Forgotten Hall of Famer Profile: Goose Goslin

Thomas HillContributor IJuly 25, 2009

With 232 players enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, it comes as no surprise that many of the game's immortals are unknown to today’s fans. After all, how many of these 232 legendary ballplayers can YOU name?

Chances are it’s a lot fewer than you think; everyone knows the Cal Ripken, Nolan Ryan, and Babe Ruths of the sport, but what about Gabby Hartnett, Frankie Frisch, and George Kell?

There are many great players, especially those from Hall of Fame classes inducted over 50 years ago, that for one reason or another have fallen out of recognition as the preeminent players of their time.

This recurring article will take a one-by-one look at some of baseball’s most unknown Hall of Famers. Up today is Goose Goslin, outfielder for the Washington Senators, St. Louis Browns, and Detroit Tigers.

When Leon “Goose” Goslin was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans’ Committee in 1968, it was an enshrinement way overdue.

Nicknamed “Goose” for the way his arms flailed while running, much like a bird flapping its wings, Goslin always made catching fly balls a spectacle in the outfield.

But Goslin was not playing in the major leagues because of his ability to field (although he did possess a cannon of an arm, leading the American League in assists back-to-back years in 1924 and 1925). However, he sure could hit.

In his first full season with the Washington Senators in 1922, Goslin hit .324. To prove that was no fluke, Goslin followed his rookie campaign with an even better sophomore season, hitting an even .300 with 99 RBI and a league-leading 18 triples.

It was the 1924 season, however, that established Goslin as one of the game’s elite. In addition to leading the league in RBI with 129, Goslin finished in the top seven in batting average (.344), triples (17), total bases (299), hits (199) and the aforementioned assists.

Led by his hitting and Walter Johnson’s pitching, the Senators captured their first World Series title, with Goslin hitting three home runs in the Fall Classic.

The following season, Goslin and the Senators again reached the World Series, falling to a Pittsburgh squad led by Pie Traynor. Goslin did his part, hitting another three home runs in the series.

In 1928, Goslin won the American League batting crown in a race that came down to his final regular season at-bat. As Goslin strode to the plate in the ninth inning, he lead future Hall of Famer Heinie Manush, but would fall behind him if he made an out.

Goslin initially decided not to bat in order to preserve his lead, but was persuaded by his teammates that such a move would be considered cowardly. After taking two strikes, Goslin attempted to get ejected from the game, and thus nullify the at-bat, but the home plate umpire refused to toss him. Of course, Goslin ended up getting a hit and edging Manush for the title.

After seeing Goslin’s batting average fall precipitously over consecutive seasons to a low point of .271, in 1930 the Senators traded Goslin to the St. Louis Browns for Heinie Manush—the player who had lost the batting crown to Goslin only a few seasons before (Alvin Crowder was also sent to Washington in this deal).

Goslin immediately proceeded to hit .326 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI for his new team. Goslin would continue his success with St. Louis, knocking in 209 RBI over the next two seasons before being traded back to the Senators for the 1933 season.

Washington again made the World Series in 1933, but Goslin suffered a down year, with many of his statistics diminishing to their lowest totals since his rookie season in 1922.

In response, Washington shipped him to Detroit, where Goslin would join a star-studded lineup that included future Hall of Famers Mickey Cochrane, Charlie Gehringer, and Hank Greenberg.

The Tigers stormed to two straight pennants in 1934 and 1935, winning the latter on Goslin’s walk-off, series-ending, RBI single in Game Six. (In doing so, Goslin became the second of only three players all-time to have the final at-bat of two separate World Series, joining Boss Schmidt and Edgar Renteria, who performed the feat much later.)

1935 would be the last high caliber season that Goslin would have and he hung on for a few more years before finally retiring after the 1939 season. He finished with a career batting average of .316, 2,735 hits, 1,609 RBI (including 11 seasons with 100 or more), 500 doubles, 173 triples.

He also holds the record for most home runs hit at Yankee Stadium by a visiting player, socking 32 long-balls in the House that Ruth Built.

While the “Goose” remains forever enshrined in Cooperstown, hopefully his legacy as a clutch performer on the game’s biggest stage, as well as his consistent career production, will be enshrined in the memory of today’s fans as well.