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Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Hall of Famer Gossage understands allure of steroids to MLB players

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Goose Gossage can understand why some players would try steroids. With major league salaries so high, finding a way to extend a career is an awfully tempting proposition.

"Chances are, I probably would have done it, too," Gossage said Wednesday.

That doesn't mean baseball's newest Hall of Famer is giving Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds a free pass on their alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. Whether throwing a fastball or speaking his mind, Gossage has never been one to let up -- and he's not about to start.

"I've been in that situation, trying to prolong my career with the money that was out there to be made at this time in baseball. I can't sit here and say that I would not have done it," he said. "But had I done it, I'm going to face the consequences. And the consequences are, that whether they belong in the Hall of Fame or not, the records can't stand.

"These guys downplay the significance of steroids. Don't even go there. I don't buy it at all," Gossage added at a news conference. "These guys are getting better the older they get? Nah. The body doesn't work that way. And baseball is a young man's game."

After being passed over eight times, Gossage was finally elected to the Hall of Fame on Tuesday, becoming only the fifth reliever to receive baseball's highest honor. He pitched for nine big league teams from 1972-94, but the Hall will depict him wearing a New York Yankees cap on his plaque.

"I was hoping, but I still didn't know until just now," said Gossage, who earned his only World Series title with the 1978 Yankees. "There was nothing like pitching in New York. ... Getting to play for the Yankees was kind of an out-of-body experience."

Years from now, Clemens could join Gossage in Cooperstown. That seems uncertain, though, after Clemens was the biggest star implicated in last month's Mitchell Report on doping in baseball.

The Rocket has repeatedly denied the allegations, and he was defiant Monday at a news conference in Houston filled with potential Hall of Fame voters from the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

"You keep your vote," Clemens said. "I don't need the Hall of Fame to justify that I put my butt on the line and I worked my tail off, and I defy anybody to say I did it by cheating or taking any shortcuts, OK?"

How did that sit with Gossage, who had an agonizing wait on the ballot?

"I don't know that that's really what he meant," Gossage said. "I can't imagine Roger saying that to begin with, because I know the Hall of Fame means everything to all of us. I think he was getting frustrated up there.

"He's fighting for his career, his whole life right now, as far as public opinion and the admiration that he's gotten. I said this before, that Roger always liked a lot of attention. Well, he's getting plenty of attention now for sure."

Much of the information in the Mitchell Report linking Clemens to steroids and human growth hormone came from his former trainer, Brian McNamee.

Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner who ranks eighth in major league history with 354 career wins, filed a defamation lawsuit against McNamee and gave a TV interview in which the pitcher said McNamee injected him only with vitamin B-12 and the painkiller lidocaine.

Both have been asked to appear before Congress at a hearing on Feb. 13.

"That's why I think that he's fighting so hard to keep his reputation in tact is because of the Hall of Fame. That's just my opinion," Gossage said, referring to Clemens. "I think where the frustration comes in is the possibility of not going into the Hall of Fame is tremendous."

The 56-year-old Gossage, his famous Fu Manchu mustache now gray, will be inducted July 27 along with five men elected last month by the revamped Veterans Committee: former commissioner Bowie Kuhn, former Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, managers Dick Williams and Billy Southworth and ex-Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss.

Gossage got his nickname because he stuck his neck way out like a goose while peering in to his catcher for the sign, and he definitely likes to have fun. In addition to his Hall of Fame news conference Wednesday, he read the Top Ten List on the "Late Show with David Letterman."