COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Goose Gossage was on picturesque Main Street on Friday afternoon, signing autographs and posing for pictures to help out a veterans charity, as he does every Hall of Fame weekend.
Gossage, 67, was friendly and accommodated every request, even ones from Mets fans and jittery young children who probably didn’t know Goose from Donald Duck. But, boy, were their parents or grandparents thrilled to chat with a Hall of Famer best known for his work with the Yankees.
About 16 hours earlier, Gossage was at Yankee Stadium, taking part in an event in a suite during the Yankees-Royals game. But Gossage — who has a Yankees cap on his Hall of Fame plaque — is persona non grata in the Bronx.
“I had to go in the stadium in drag,” he said, laughing.
The reason is a feud that Gossage all but admits is his doing. The Yankees did not invite Gossage to his usual gig as a spring training instructor this season because of inflammatory statements he repeatedly has made about the state of baseball and many other topics.
The Yankees had asked him to cool it, and last February, the former fireballing reliever instead decided to torch everyone and everything, especially general manager Brian Cashman.
“I don’t have a problem with the Yankees,” Gossage said on Friday. “I have a problem with Cashman, and Cashman’s their guy. I didn’t leave them any choice and I knew what the consequences would probably be and that’s what they are and that’s what it is. But I have no ax to grind with the Yankees whatsoever.”
At the Yankees’ 2014 Old-Timers’ Day ceremony, Gossage was honored with a plaque in Monument Park. He said in his speech: “This is the greatest day I’ve ever had.”
This year, Gossage wasn’t invited to Old-Timers’ Day, even though it was the 40th anniversary of the 1978 World Series championship team. Gossage threw the final pitch of that season, a fastball that Ron Cey popped up into the glove of Thurman Munson for the last out of Game 6.
Gossage still can make suite appearances at Yankee Stadium like the one on Thursday with former Yankees Mickey Rivers, Joe Pepitone, Jeff Nelson and Ron Blomberg, and a previous one this season. But he said those appearances have nothing to do with the club.
“I love the people,” Gossage said. “I love the great employees, great fans. It’s unfortunate, the lack of respect from some people toward the people that came before. That torch has always been passed and it’s stopped being passed.”
Asked if he’d return if invited to next season’s Old-Timers’ Day, Gossage said: “I don’t see anything changing as long as Cashman’s there.”
Cashman did not respond to a request for comment.
Gossage, elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008, will be on the dais Sunday when six more are inducted: Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jack Morris, Jim Thome and Alan Trammell.
Gossage should be back again next July when former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera headlines the Class of 2019. Rivera is the biggest first-time name on next year’s ballot.
Gossage said “it’s awesome” to think about Rivera joining the club. Then, unprompted, he launched into one of his most frequent criticisms of today’s game — that, unlike in his day, closers generally pitch only one inning.
“I have no ax to grind with Mo,” Gossage said. “It’s just I don’t want to be compared to a one-inning pitcher. That’s all.”