Wednesday, March 2, 2011
#62) GREG GOOSSEN
Greg Goossen joined the New York Mets when they claimed his contract off first-year waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 9, 1965. When he joined the team, legendary Mets manager, Casey Stengel introduced him to reporters. "This is Greg Goossen," said Casey. "He's 19 years-old, and in 10 years he's got a chance to be 29."
The Mets sent Goossen to the minor-leagues to begin that first season. He was brought to New York when the rosters expanded at the end of the year. The rookie made his big league debut wearing a Mets uniform on September 3, 1965 in St. Louis. Greg was the starting catcher in the 6-3 victory over the Cardinals. Known as a much better hitter than fielder, Goossen was used primarily as a backup catcher when he was in New York. In 1968, he learned first base as a secondary position following a suggestion given to him by his final Mets manager, Gil Hodges.
A good natured teammate who bounced back and forth between New York and the minor-leagues during his four-year stay with the Mets. During that time he posted two home runs, 16 RBIs, and a .202 batting average in a total of 99 games. Goossen ended his Mets' career when the club sold his contract to the newly formed Seattle Pilots on February 5, 1969. Greg was featured in Jim Bouton's novel, Ball Four chronicling that franchise's lone season before becoming the Milwaukee Brewers of today. Goossen remembered switching teams an amazing 37 times during his eight years of baseball in the major and minor-leagues. "Either everyone wanted me or everyone wanted to get rid of me," he joked. "I could never figure out which."
During the off-seasons the ballplayer moonlighted as a private detective working at the investigations agency run by his father, an ex-LAPD detective.
After his baseball career, Greg helped his brother's Dan and Joe operate their boxing gym in Van Nuys, California. The Goossen family training has produced boxers Michael Nunn, and Gabriel and Rafael Ruelas, brothers who became featherweight and lightweight champions in the 1990s. "One of our brothers was a pro fighter and we also had a good friend named Randy Shields who fought seven world championships," Dan Goossen said. "Greg would go to Randy's house and spar with Randy's dad and he wanted him to quit baseball and become a heavyweight fighter. Greg didn't do that, but when he left baseball, we had our boxing company going and he trained and worked with fighters until Gene Hackman came along."
The Academy Award winning actor was doing research for a role in the film, Split Decisions. Greg taught Hackman the art of throwing a punch. The two men developed a lasting friendship. Gene created a new career for Goossen as a stand-in for the star beginning with that first film in 1988. Hackman had it written into all his motion picture contracts that Greg be provided a small role in each film as well. Goossen can be seen in the 1996 film, The Chamber as an inmate shouting, "See you soon, Sam," when Hackman's character is being led to the gas chamber. "I've had to stay on the same spot for three straight hours," he explained of the process of the crew setting lights. "But it never gets boring." Their last film together was Behind Enemy Lines in 2001. Greg is credited as a "CIA Spook". Goossen retired from acting in 2004.
His alma mater, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame High School chose Greg to become the first member of their Hall of Fame on February 26, 2011. Prior to the ceremony Goosen died of a heart attack in his home at the young age of 65. "He was a fun guy to be around, so upbeat," his friend baseball legend Pete Rose told the NY Daily News. "It's a shame that the Good Lord couldn't give him one more day so he could enjoy that hall of fame day. He was really looking forward to that." Jim Bouton responded, "I think the more interesting stuff happened to him after baseball. A lot of people would trade lives with him."
Greg Goossen signed his card in the set for me from an autograph request that was sent to his home on January 5, 2009.