Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The story of Moose and Goose

A week or two ago I decided to figure out exactly when baseball cards started calling Hall of Fame relief pitcher Rich Gossage by his nickname "Goose".

As a kid collecting cards during the late '70s, Gossage was always "Rich" on his baseball cards even if the broadcasters would often call him by his nickname.

Finding the first "Goose" on his cards wasn't difficult. The first time his nickname was mentioned came on the back of one of his cards, 1975 Topps:

It's there in the cartoon, complete with a goose toeing the rubber.

The first time Gossage's nickname showed up on the front of one of his cards came quite a bit later, and, as I suspected, it wasn't Topps to first display his nickname.

It first showed up on 1983 Fleer, which was also Goose's final year with the Yankees.

But even after Fleer broke the ice and some of the other card companies, like Score and Upper Deck followed (it wasn't consistent through the second half of the '80s; it was sometimes "Goose," sometimes "Rich"), Topps remained steadfast.

Gossage was still "Rich". And it stayed that way on Topps cards throughout his career. Topps didn't refer to Gossage as "Goose" on the front of his cards until retro cards became a thing and Gossage was appearing in Archives and the like.

This is nothing new with Topps and I've covered it before. While Donruss and Upper Deck always listed Boyd as "Oil Can Boyd," Topps referred to him as "Dennis Boyd". While everyone called Hebner "Richie," he was always "Rich" on Topps cards. You had to practically get into a private meeting with the Topps brass -- like Tim Raines apparently did -- to have your name changed from "Tim" to "Rock" on your baseball cards.

Topps had somewhat of history of avoiding nicknames on cards.

Yet, how do you explain this:

In 1978, a player named Moose Haas debuted in the Topps set, featuring the name "Moose" on the front of his card.

I don't remember thinking this was odd at the time, but in fact it was. Because Topps wasn't in the habit of calling a player "Moose" if that wasn't his given name.

And "Moose" wasn't Haas' given name. It was a nickname from his parents when he was young because he was big for his age and "was going to be a moose."

Topps won't tell you Moose's given name because that's the way Topps is, but fortunately at the time there were other card companies that could supply that information.

Donruss, for example.

There it is. Moose's actual first name is "Bryan".

Yet, that wasn't stopping Topps. Even though "Moose," like "Goose," was a nickname, Topps was sticking to it. Every year.

For a decade, it was nothing but "Moose". If you were a fan of "Goose" and his nickname, it hardly seemed fair.

Besides Moose Haas, Topps had been notoriously stingy with putting "Moose" on the front of its baseball cards. I can think of only four other examples.

Moose Stubing, the Angels' manager for all of eight games in 1988. His actual first name is Lawrence, by the way.

Bob Moose, because that was his last name for crying out loud!

And the Mariner Moose. God bless mascots and trademarks.

And that brings me to Bill Skowron.

You can be forgiven if when you read "Bill Skowron," you said, "who"? Because Skowron was known almost across the board as "Moose Skowron." Not only that, he was a Yankee for most of the time he was Moose, so you can bet "Moose" was screamed to the sky for everyone to hear because that's the Yankee way.

But Topps, during Skowron's 14-year major league career, almost never called Skowron, "Moose" on his baseball cards. It was always "Bill". Even after Skowron had long since retired, Topps cited him as "Bill" in retro products like Fan Favorites.

That's just the way Topps was. It wasn't going to fall for some informal name just because a bunch of people yelled it at him at the ballpark. What kind of precedent would that set? Nope, it was going to be "Bill" and nothing but "Bill". Everybody better get used to it, all right? Got it? It's not going to cha ...

... nge."

For one year, Topps took leave of its senses and issued a card of Skowron during his career that called him "Moose Skowron". It happened with the 1958 set. I don't know why it was made an exception but not in 1957 or 1959 or any of those other years, but it was.

So, maybe, just maybe, that's the precedent for Moose Haas. Topps had already shown it can call somebody by his Moose nickname way back in 1958, surely it could do it again for this guy, Bryan Haas.

But "Goose"?

That apparently was too far.

Topps wasn't around when Goose Goslin was playing. Maybe if it was then maybe it would have been willing to call Gossage "Goose".

Today, there are all kinds of nicknames on the front of cards. Mookie Betts (real name "Markus"), Scooter Gennett (real name "Ryan"), Dee Gordon (real name "Devaris"), Didi Gregorius (real name "Mariekson"), Tuffy Gosewisch (real name "James"), Buster Posey (real name "Gerald"), and several others.

It's not even a new thing as Mookie Wilson's actual first name is "William" and when did you ever see that on a Topps card?

I guess what I'm saying is that this nickname attribution for Topps is very random.

It's just too bad that Topps never called Gossage "Goose" once during his career.


  1. Topps called Tim Raines 'Rock Raines' at least on the 89 and 90 sets that if i remember correctly all others before it was just Tim.

  2. Gossage was called both "Rich" and "Goose" by broadcasters, reporters, and so on, so I'm not surprised a Topps stuck with the real name. Same with Tim Raines and, although you don't mention him, Dwight/Doc Gooden. But as a huge Mets fan I never, ever heard anyone refer to "William Wilson". No one mentions Gerald Posey or Markus Betts, and I'm guessing no one ever said anything about Bryan Haas either.

    IOW, I think they generally only use the nickname when it is pretty much the only way people refer to the player, and not when the real name is somewhat familiar.

  3. You never saw Albert or Al Lyle... only Sparky. But I think of him more as Butt Cake complements of this blog.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I'very been running this blog for almost 10 years. There's a lot of "Moose and Goose" in it. Get used to it.

  5. I have pulled at least two cards recently where the player signed a different name in the official facsimile signature than Topps printed on the card. A little striking. Unfortunately, they are now in a pile of re-pack junk wax cards several hundred cards high. But they will re-appear and make it to one of my baseball card halls of fame - a binder.

  6. Grew up hearing both Rich and Goose... but that whole Bryan thing just blew my mind. And Gerald Posey? I live in the Bay Area... how have I never heard this before. Learned a lot from this post.

  7. Interestingly Topps only used 'Larry' on their very first Yogi Berra card (the '51 standup) and even then they listed him on the front as Larry 'Yogi' Berra. Used 'Yogi' every time after that. I guess he was so well known as Yogi by then that there wasn't any option.

  8. Interesting I could have sworn the first Tim Raines "Rock" card was Topps 86, but NO it was '89. Odd that I thought it was sooner. I just recall the first time I saw Tim referred to as Rock I thought "WHAT Tha?" ON the you never heard their given name I don't recall ever hearing Tug McGraw called "Frank". The first tops card to print his name as "Frank" was 1970 on the BACK, used Tug 71, 72, back to Frank 73, 74,75 back to Tug 76 for good it looks like. One of the odd things about the 1970 cards is the back usually had the player's full given name on the back, and then on the front what they were generally known as. Fleer only used Tug, but Donruss in 81, 82 used Frank on back all years (to 84 his last season)

  9. Glad Topps only went the first year 1962 with John,then all the rest of his cards were Boog for Boog Powell.

  10. If you're a baseball fan, that's embarrassing if you didn't know Bill Skowron was known as "Moose". Even my mom knows that.

  11. My wife loves moose. I showed her this post and now she wants to go to Seattle to see the Mariners. (This is a bit of an endeavour. We live in Wales.)

  12. Satchel Paige and Pumpsie Green, anyone?