SAN DIEGO — Goose Gossage saw the familiar faces and screamed, "Hey, guys!" His wife and three kids then ran into his arms as dozens of people at Lindbergh Field crowded near to get a glimpse.
He had returned, making his first public appearance in San Diego since Padre President Ballard Smith suspended him Friday without pay for "repeated public attacks" on the front office. And Gossage got--what else?--an ovation. Now the people waiting in the airport terminal were screaming.
"Hey Goose! . . . Hey Goose!"
The mood will be more serious today, though. Gossage, along with his agent, Jerry Kapstein, and his attorney, Bob Teaff, have scheduled a meeting with Smith at an undisclosed site. Gossage repeated Sunday that he wants to play baseball again this year. Whether Smith will let him is uncertain, and if Gossage is not reinstated, then Gene Orza--general counsel of the Major League Players Assn.--likely will file a grievance.
"But I will want to talk to Kapstein first," Orza said.
A source close to Gossage said: "We won't get into a shin-kicking confrontation (with Smith)." So it is possible there can be a meeting of minds today, though this will be Smith's third such closed-door meeting with Gossage this season--and none have worked.
Smith again would not comment on what it would take for Gossage to be reinstated. But when told of the lively reception at the airport, Smith said: "Obviously, people aren't going to come up and criticize (Gossage). Anyway, the people I've run across the last couple days have said, 'What took you so long?'
"I won't do something by what the fans say. We just want everyone (in the organization) working in the right direction. Someone had to be in charge. Someone had to make the rules."
Smith responded to some of Orza's recent public criticisms. Orza said this weekend that "no, this has never before happened in baseball. That's because we've never had a Ballard Smith before." Orza also called Smith and owner Joan Kroc "sanctimonious people" who think they have "a moral superiority" over others.
Said Smith: "I've never met Gene Orza. The only contact I've had with him was in the Alan Wiggins (drug) case last year, and he was disruptive. And I told Gene Orza, in no uncertain terms, to mind his own business. He is not helping the players, and to go out and try to inflame the situation any further isn't going to do any good.
"For him to say this has never happened before in baseball is stupid. Management has been upset before with players and has gotten rid of them. We haven't gotten rid of him (Gossage), and we're operating within the rules. Gene Orza obviously has a grudge against me from the Alan Wiggins situation. He acted irresponsibly then, and he is now. Gene Orza is not running the San Diego Padres. . . . What he's saying is typical from someone from the (players') union who doesn't know the facts."
Fact is that Gossage has missed three Padre games and his pay along with it. Outwardly, he has handled it well, his sense of humor intact. On Saturday in Montreal, he called the hotel room of John Mattei--the Padres' traveling secretary--but Mattei's wife, Jan, said her husband was out.
"Where are you?" Jan asked.
"In my room," he answered.
"Have you been a bad boy?"
"Yeah, and they sent me to my room."
Gossage then checked out of the hotel Sunday morning to fly back to San Diego for today's meeting. He arrived and was asked where things stood.
"There's not a whole lot I know right now," he said. "I'm not exactly sure where it stands. I have to talk to Gene (Orza) later."
His teammates--on his behalf--had threatened to boycott the games in Montreal this weekend. "I appreciate what they're doing," Gossage said. "It could happen to any of us. It's an unfortunate situation. . . . All I want to do is play baseball. The team can still finish in second place and I want to help them. I'm glad they didn't (boycott the games), but it shows how strong we are as a team. I appreciate everything they did, but I'm glad they went ahead and played for the fans."
Harold McFadyen of San Diego visited with Gossage during the airplane ride (Gossage had to fly through Chicago). McFadyen said he told Gossage, "I hope you get back and play ball."
McFadyen said a man recognized Gossage in Chicago and yelled: "Goose, come to Chicago!"
As of now, he belongs to San Diego. As he awaited his baggage, he signed a dozen autographs. And then--with his wife and three kids s gathered around him--he was out the door.