Hearing 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.
|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|
In 1972, a group of Cleveland-based investors headed by George Steinbrenner attempted to purchase the Cleveland Indian baseball team from frozen food magnate, Vernon Stouffer. Having negotiated the terms of the deal himself with the owner’s son Jimmy, who was his good friend and former school classmate, the Boss-to-be had confidently assembled many of his fellow investors at the headquarters of his Cleveland-based shipping company and waited for the elder Stouffer’s phone call, telling them the offer had been accepted.
The phone rang, Steinbrenner answered it and proceeded to listen in disbelief as Stouffer angrily rejected the deal, accusing Steinbrenner of trying to steal his team with an undervalued offer. A bitterly disappointed Boss did not at that moment realize that Stouffer had done him a gigantic favor, actually two favors. The rejection left Steinbrenner and many of his investor buddies free to purchase another baseball team at a later date and the Cleveland negotiations had given the Boss the opportunity to get to know Indians’ GM Gabe Paul.
As Bill Madden later detailed in his book; Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball, Steinbrenner placed a call to Paul after the offer was rejected and let him know how much he had enjoyed the opportunity to work with him. In the process, the Boss had discovered that Paul knew everybody who was anybody in the game and business of baseball and he now told the veteran GM to keep his ears open for news of another club for sale so the two men could go in on it together.
A few months later, Paul made a phone call to Steinbrenner and told him CBS was interested in selling the Yankees. When the deal was complete, Steinbrenner was the new managing owner of the Bronx Bombers and Gabe Paul was the club’s President. Over the next few years, Paul orchestrated transactions that put Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Oscar Gamble, Dick Tidrow, Lou Piniella, Ed Fiqueroa, Mickey Rivers, Willie Randolph and Bucky Dent in pinstripes and he signed free agents Catfish Hunter and Don Gullett. He hung around long enough to see the Yankees win the 1976 AL Pennant and the 1977 World Series and than he went back to Cleveland, claiming he had to escape the maniacal management style of George Steinbrenner, who Paul had grown to detest.
Talk about the ultimate “can’t win” situation, imagine you’re the guy who’s been selected to replace Babe Ruth as the Yankee’s starting right fielder. That was the role given to this Canadian in 1935 after the Yankee front office gave the Bambino his unconditional release. At first, Yankee fans did not approve. The first Yankee home opener without the Babe in right field drew just 29,000 people to the Stadium, the smallest opening crowd since New York had moved into the place, twelve years earlier. Selkirk responded admirably. He certainly was no Ruth but he did hit over .300 in five of his first six seasons with New York and he drove in 100 runs during two of those years. Most importantly, the Yankees kept winning without their Sultan of Swat. Selkirk earned five World Series rings during his nine years in New York. What really helped take the pressure off of Selkirk was the continued remarkable performance of Lou Gehrig and the just as remarkable emergence of Joe DiMaggio as the next Yankee superstar. George was nicknamed “Twinkletoes” because he walked and ran in a distinctive style, up on the balls of his feet. Unlike Ruth, Selkirk also had a keen mind. He’s credited with coming up with the idea for baseball’s warning track to help cut down on the violent collisions suffered by so many Major League outfielders back in the day. When World War II broke out, Selkirk enlisted in the navy and became an aerial gunner. He never again played in a Major League game. He started managing in the minors, eventually became Kansas City’s Director of Scouting and then the first General Manager of the expansion Washington Senators. He was born in Huntsville, Ontario, in 1909 and died in 1987.
Also born on this date was this fifth starter on the Yankees’ 2001 pitching staff, this former Yankee reliever and this former Yankee GM.