lefty in the 9th and came up with (yes, you've guessed it) the same Mike Davis.

On other words, apart from Davis being seven days older, your points remain valid, whichever game Robinson meant. Nice analysis.


You could be right ... which, of course, means Ted Robinson was (gasp) wrong. Which is my point. If we rely solely on our subjective memories, we may fall victim to our nostalgic interpretations of the past. Whether the game in question was the one I pulled up or the one you found, Robinson's memory of the game is faulty. And you can find this out with ten minutes of work, tops. Yet the Ted Robinsons of the world think their faulty memories make for more useful evidence than, oh, you know, checking the actual facts.

Luis Venitucci

If you are going deal wi facts, in 1980, 18 was the legal drinking age-that didnt change until 1986 if I recall. Not trying to be snotty, just sayin


I've been around since 1953, and I can't remember any time when the legal drinking age in California was anything other than 21. The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 tied the distribution of federal revenues to the sales of alcohol to anyone under 21, which may be what you're thinking of. And in many states, the laws are different for underage people buying or consuming alcohol. But in the U.S., 21 is the age for buying booze.

If anecdotal evidence is what you need, I turned 21 in 1974, and that night, I went to a bar, cashed my check, and bought my first legal drink. Before that birthday, I could not legally buy alcohol. Not trying to be snotty, just sayin'.


Nice research on this. I'm sure Mr. Robinson wasn't expecting anyone to look into the details.

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