That is called a shift shaft seal. Replace it.
from the top of gear case housing at mounting bolts hole measure the shift rod at 21.5 inches to center of hole in shift rod,in neutral gear.
Escort doesn't have a gear shift cable. It has a gear shift rod. To remove it: Remove the shift control rod nut and bolt Take off the shift knob. Remove the console. Remove the shift boot. Pry out the shifter spring. Lift the shift ever out of the housing. Take the nuts that hold the shift housing on the end of the extension bar. Take the extension bar from the transaxle, lower the shift housiing and take the shift control rod from the transmission.
The synchronizers in the transmission are bad. If the gears grind when trying to get it into 1st or 2nd then it's probably the synchro's. If you just can't get it into gear then the 'shift rod bushing' or the "shift couplers" are worn. They are under the gear shift inside the shift tunnel. If you don't know if they have been replaced or not they probably haven't been. Buy the Bentley manual and it will walk you thru it.
The fork fits around a smooth part of the gear assembly. As you shift the fork slides on a rod, meshing the turning gears in the correct place to go into the gears chosen. A bent or worn fork will cause the transmission not go completely into gear or only partially go in, wearing the gear teeth.
Gearbox may be worn There's two places on the 'shift rod' under the tunnel that wears out. It's probably the shifter 'shift coupler' or the 'shift rod bushing' under the gear shift. Pick up the "Bentley" Bug manual for your year and it will tell you how to do it. Kinduv a pain but still do-able.
shifter rod gear linkage
Quite simply it means that the connection between the gear lever & the gearbox is a cable. Other means of connection are. Direct from the gear lever into the gearbox Rod linkage between the gear lever & the gearbox.
I have a 94 Pontiac Grand AM SE and replacing the bulb on gear shift is difficult. The whole panel that the gear shift sits on can be remove. First pull the pin out from the shift knob its located in the front of the knob just above the metal rod it sits on. Then pull out the knob. After that just pry out the panel carefully at the sides, starting from the cigarette lighter up to where the switch is to adjust the mirror. Disconnect the wire from the cigarette lighter, gear shift and the switch that adjust the mirrors. The bulb is on a circuit that is one with the gear shift indicators.
on the end of the shifting rod there are 2 bushing. the bushing on the very end of the rod 8 out of 10 times is always good. but inside the shift rod housing is another bushing. this bushing is spring loaded. it keeps pressure on the shift rod ball. when this bushing goes bad the spring doesn't have the right pressure to push it all the way in gear. so it locks up in gear.
it is most likely your shift linkage that runs from your shifter to your gear case tinker with that and she will most likely work again (it is the rod that is on the left side when you pull off the side panel)