Thursday, February 17, 2005
February 17th, 1989
Lefty Gomez Dies
Lefty Gomez was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972. He's a questionable selection; supporters point to his 3.34 ERA (25% better than the league average for his career) and his nearly two-hundred wins in just fourteen seasons (Lefty's average season featured 18 wins) while detractors point out that he pitched nearly his entire career with the Yankees in the 30s and 40s, casting serious doubt on how much of Lefty's many wins came from the team behind him rather than the man on the mound.
It’s a tough call, but I think he belongs, with his wit being the tiebreaker. If Lefty Gomez isn't in the Hall of Fame we might forget the man who once said that "when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, he and all the space scientists were puzzled by an unidentifiable white object. I knew immediately what it was. That was a home run ball hit off me in 1937 by Jimmie Foxx." Gomez was not quite like Casey Stengel, whose quotes demonstrated a keen knowledge of the game hidden behind the glib exterior, but he wasn't entirely unaware either. Gomez reflected that he lived by the rule that you "make your best pitch and back up third base. That relay might get away and you've got another shot at him."
Gomez also liked to poke fun at his miserable batting career (he finished a lifetime .147 hitter) saying "I was the worst hitter ever. I never even broke a bat until last year when I was backing out of the garage." Gomez might have been a little harsh in his self-assessment, although not too much. He triumphed over his ineptitude with the stick however to help himself hold a unique trivia answer: First man to drive in a run in an All-Star game. Gomez started the 1933 game--the first ever--and pitched three scoreless innings to earn the win (also the first ever, of course). In the third, Gomez came up with Jimmy Dykes on second and Joe Cronin on first. He singled, scoring Dykes and putting the
Gomez retired after the 1943, and left the game revealing "the secret of my success was clean living and a fast outfield."
February 17th, 1893