Not only is Jim Gosger alive and well, but he could be getting some special jewelry very soon.
While the Knicks famously struck out in NBA free agency on Sunday, another hapless New York franchise did even worse by former players Gosger and Jesse Hudson, declaring the living former ballplayers dead over the weekend.
Like the Tigers with the 1984 World Series celebration on Saturday, the Mets also lauded former champions, recognizing the 1969 team on Saturday for its 50th anniversary.
Port Huron’s Gosger, 76, a former reserve outfielder, was not invited to the gathering. Instead, he was noted with Hudson in the “We Remember” video memorial as those who had passed away, along with players such as Danny Frisella and Cal Koonce — who actually have passed away.
“They called (Saturday night) and said, ‘Jim, we’re awful sorry about the screwup,’ and I said, ‘Whatever,’” Gosger said by phone on Sunday night. “Stuff like that happens, I guess.’
“It upset me more than anything. I’m pretty easy-going, but stuff like that when it gets pretty personal like that… I know that it probably wasn’t intentional, but stuff like that, I mean, can’t they Google and see that I’m still around?”
In truth, Gosger still lives in the house he grew up in Port Huron with wife, Kathleen, and four cats and three dogs. His four daughters and one son also live in southeast Michigan.
Gosger played 10 regular-season games for the Mets late in the '69 season. After the World Series, Gosger received a playoff share of about $100, but never got a championship ring. Gosger said he believes Amos Otis, who played 48 games that season, and Bobby Heise, who played four, also never received rings.
Gosger checked with the Mets a few years after 1969 about getting the ring and was told he could purchase one for about $3,500.
“I said, ‘Ah, never mind,’” Gosger said.
Gosger has had a happy retirement — until three recent hip surgeries, he was a regular golfer and fixture in the community officiating football, baseball and basketball games in the Blue Water Area.
He also got a call this weekend that could turn the awkward — at best — situation into a happy ending.
Jeff Logan, president of the Kansas City Baseball Historical Society and a friend of Gosger’s, called about the mishap. Logan talked to Gosger, found out about the ring, called the Mets and called Gosger back with a promise.
“He said, ‘We’re going to get you the ring,’” Gosger said. “I was almost in tears. My wife was sitting here, and I was half-crying because that meant a lot to me.”
A Tigers fan as a youngster, Gosger got his first hit at Tiger Stadium as a rookie with Boston in 1963. The Red Sox are now his team, Gosger said, as they signed him from a semi-pro team in Marysville and then moved him up the minor-league ladder, where he learned under Boston’s special hitting instructor, Ted Williams.
“They gave me my chance to play,” said Gosger, who fondly recalls his father, James, grabbing a Cleveland scout by the back of his neck and sending him out of the Port Huron house after the scout expressed doubt that Gosger would ever make the big leagues.
“My dad always wanted me to play. He had a chance to play but was in the service and couldn’t do it,” Gosger said. “He always said, ‘I wanted you to be a ballplayer.’”
James would take his 9-year-old son to watch Williams play left field at Tiger Stadium.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Jimmy, someday you’re going to be right there,’” Jim Gosger said about his father, who passed away in 1980. “I said, ‘Dad, I’m only 9 years old.’ He says, ‘Believe me, you’re going to be there.’
“That was his dream. When I signed the contract, he was in tears. He said that we got you where wanted to. He was so damn proud. He and mom were so proud. It made his life anyways.”
The Mets posted an official apology on the scoreboard before Sunday’s game at Citi Field. In the apology, Hudson’s first name was spelled incorrectly as “Jessie.”
Hudson made his only major league appearance that season, throwing two innings of relief in the nightcap of a September doubleheader.
Gosger, acquired during the 1969 season in a trade from the Seattle Pilots as a “player to be named later” from an earlier deal, was sent to San Francisco that offseason. He was released and picked up by the Montreal Expos before the 1970 season began.
Gosger would finish his 13-year professional career — including 10 seasons as a big leaguer with Boston, Kansas City, Oakland, Seattle, Montreal and New York — with a two-year stint with the Mets in 1973-74, helping them to the World Series again in 1973, where they lost to Oakland.
Gosger — who played more than 700 games in the majors and had more than 400 hits in over 2,000 at-bats — did receive a 1973 National League championship ring from the Mets for that season, but never the ’69 World Series ring.
“It was absolutely gorgeous,” Gosger said of the ’69 ring that he’s seen teammates wear from reunions over the years. “It’s a symbol of an accomplishment.
“That means a lot.”
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.