The Day Goose Goslin Made It to the Hall of Fame
This is a stray, ephemeral piece by Lawrence S. Ritter that has been overlooked for three decades. Larry let me use it as a sidebar to fill out an article that ran short on its final page in the first issue of The National Pastime (1982). Larry contributed one of his unpublished oral-history transcripts from The Glory of Their Times, too. The success of that first issue may in no small measure be chalked up to him. Published by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), the journal is now in its thirty-third year of continuous publication. This untold story of Goose Goslin’s strange experience in Cooperstown on the day of his induction into the Baseball Hal of Fame was finally published in a an updated edition of The Glory of Their Times. All the same, I believe it will be new to most readers.
The date was July 22, 1968: a hot summer day in Cooperstown, New York, the day lumbering, amiable Leon Allen “Goose” Goslin, age 68, finally made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Goose Goslin had begun his big-league career with the Washington Senators in 1921. He ended it with the same team 17 years later. In between he was one of baseball’s outstanding hitters, although his defensive skills in the outfield occasionally fell somewhat short of perfection. In January 1968, the Goose was unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame by the Committee on Veterans. The Cooperstown induction was scheduled for Monday morning, July 22, and the Goose joyously made plans for his big day.
“You be sure to be there,” he said to me on the phone. “We’ll have a wonderful time.”
Both of us arrived at Cooperstown on Sunday evening, the day before the ceremonies, the Goose accompanied by some relatives and close friends from home in southern New Jersey. He and his party happily established themselves in several beautiful rooms at the Otesaga Hotel, a few blocks from the Hall of Fame, and all of us enjoyed a bountiful meal, with many toasts, as we awaited the day of days. Joe Medwick, also to be inducted the next day, joined us as the evening progressed and the two former outfielders recalled, with some exaggeration, the many game-saving catches they had made and the home runs they had hit in the bottom of the ninth.
The long-awaited day dawned warm and beautiful. A large crowd was already on hand as we arrived at the Hall of Fame at 10:00 in the morning. General William D. Eckert, then the Commissioner of Baseball, introduced the Goose and presented him with a replica of the plaque that would stand forever in his honor, in close proximity to those of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Walter Johnson. The Commissioner noted, in his introduction, that the Goose had once been hit on the head by a fly ball, but then had hit three home runs in that same game.
In response, the Goose, his eyes wet, tried to maintain his composure. “I want to thank God, who gave me the health and strength to compete with those great players,” he said. Then he started to cry and couldn’t continue, until the gentle hand of the commissioner and the applause of the crowd restored his self-control. “I will never forget this day,” he concluded. “I will take the memory of this moment to my grave.”
For the next couple of hours the Goose was besieged by reporters and assorted admirers. Finally, we made our way back to the hotel, where a buffet luncheon had been prepared for the new inductees and their guests. Although the lunch was excellent, the Goose could hardly eat because of his exhilaration, not to mention the steady stream of interruptions by congratulatory old friends and autograph seekers.
After lunch we returned to the room and began to make plans for the afternoon and evening. “I think I’ll take a nap for an hour or so,” the Goose said. ”Then let’s all walk back to the Hall and take a good look at it.”
Before anyone could answer, however, the phone rang. It was the room clerk. ”You will have to vacate your rooms within the hour, Mr. Goslin,” he said. “We have a convention arriving and people are already waiting in the lobby for your rooms.”
“But I’m not leaving until tomorrow,” the Goose said. “It’s a long drive home and I’m tired. We expected to stay overnight.”
“I’m sorry,” said the clerk. “When we wrote you several months ago we told you that we had reserved your rooms for Sunday night only, and that if you or any of your party wanted to stay longer you’d have to let us know. Since we never heard from you, we assigned your rooms to someone else for tonight.”
The Goose was stunned. He was also enraged. He called Ken Smith, the Hall of Fame’s director, Paul Kerr, its president, and everyone else he could think of. But no one, not even Commissioner Eckert, could help. There simply were no vacancies in the Otesaga, or in any other hotel or motel within 20 miles. Like it or not, the Goose had no choice. He had to leave.
And so it happened that on his great day, July 22,1968, Leon Allen Goslin was honored, acclaimed, and applauded in the morning–and unceremoniously ejected from his hotel room that same afternoon.
Sic transit gloria mundi!