It’s one of the oldest pitcher-batter rivalries in sports: Goose Gossage vs. Mike Van Blaricom. Um … citation needed?
Well, it’s become the classic rivalry of the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament, anyway. It’s been going on for three years now, pitting the Hall of Fame closer against the golf fan from Reno, NV. Gossage is a regular at the American Century tourney, and meets up with Van Blaricom annually on the 17th fairway at Edgewood Golf Course — which is party central for celebrity golf fans.
The 17th runs along the shore of Lake Tahoe, and fans are fond of anchoring their boats at the shoreline and watching the action from their boats, and the beach. That’s where Van Blaricom (right, above) waits with a baseball bat and a rubberized baseball. After Gossage tees off, Van Blaricom throws him the ball out on the fairway, and Gossage fires it back to Von Baricom, who is standing on the beach with the bat. This goes on at No. 17 for all three days of the tourney.
“The first time he threw to me, in 2011, I hit it over the trees,” Van Blaricom told me. “He wasn’t happy about that. Then last year he said he couldn’t throw because his arm was sore.”
But they renewed their rivalry today, in the tourney’s first round. And Van Blaricom was in good form. Here’s the pitch sequence:
First pitch: Gossage picks up the baseball, throws toward the beach … it’s low and outside. Ball.
Second pitch: Van Blaricom connects, sending an impressive drive over the fairway and into the crowd on the other side. Cheers erupt.
This prompts Gossage to motion for the ball. An unprecedented third pitch? Uh oh.
Third pitch: Gossage fires one right at Van Blaricom, hitting him in the leg.
“Retaliation,” Van Blaricom said, smiling. You do not mess with the Goose.
Goose also throw footballs into boats (below):
Trevor Hoffman, playing in the same threesome, also threw a pitch to 14-year-old Noah Hospodka, the son of Van Blaricom’s girlfriend. Noah hit a ground ball which he called a single.
“Tomorrow (Saturday) Noah gets to hit against Gossage,” Van Blaricom said. “We rotate.”
Van Blaricom has played some baseball himself — he was a shortstop for Cal State Fulllerton.
I caught up with Gossage on the 18th hole.
“Yeah, I remember that guy. He’s here every year,” Gossage told me. “I’ll see him Saturday I’m sure. My arm feels fine. No brain, no pain I guess.”