Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Remembering Greg Goossen

It was quite a shock to learn about the death of Greg Goossen, the former major league ballplayer from Sherman Oaks, with whom I went to high school. He died last week just as he was about to be honored at Notre Dame High's first sports hall of fame induction ceremony.
Goossen was a catcher and he was the school's first big sports star. I once saw him hit a home run in a playoff game against Santa Barbara High School. He crushed a high fast ball, sending it at least 400 feet over the left-center field fence.
According to his obituary, he was given a "six-figure" bonus by the Dodgers in 1965, and later played for several teams including the N.Y. Mets, the Seattle Pilots, who would became the Milwaukee Brewers, and the old Washington Senators.
His career didn't last long, just six seasons. He was a decent catcher but his hitting was marginal. After baseball, he worked various jobs including coaching football at Notre Dame and L.A. Pierce College, and he helped his brothers, Dan and Joe, train fighters in the family business, Ten Goose Boxing. He also had steady work as a double for actor Gene Hackman in several movies.
Greg came from a large family, he was the fourth of 10 brothers and sisters. In high school he presented an aire of toughness, once sitting in an opponent's student section at a basketball game, daring anyone to make him move.
But he had a soft side to him, too, that a lot of us underclassmen saw all the time, his gravely voice with a toothy, wide grin ever-present.
His glory days were in a high school and it's sad that, at age 65, he didn't get to see his name in lights in the N.D. gym.


add Goossen: He was immortalized, first by N.Y. Mets manager Casey Stengel, who said to reporters, "that's Greg Goossen, he's 19-years old and in 10 years he has a chance to be 29," and later in Jim Bouton's seminal baseball book "Ball Four."

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