Passed-Ball Infamy Not End Of World For Astros' Goff

Jerry Goff was trying his best to put everything behind him, which is what caused him grief in the first place.

He wanted to forget the record-tying six passed balls last Sunday in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, and the many insults subsequently tossed his way at Chicago's Wrigley Field, Chicago.

The Houston Astros' reserve catcher, 32, sought to escape the embarrassment, so he went to a sports bar in Chicago late Monday night with a couple of high-school friends from San Rafael, Calif., to relax.

Have some fun. Drink some beers. Reminisce.

Goff excused himself to go to the men's restroom but, when he stepped up to a urinal, one of his buddies next to him suddenly issued a stern warning.

"Don't read the newspaper," his friend said.

Turns out all of Goff's woes were staring him right in the face. That day's sports pages were still taped above the urinal. With bold headlines, Goff's Gaffes.

Everything was in front of him again, not behind him.

"Unfortunately I'm going to be remembered forever about this, but it's not something I'm going to let live with me," Goff said from his hotel room later. "It's not like I lost a family member. It's not the end of the world."

It was a long week for Goff, who spent the first four years of his pro career in the Seattle Mariners' organization.

It began the previous Tuesday when he was riding the Tucson Toros' team bus back from Phoenix at the end of a 12-game road trip. He got home in Tucson at 2 a.m. Then he packed, conversed with his wife, Nancy, and waited for their two children to wake up before he had to leave again to catch a 6 o'clock flight to Philadelphia to join the Astros, who were beginning an 11-game road trip.

Houston had placed catcher Tony Eusebio on the 15-day disabled list, and Goff was his replacement.

The Astros went to Montreal where he played his first game and homered in his first at-bat.

But he also was charged with six passed balls, tying a major-league record, though, in all fairness, two of those six easily could have been ruled wild pitches.

(The record was set originally by Cincinnati's Harry "Rube" Vickers, a pitcher making his only major-league appearance behind the plate. Vickers set a modern professional-baseball record in 1906 by pitching 517 innings for Seattle in 64 Pacific Coast Leaque games. He had a 39-20 record and struck out 409 batters. He returned to the majors with the Philadlephia Athletics in 1907.)

"It happened and it happened so fast," Goff said. "I didn't know the extreme of it until I got in the clubhouse after the game and all the reporters were around my locker. I didn't even know there were six passed balls."

Goff, who in his previous 89 major-league games had accumulated only four passed balls, left Montreal on Sunday night. When he checked into the Astros' team hotel in Chicago, he had a message to call ESPN Radio. He returned the call.

"I'm not one to hide from the media," he said.

Finally, Goff got a chance to call home and talk with Nancy.

She heard about her husband's bad day from a friend renting their house in San Rafael.

She said all the right things. "If it wasn't for her and my kids, I'd probably be in Napa right now," he said.

Napa? No, Goff didn't consider washing away his miseries by going wine tasting.

That family conversation helped ease the pain - for awhile.

He was set to warm up Houston pitchers in the bullpen in Wrigley Field on Monday and knowledgable fans were ready for him. They were shouting "PB" and they didn't mean Pass the Beer.

"I got ridiculed," Goff said. "People were sitting right there. You can't help but hear them."

He handled their barbs and snickers much better than he did his pitchers' fastballs and sliders the previous day. He didn't throw a baseball at anyone. He didn't even throw a temper tantrum.

"I've been able to play (pro ball) for 11 years; I can hold my head high," Goff said.

"Even though that happened, I'm still a firm believer in myself. I didn't think any of it (fans' razzing) was funny, but I knew it was coming. You hear it. You expect it."

What was nice, he thought, was the response of teammates.

He has spent only about three weeks in two years in the big leagues with them, yet Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and starting catcher Rick Wilkins have offered much-appreciated encouragement.

"It's kind of reassuring," he said. "When you're a major-leaguer, there's a unity. You have respect for each other."