In the early 1970's the closer role was relatively new in baseball and still developing. The Yankees were one of the first teams to take advantage of it's importance. Lyndy McDaniel was the first in a long line of strong relievers in Yankee history. In 1972 the Yankees acquired Sparky Lyle in a trade with the Boston Red Sox and Lyle became one of the top closers in the game. Lyle led the AL in saves in 1972 and 1976 and won the Cy Young Award in 1977.
When the Yankees signed free agent Goose Gossage in 1977, many people didn't understand why the Yankees would ink Gossage when they had the reigning Cy Young winner. Gossage dominated as the Yankees late inning man and is credited with pioneering the closer role. Soon after Gossage arrived in the Bronx, it was clear that the Yankees made the right move in signing Gossage. Former Yankees third baseman Greg Nettles was quoted as saying that "Sparky Lyle went from Cy Young to Sayonara."
"I don't even really know what to say," Gossage said during his acceptance speech. "It's totally overwhelming to me is the only word I can come up with." Gossage played with the Yankees from 1978–83 and in 1989. Gossage won a World Series with the Yankees in 1978 and was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008. Gossage said on Sunday that receiving a plaque in Monument Park was "the greatest day I ever had."
Gossage compiled a 42-28 record as a Yankee and had a 2.19 ERA, 512 strikeouts in 319 games and collected 151 saves. Goose admitted that he would sit out in the bullpen when he played and stare at the monuments, never thinking that one day he would join the Yankee greats in Monument Park. "I never put myself in that kind of company," Gossage said.
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