It took 441 games over 24 seasons, but Tuesday night Ward Gosse became the first player to reach 100 regular-season home runs in the 55-year history of the Molson St. John’s Senior Softball League.
His hundredth dinger — a two-run shot — came in the top of the sixth inning to help Bull & Finch Bar & Grill to an 8-1 win over the Kelly’s Pub Junior Canadians at Lions Park.
“It wouldn’t have broke my heart to never get there,” says Gosse.
“It’s not something I was obsessed with, but it’s kind of nice to have, let’s put it that way.”
Gosse had been stuck on 99 home runs for a while; he had just one long shot in the 2011 after hitting four the previous season. He’s had three homerless seasons: in 1988, his second season of senior ball; 1992 when he played just one game; and 2009. Overall, he had an average of four homers per season.
His historic blast Tuesday night came off lefthander Jeremy Hickey. His first-ever in the senior circuit was in 1986 with the Junior 50’s All-Stars, when a 16-year-old Gosse hit a solo bomb off Capt. Quik right-hander Davey Janes.
“Honest to God, I do not remember that first home run,” Gosse admits.
“Funny enough, I was trying to get a hold of Dave Janes today to get a part for a van. It’s ironic how it all comes together.”
The homers don’t come as easily as they did during his Fog City heydays, when he was hitting anywhere from five to 12 each season. And while part of that is a result of playing fewer games and taking less cuts at the plate, the 44-year-old Gosse admits age is something of a factor.
“You can see the ball, you can see the strikes, but getting that bat through the zone and having proper timing is harder. You see some pitches that you thought you should have hit but the bat doesn’t quite get to the level point in the zone it once did.”
Since joining Lower Path Grill & Bar (now Bull & Finch), Gosse says he’s benefitted immensely from being able to seek out the advice of teammate Colin Abbott.
“When we were younger, we were (playing) against each other and now we’re teammates and it’s been a pleasure the last few years.
“I can break down the swing a little more by bouncing stuff off a world-class hitter. It’s fun talking that kind of stuff.”
Gosse, who is the all-time leader in runs batted in (347), and last year became the sixth player in league history to reach the 400-hit plateau, is also within striking distance of a lofty pitching standard; Ross Crocker’s all-time wins record of 177. After Tuesday, Gosse is just 12 wins behind.
While he feels he’s still effective from the mound, he joked with teammates that he’s on borrowed time.
“It’s a labour of love at this point, but you don’t really know how much longer it’s going to last. It’s hard to get to the park sometimes, but when you get there it’s a lot of fun.”
St. John’s senior softball
all-time career home run leaders
Ward Gosse 100
Len Beresford 73
Dick Davis 70
Blair Langmead 64
Bill Davis 53
Jerome Brocklehurst 51