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 ...
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.
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.