Friday, March 11, 2011

RIP Greg Goossen

As part of my morning ritual and Internet roundup, I visit various news sites, faithfully read several bookmarked blogs, and call upon a cyber portal devoted to the New York Mets and their illustrious history. Dubbed Centerfield Maz and choreographed by its indefatigable owner, the Zelig of Met fans—check it out and you’ll see what I mean—the website is teeming with memories, as well as a mother lode of “Whatever Became Of?” info and trivia on past players from the well known to the obscure; the stars to the scrubs.

As a devout former Met fan, who considers contemporary professional baseball outright sacrilege, I’d just assume remember the game from a more innocent time. I'd prefer recalling the pure joys of following my team before the onset of steroids and mega-million dollar salaries, which sometimes stretch farther than the eye can see. I cherished America's pastime before the sport became just another appendage to today’s tacky celebrity culture. You know, where the likes of A-Rod’s not particularly interesting off-the-field antics compete with Lady Gaga for ink in the newspapers and its virtual equivalent.

A couple of weeks ago, Centerfield Maz featured former Mets' player Greg Goossen—a catching prospect who subsequently got drafted by the Seattle Pilots, a 1969 American league expansion team that not only moved to Milwaukee a year later, but was forever immortalized in Jim Bouton’s then very controversial inside-the-clubhouse baseball book Ball Four. (Forty years ago, Bouton was actually vilified within the fraternity for violating baseball's equivalent of omerta.)

Anyway, while reading the Goossen account, with a recent picture of him staring back at me the whole time, I couldn’t help but notice how completely unrecognizable he appeared in contrast with his youthful baseball card photos. In his sixties now, he had a distinctively tough-looking and world-weary mug. His rough-hewn but nonetheless noble countenance told me that Goossen had suffered more than a few hard knocks along life's highways and byways.

The final thoughts of Centerfield Maz profiles frequently disclose what ex-players have been up to in their post-career lives. Apparently, Greg Goossen toiled at many jobs and in many professions after baseball. But while his life may have traversed a rocky road, it was off-the-beaten path and quite interesting. Goossen was actor Gene Hackman’s stand-in for many years. He worked too as both a private detective and boxing trainer. But the saddest of all parting shots in Centerfield Maz profiles are sometimes death notices. RIP Greg Goossen, who passed away of a sudden heart attack at the not-so-old age of sixty-five on February 26th.  He, I’d hazard a guess, was more every man than Oprah is every woman.

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