BASEBALL HALL. Former Yankee and Padre reliever Goose Gossage will be inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame today. What kind of player was he? I will let Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tell you:

Gossage didn't just send hitters back to the dugout, he demoralized them.

Former big league outfielder Ken Singleton, now a TV analyst for the YES Network, fared better against Gossage than most, with 12 hits in 35 at-bats for a .343 career average. But Singleton recalls how the mere sight of Gossage could alter the mood in the dugout. "At Yankee Stadium in those days, they used to bring in relievers in a bullpen car,'' Singleton said. "The car would drop the reliever off in front of the dugout and he'd go to the mound. "Well, when Goose came out of the car, it's like he was shot out of a cannon. We'd look at each other and say, 'We've really messed up now.' He had that Fu Manchu, and when he'd throw that first warmup pitch, you'd think, 'He's sure throwing harder than the last guy that was out there.' ''

"If the game was on the line, you knew he was going to throw you fastballs, and every one got harder,'' (Hall of Famer Robin)Yount said. "And more smoke came out of his ears, and more stuff came out of his mouth. He was just grunting like a wild bull out there, ready to charge.''

"The one word that comes to mind is 'intimidation,' '' (HOFer Wade)Boggs said. "When you looked out at Goose, you thought he was going to walk off the mound and beat you up. I never really had that feeling with anybody other than Nolan Ryan.

Two and three decades after sending these guys to bed without any supper, Gossage now joins them on the stage in Cooperstown. For all the grief and discomfort he brought them, the consensus is that it's about time.

"The day has come,'' Boggs said. "This is a guy whose presence exemplifies what pitchers are all about. If there were more Goose Gossages, there would be fewer hitters in the Hall of Fame.''

And then there was this little revelation in the middle of Crasnick's column: A few years ago, Yount went golfing with Gossage and a mutual buddy, Bob McClure, and was surprised to find that Gossage was one of the nicest people he's ever met. Through the many years the two players competed against each other, they had barely shared a word.

Without going into a big, long story, I can say from personal experience that Mr. Gossage is a nicer man than the "wild bull" persona he exhibited on the mound.

When we lived in Ft. Worth I had landed a job as an assistant to the sports director at a local radio station. My job was to go get local sports personalities to say stuff on tape and then bring it back to the station and write a little copy to set it up and give it all to the sports guy to read.

One day I had gone to the old Arlington Stadium to try to find some Texas Ranger to say something into my microphone.

First let me say I was ecstatic to be "working in sports". Secondly, these pro athletes intimidated the fire out of me. Sometimes I didn't know what to say or ask so that I didn't sound like the scared kid from the Ozarks that I really was.

So, I was in the Rangers locker room looking for someone to talk to and, lo and behold, I wound up talking to Goose Gossage, whom Texas had signed as a free agent.

I don't remember what we talked about and I do remember being cautious as I approached him. But I found, as did Robin Yount above and others I am sure, that he was a nice guy to talk to and he treated me like a pro.

It's good that he's in the Hall of Fame.

It's better that he treats people right.

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