A love of baseball, by the numbers
- Article by: JEREMY OLSON
- Star Tribune
- March 24, 2011 - 2:23 AM
The principled, gruff life of baseball statistician Glenn (Gos) Gostick ended last week when he died after a heart attack at age 83.
Gostick was a catcher, coach and athletic trainer for Minnesota sports teams, but will be remembered most for the home-brewed Major League Baseball statistics he penned on graph paper.
While even friends would call him abrasive, he was a legend in baseball circles for his ability to analyze players and make firm judgments about their value to the game. Sportswriters consulted him on Hall of Fame votes. At least one Twins player used his data in contract negotiations.
"He relished in being able to have, in his own mind, an absolute answer," said Dr. Glenn Oren, his nephew.
So confident was Gostick that he gave his annual baseball stat sheet an almost biblical title: The Word of Gos. Friends, relatives, players, managers, writers -- even Gostick's doctor -- received copies of the hand-drawn sheets in the mail.
Others had to work for his expertise. The reclusive Gostick never had a working phone or answered his door, so sportswriters had to write letters or leave notes at his doorstep.
Gostick took pride in looking beyond obvious statistics, such as home runs and batting averages, to the skills that others overlooked. His figures tracked the unsung heroes of the game, such as hitters who made outs but moved runners along the bases.
Gostick, born in 1928, played baseball at Minneapolis North High School and in the Army's First Cavalry Division team in the Pacific in 1947. He earned a physical therapy degree at the University of Minnesota, and was the Gophers' starting catcher from 1949 to 1951.
The catcher drifted to minor league clubs in Duluth, Mayville, Ky., and Muskogee, Okla. He once admitted dropping third strikes so he could throw the ball to first base and get credit for the out.
"I never lost a man, either," he told local baseball historian Stew Thornley. "Of course, I never did it with Major League scouts in the stands."
To his disappointment, Gostick never made the majors, Oren said. "He would have relished if he could have gone up [to a big league team] for a cup of coffee."
He became an exacting trainer for the University of Minnesota, the Minneapolis Lakers, the Minnesota Fighting Saints hockey team, and the U.S. hockey team. He was assistant coach of the university's champion baseball teams in 1960 and 1964. He ran community clinics for the Twins, and helped form baseball associations in Holland and Sweden.
All along, his fascination with statistics grew. He became the Minnesota Twins' official scorekeeper in the '80s, but resigned in 1988 because Manager Tom Kelly complained that he called too many errors, said close friend Dick Cassidy.
"The manager said, 'Hey, you should favor the players. Everybody else does it,'" Cassidy said. "But he wouldn't do it."
Gostick was eccentric. Long before Minneapolis had bicycle paths, he rode everywhere. One year he biked to Florida for spring training.
A lifelong bachelor, the dapper Gostick owned more than 100 sport coats but no computer. He lived without running water at his north Minneapolis home in recent years -- showering at the Victory Memorial Ice Arena, Cassidy said.
In 2009, when his health was failing, Gostick moved to Colorado to be near relatives. He doted on the children in his extended family, Oren said, especially at Christmas when his white beard and belly made him a Santa lookalike.
Ever stubborn about privacy, Gostick limited how often staff members at his senior housing unit could check on him, and never plugged in the phone relatives gave him.
Employees found his body March 15. On his desk were seven pages of statistics -- The Word of Gos for 2010.
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744
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