January 4 – Happy Birthday Tom Gorman

tom.gormanHearing the name of today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant always confuses me. I think of Tom Gorman the long-time MLB umpire. I also get all anagrammic and think of Tom Morgan, another Yankee reliever from the 1950’s. Then there’s Tom Gorman, the tennis player, Tom Gorman the Mets’ pitcher from the 1980’s and even Gorman Thomas, who used to hit lots of homers for the Milwaukee Brewers a generation ago. See what I mean?

This Tom Gorman was the bespectacled right-hander who was called up to the Yankees for the first time in 1952, when the other New York pitcher with the same letters in his last name, Tom Morgan, was called into military service. Gorman was the only MLB ball player ever to come from Valley Stream, NY, a village bordering the New York City borough of Queens, that was also the hometown of Steve Buscemi, the lead character in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire series. Gorman was signed by the Yankees in 1946 and spent five and a half seasons in the organization’s farm system, so he was already 27-years-old when he finally got called to the Bronx.

For his first-ever big league appearance, Casey Stengel brought him into a game against the Indians in the seventh inning to protect a 3-2 lead. He blew the save on a force play but stayed in the game for two innings and got the win when the Yankees rallied. Two days later, Stengel gave Gorman his first start against the White Sox and he gave up three runs over seven innings and got the win.

He ended up appearing in 12 games during his first half-season as a Yankee, split evenly between starts and relief appearances. His 6-2 record earned him a spot on New York’s postseason roster and it was during the third game of the 1952 World Series, that he threw a pitch that could have made him one of the biggest “Goats” in Yankee postseason history.

Eddie Lopat had kept the Yankees in Game 3 against Brooklyn into the ninth inning with less than his best stuff. But after the crafty southpaw surrendered one-out back-to-back singles to Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson, Stengel called in his rookie right-hander, Gorman to keep New York’s deficit at one run.

The two speedy Dodgers immediately executed a double steal but Gorman was able to retire Roy Campanella on an infield pop-up. That brought Brooklyn’s Andy Pafko to the plate. With two strikes against the veteran outfielder, Gorman threw a pitch inside that seemed to cross up Yogi Berra, glancing of his gloved hand, ricocheting off his shin guard and getting passed the Yankee catcher. Both Reese and Robinson scored on the miscue, which was officially ruled a passed ball. The three-run lead proved insurmountable and Brooklyn took a two-games to one advantage into game 4.

There were two reasons why that pitch did not end up branding Gorman a perennial Goat in Yankee lore. The first was that Berra swore it was his fault. When asked after the game by reporters if the Gorman had crossed him up on the pitch, Yogi adamantly denied it and told the reporters to blame him and not the first-year pitcher, so that’s how it was written up. Since the Yanks rebounded to beat Brooklyn in that Fall Classic, the play also turned out to be a lot less costly and notable than it would have been if the Dodgers had been able to hang on and win that Series. A year later, Gorman told the Yankee media that he had in fact crossed Berra up on that pitch and described the Yankee catcher’s insistence on taking blame for the incident as “one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for him.”

Tom Gorman remained an effective member of the Yankee bullpen corps for the next two seasons, until he was sold to Kansas City in March of 1955. He pitched well for the A’s as both a reliever and a starter for the next four years before age caught up to him in 1959. He died back in his hometown of Valley Stream in 1992, at the age of 67.

He shares his birthday with this former Yankee front office whizz,  this former Yankee outfielder and this one-time Yankee starting pitcher.

1952 NYY 6 2 .750 4.60 12 6 3 1 1 1 60.2 63 34 31 8 22 31 1.401
1953 NYY 4 5 .444 3.39 40 1 15 0 0 6 77.0 65 32 29 5 32 38 1.260
1954 NYY 0 0 2.21 23 0 11 0 0 2 36.2 30 14 9 1 14 31 1.200
8 Yrs 36 36 .500 3.77 289 33 132 5 2 42 689.1 659 332 289 77 239 321 1.303
KCA (5 yrs) 26 29 .473 3.84 214 26 103 4 1 33 515.0 501 252 220 63 171 221 1.305
NYY (3 yrs) 10 7 .588 3.56 75 7 29 1 1 9 174.1 158 80 69 14 68 100 1.296
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/4/2014.

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