Sunday, March 18, 2007

Old Time Mets - Greg Goossen

Greg Goossen may have been the first "big time" catching prospect the Mets ever had. He just looked like a catcher and had some pretty strong hitting credentials. Yet today, he is probably best-remembered as the subject of Casey Stengel's famous quote "We got a young catcher right here, he's 20 years old and in 10 years, he's got a chance to be 30".

Goossen came to the Mets on a first-year waiver claim from the Dodgers in 1965. He debuted in the Dodgers' system in 1964, batting .331 in Rookie League ball. His Dodgers' Scouting report in the March, 1965 issue of Baseball Digest summed it up :
"Big fellow, likes to play. Hits well and with power. Major League potential." Whether the Dodgers' internal report was not as glowing, or they simply had too many other young players to protect, they let him go to the Mets on waivers.

He seemed to be coming along nicely in the Mets' organization, hitting over .300 with power in the NYP League and getting a cup of coffee with the big club at the end of the season. Fans were excited about this big, strong, young catcher, but Casey's comments may have put a damper on this. Plus, as Jerry Grote, already a far superior defensive catcher, developed into a decent hitter, Goossen's star began to fall with the Mets.

Goossen had shots with the Mets every year from 1965 to 1968 and never showed much, but he continued to produce in the minor leagues. In '68, the Mets converted him to first base, where he was decent, but he didn't hit enough to win a job. In the spring of 1969, the Mets sold him to the expansion Seattle Pilots, where he finally had a pretty good season, batting over. 300 and hitting 10 homeruns in just 139 at bats, although curiously, all of his homeruns were hit at the Pilots' home field, Sicks Stadium.

Goossen never had another good year in baseball, but he did not quite fade into oblivion. After his baseball career, Goossen was a private detective, boxing corner man (two of his brothers are prominent in boxing), and movie actor, most notably as Gene Hackman's stand-in in more than a dozen films, as well as playing minor on-screen roles in Mr. Baseball (coach), The Replacements, and Get Shorty among many others. To quote Goossen who has been a stand-in for Gene Hackman in every movie Hackman has made the past 18 years despite no obvious resemblance "We met when I was managing boxers with my brothers, and Hackman was doing research for the 1988 film "Split Decisions. He just took a liking to me, we just got along very well. He took care of this old, befuddled, used-up baseball player."


Anonymous Dana Brand said...

What I remember most about Greg Goossen (and I hope I'm remembering correctly since I was just a kid) is that he hit an astounding number of foul balls. It was fun to count them whenever he came up. I remember him hitting something like ten of them in a single at-bat at a game I went to at Shea. And they were often long, spectacular foul balls. I wonder if in this age of the pitch count teams might appreciate a hitter like him more than they did back then.

8:41 AM  

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