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Goose Goslin

Goose Goslin

Position(s):
OF, 3B, 1B
Born:
October 16, 1900
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Right
Height:
5' 11"
Weight:
185 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-16-1921 with WS1
Hall of Fame:
1968

Leon "Goose" Goslin won batting titles in the minor leagues and the American League. He won World Series with the Senators and the Tigers. He drove in 100 or more runs eleven times, and was known as one of the best fastball hitters of his time. The Washington Post called Goslin, "Washington's answer to Babe Ruth." A clutch hitter, Goslin was famous for driving in the winning run in Detroit's first World Series championship.

Biography

Leon Goslin was born on October 16, 1900, in Salem, New Jersey. At a young age his family moved to a farm in New Jersey, where Goslin grew up around livestock and among the crops. When he was 16 he defied his father and took a job with the local Salem Nine playing baseball. Ironically, as Goslin would admit later, he wasted little time getting as far away from the farm as he could, but once he made it big in the major leagues, one of his first purchases was a farm in rural Jersey.

Goslin earned his nickname in the minor leagues, due to his large nose and bird-like physical features. The left-handed hitter was purchased for $6,000 by the Washington Senators in 1921 after he led the Sally League with a .390 batting average. Senators owner Clark Griffith swooped in and bought Goslin before Jack Dunn, the patriarch of the Baltimore Orioles, could sign the slugger to a lucrative deal. After a 14-game trial in '21, Goose began a string of seven straight seasons over .300, culminating in the American League batting title in 1928. That season he nipped the Browns Manush on the final day of the season with a single in his final at-bat.

In 1924 and 1925 the Senators interrupted the Yankees strangle-hold on the American League and won back-to-back pennants. The pitching staff was led by Walter Johnson, and Goslin led the offense, hitting .344 with a league leading 129 RBI in 1924. In the World Series against the Giants, he clubbed three home runs as the Senators prevailed. He led all players with 11 hits and batted .344 with seven RBI. In the 1925 Series loss against the Pirates Goslin again hit three home runs. This time he drove in six runners, scored six, and batted .308.

Goslin enjoyed his prime years from 1924-1928, batting .348 over that five-year period, while averaging 114 RBI, 100 runs, 194 hits, 32 doiubles, 15 triples, and 15 home runs. Despite playing in cavernous Griffith Stadium, Goslin managed to weild a heavy bat, finishing among league leaders in total bases and slugging annually.

In 1928, Goslin overcame a freak injury to battle for the AL batting crown. At the tail end of spring training, which Washington held at the Fair Grounds in Tampa, Goslin injured his throwing arm when he tried to throw a 16-pound shot put as if it were a baseball. Hampered by the sore right wing, Goslin still managed to hit well above .300 for the first part of the season. By September, it was a two-man batting race between Goslin and Browns' outfielder Heinie Manush. On the final day of the season, the two adversaries started for their teams against one another. Manush banged out two hits in three official at-bats, but in the ninth inning Goslin came to bat with the title in hand by a slim margin. If he made an out he would lose to Manush, but if Goose didn't record an official at-bat he would garner the crown. Goslin tried to beg off, realizing that no at-bat would give him the crown by a tiny fraction. At one point he reportedly bickered with the home plate umpire and stomped on his foot, but was not ejected. But his teammates, led by Joe Judge, goaded him on. When Goose fell behind 0-2 it looked bleak, but then he reached out and punched a single to right field to win the batting crown.

On June 14, 1930, the Senators traded Goslin to St. Louis for his old batting nemesis Heinie Manush, and pitcher General Crowder. Goslin immediately responded to his new surroundings – slugging 30 homers in 101 games for the Browns. In a decade in Washington’s Griffith Stadium, the left-handed slugger had hit just 27 home runs. He hit 71 homers for the Browns in his three seasons with St. Louis. His days spent playing in Griffith Stadium robbed him of many home runs, but he still managed 248 career longballs and a .316 batting average.

After returning briefly to the Senators for their 1933 pennant-winning season (he hit his seventh World Series homer in the loss to the Giants), Goslin was shipped off to Detroit. There he joined Charlie Gehringer and Hank Greenberg in the famed "G-Men" lineup. In both 1934 and 1935, the Tigers won the flag. In the 1934 Series they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals as Goslin collected seven more hits in his stellar post-season career. The pinnacle of Goslin’s career occurred in the 1935 World Series. In the sixth game, with the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Goslin singled off the Cubs' Larry French to drive in Mickey Cochrane with the series-winning run. Tiger fans went wild for Goose and the first championship in team history. Thus Goslin was part of both Washington and Detroit’s inaugural World Series winning teams. Adoring Tiger fans nearly rioted after the big hit by Goslin, straining to see their hero.

At the age of 35 in 1936, Goslin had one of his best seasons, hitting 24 homers, plating 125 runs, and scoring 122 for the Tigers. But the following year saw his talents decline as he hit just .238. He was released by Detroit and Clark Griffith gave him a third try in Washington. But this time their would be no pennants or batting titles for Goose. He retired in mid-season, unable to finish his final major league at-bat because of a strained back muscle.

Goslin was unpretentious and blunt. He often found himself in hot water because of his carefree attitude. Later in life, he reflected on his behavior in baseball:

"Heck, let's face itI was just a bog old country boy having the time of his life. It was all a lark to me, just a joy ride. Never feared a thing, never got nervous, just a big country kid from South Jersey, too dumb to know better. In those days I'd go out and fight a bull without a sword and never know the difference.... It was just a game, that's all it was."

Goslin was repeatedly passed over by Hall of Fame voters, much to many of his peers dismay. In 1965 when Manush was elected, Goslin was bitter. But three years later he was finally elected to the Hall of Fame. The strange connection between Goslin and Manush continued to the end: on May 12, 1971, Manush passed away in Florida at the age of 69; three days later Goslin died in New Jersey at the age of 70.

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Tagged:
1968 Hall of Fame, Baseball History, Detroit Tigers, Goose Goslin, Washington Senators

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