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Like several of baseball's best hitters, Hall of Fame outfielder Leon Allen Goslin started out as a pitcher. That's the position he played for the Columbia (South Carolina) Comers of the South Atlantic (Sally) League in 1920, when he was 19 years old. He won six games, lost five, but a year later was a full-time outfielder with a .390 batting average for the same team.

The good news: he moved up to the American League Washington Senators at the end of that season. The bad news: with Washington, he'd be playing in the most spacious ballpark in the major leagues. Several fly balls that would clear fences in other stadiums were simply long outs in Griffith Stadium.

Goslin settled in for an 18-year career, and, luckily, eventually had opportunities to play for other teams. In all, he participated in 2,287 major league games, getting 2,735 hits, and batting .316. He was the American League batting champion in 1928 with a .379 average, and four other times batted .334 or higher. And he was elected to the Hall of Fame.

He managed to hit 249 home runs, despite the disadvantage he faced in Washington. In 1926, for example, Goslin hit 17 home runs — all of them in games away from Griffith Stadium. All told, only 38 of those 249 home runs were hit in Washington, and seven of them came later in his career while he was playing for the St. Louis Browns or Detroit Tigers.

He was traded to the Browns in 1930 after he had hit seven home runs for the Senators in 47 games. With St. Louis that season, he hit 30 in 101 games, accounting for his career-high 37. Goslin drove in 138 runs that season, also a career high, though he had more than 100 runs batted in 12 times.

Goslin did not get along with any of his Washington managers — Bucky Harris, Walter Johnson and Joe Cronin. The biggest reason was his fielding, and, apparently, his attitude toward their criticism. His career almost ended in 1928 when an arm injury created a dilemma for Goslin and his team.

A sportswriter identified only by the initials S. C. M. had this to say in one of his "Sportorials" in the July 7, 1928 edition of the Jamestown (New York) Evening Journal:

Little less than tragic is the spectacle of Goose Goslin playing left field for the Senators with an arm so lame he cannot throw a ball more than 15 or 20 feet. If the lameness cannot be cured, Goslin must learn to throw with his left arm or quit the game, and the latter contingency would be really tragic, for the Goose had one of the finest arms in baseball and he still is one of the greatest of the modern crop of hitters.

“I’m trying now,” he says, “to drive in more runs than are scored against us because of my inability to hold up runners or throw them out, but it’s a tough job. To do it, I’ve had to hit hard enough to lead the league, and while I think I can keep hitting, the boys will keep running.

“I hurt my arm warming up one day at Tampa in the spring. As I threw a ball, I felt a pain in my arm, just as though I’d torn something loose or broken something. I threw a couple more after that, and each time the arm hurt worse, so I knocked off for the day. The next day I tried it again, and I knew then I was going to have trouble with it because it didn’t act like an ordinary sore arm. Most times when you get a sore arm, you can throw the soreness out of it in a little while, but the more I threw, the worse it got.”

Goslin kept playing, and justified his presence in the outfield by leading the league in hitting that season. His arm improved, but he never did fully recover the throwing ability he had demonstrated earlier in his career.

In 1932, Goslin made interesting news when he attempted to use a different kind of bat:

CHICAGO, April 13 (AP) — Goose Goslin’s camouflaged bat was a prisoner of war Wednesday.

The black-striped willow club, designed by Secretary Willis Johnson of the St. Louis Browns and enthusiastically endorsed by Goslin in the believe it can puzzle pitchers and infielders, was banned Tuesday by umpire Harry Geisel in the first inning of the White Sox game.
Goslin insisted he had a right to use it, but lost the argument. So he picked up another bat and revenged himself by hammering out two doubles and a single.

“I still think the bat is legal and am going to appeal,” he said today. “But that other bat I used — where has that been all spring? I like that one, too. I got three hits with it, for a starter.”

Whether the bat would have served its purpose, no one ever found out. As Goslin himself proved in that game, he didn't need a funny-looking bat. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1968, and three years later passed away, at the age of 70.

 
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