Jan 21, 2016

Mid Sixties Mets Catcher Turned Hollywood Actor: Greg Gossen (1965-1968)

Gregory Bryant Gossen was born on December 14, 1945 In Los Angeles, California. The six foot one right handed hitting catcher, was originally signed as an amateur free agent in 1964 by the home town Dodgers out of Notre Dame high school in Sherman Oaks.

He was released the next year & got picked up by the New York Mets picked on waivers .

He hit 25 HRs batting .305 in the New York / Penn. League in 1965 getting a September call up to the Mets at the age of 19. He debuted on September 3rd at Shea in St. Louis, getting a single off future Met; the Cardinals Ray Sadecki, in his first career at bat.

Goossen got two hits that day & two more in his second game three days later against the Milwaukee Braves. On September 25th, he hit his first career HR, it came in Philadelphia off Bo Belinsky in a 4-1 Mets win. He batted .290 in only 11 games, the best average he would hit for in his Mets career.

Casey Stengel made a classic remark to the press when holding court one day saying “See that guy there, (Ed Kranepool) in ten years he has a chance to be a star. There we have a fine young catcher who is only nineteen years old (Goossen) in ten years he has the chance to be twenty nine”. In contrast some Mets people said he was the team's best minor league prospect.

Goosen was tutored by Yogi Berra as he was looked at to be a possible Mets catcher of the future. In another classic moment Berra once told him to take extra batting practice saying “It’s cold today and besides, you can stand to lose the weight.”

He spent 1966 in the minors where he hit 25 HRs but batted just .243 earning another September call up, this time he only hit .188 in 13 games.

That month he caught the first game Nolan Ryan ever pitched, and was honored in 1992 at a Ryan ceremony in Texas.

In the second game of a September 18th double header at the Houston Astrodome, He hit a three run pinch hit HR off Dave Giusti, which would be his last HR as a Met. In 1967 he was aboard for most of the season as one of three backup catchers behind Jerry Grote. Goossen he only hit .159 in 37 games. In 23 games at catcher he threw out 20% of would be base stealers.

In 1968 he played with the Mets from April to July 16th, catching just one game behind the plate, and playing in 31 games at first base. On May 12the he had a three hit day at Wrigley Field, driving in two of the Mets ten runs in a 10-0 win.

On June 30th, he grounded out in the 5th inning scoring Ron Swoboda in game at Houston. It was the only run of the game as Tom Seaver beat Mike Cullear 1-0 on a five hitter. He hit .208 overall playing in 38 games, with seven doubles & six RBIs. He was sent down to the minors playing at both AA Memphis & AAA Jacksonville not hitting much, .214 but did show power again with 10 HRs.

In February of 1969 Gossen was traded to the expansion Seattle Pilots for cash and as the player to be named later, who in July turned out to be Jim Gosger. Goossen had his best season in 1969 playing first base & outfield for the Pilots who in their only season of existence.

He enjoyed career highs in batting leading the club with a .309 average. He also had career highs in HRs (10) RBIs (24) Hits (47) and games played (52). He was mentioned many times as a subject who could laugh at himself in Jim Bouton’s famous baseball book Ball Four. He went with the team to their move to Milwaukee and briefly played as an original Brewer before being purchased by the Washington Senators.

He was sent to the Philadelphia Phillies in July for Curt Flood but never played at the big league level. Lifetime in six seasons he, batted .241 with 111 hits 13 HRs 24 doubles 44 RBIs & a .316 on base % & 44 RBIs. At catcher in 79 games he threw out 215 of would be base stealers.

Retirement: After baseball Goossen had a bust life, first he became a private detective. Then he was a corner man in the boxing ring, working with his two brothers who were pro boxers.

After that he enjoyed a life in Hollywood. He plays the stand in for actor Gene Hackman in over a dozen films including roles in Get Shorty, Behind Enemy Lines & Mr. Baseball. "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."

Passing: In February of 2011, Goossen was to be inducted into the Notre Dame High School Hall of Fame in Sherman Oaks. When he missed a photo shoot that day, a family member went to check on him & he was found dead.

The Cause of death was not determined; but believed to be a heart attack. He was survived by three daughters, seven brothers & two sisters.

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