Summary

Birth:
26 Nov 1908 1
Death:
17 Feb 1989 1
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Full Name:
Vernon Louis Gomez 2
Also known as:
"Lefty" Gomez 2
Full Name:
Vernon L Gomez 1
Birth:
26 Nov 1908 1
Death:
17 Feb 1989 1
Residence:
Last Residence: Novato, CA 1
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Quote:
I'd rather be lucky than good." 2
Social Security:
Social Security Number: ***-**-4188 1

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Stories

Vernon (Lefty) Gomez, 80, Dies; Starred as a Pitcher for Yankees

Lefty Gomez, who mixed a sense of humor with a knack for winning consistently as a pitcher with the powerful Yankee teams of a half-century ago, died of congestive heart failure yesterday at Marin General Hospital in Larkspur, Calif. He was 80 years old.

In his 14 major league seasons, Gomez won 189 games, lost 102 and was nearly flawless in the World Series, winning 6 games without losing in his 7 starts. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

Back in the days when baseball games were being played on lazy summer afternoons and the Yankees were winning more games than anybody else, few persons symbolized the sport more joyously or successfully than Vernon (Lefty) Gomez, who was known to let a batter wait while he watched an airplane go by.

The light-hearted left-hander reflected the mood of the business by breezing through 13 seasons as one of the happier, more colorful souls on the landscape: the Singular Senor and El Goofy of the Yankee pitching staff, and a wit and raconteur of the front rank.

 

But he also reflected the Yankees' dominance of the business in the middle years of the empire, starting in 1931, when Babe Ruth was king, and ending in 1942, when Joe DiMaggio reigned. During those summers, plus one postscript summer with the Boston Braves and Washington Senators in 1943, Lefty Gomez performed as one of the slickest pitchers in the big leagues.

Four times he won more than 20 games in a season, three times he led the American League in strikeouts, twice he led in winning percentage and earned run average. And in 1934, when he pitched 26 victories with only 5 defeats, he led the league in shutouts, strikeouts, complete games, innings pitched and just about everything else. Best Under Pressure

But his reputation as a ''money pitcher'' probably rested just as firmly on his World Series record. During his years with the Yankees, pitching in five World Series over eight years, he won six games and did not lose. He also appeared in five All-Star Games, winning three - including the first one in Chicago in 1933 - and losing one.

The secret of his success? ''Clean living and a fast outfield,'' Gomez replied on more than one occasion. Then, just as often, he would add, ''I'd rather be lucky than good.''

He was apparently both because the Yankees were blessed with a full cast of power hitters in the 1930's: from Ruth and Lou Gehrig to DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon and Charlie Keller.

Even when he was elected to the Hall of Fame, Gomez did not take himself too seriously. In his induction speech, he said, ''I want to thank all my teammates who scored so many runs; Joe DiMaggio, who ran down so many of my mistakes, and Johnny Murphy, without whose relief pitching I wouldn't be here.'' A No-Hit Pitcher

He could also joke just as cheerfully about his anemic batting average, which was only .147 during his 13 seasons, in the days when all pitchers batted for themselves.

''They throw, I swing,'' he once said, analyzing the problem at bat. ''Every once in a while they're throwing where I'm swinging and I get a hit.''

'Remember the 1934 All-Star Game?'' he once asked the late Red Smith of The New York Times. ''Carl Hubbell struck out five great hitters in a row: Ruth, Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin. Then Dickey singled, and I was the next hitter. Gabby Hartnett was catching, and he asked me, 'You trying to insult Hubbell, coming up here with a bat in your hand?' '' Gomez struck out. Yanks Pay $35,000 Gomez was a thin 6-footer of Irish and Spanish descent who was born in Rodeo, Calif. He entered professional baseball in 1928 with Salt Lake City of the Utah-Idaho League, then won 18 games with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League the following year and was sold to the Yankees for $35,000.

In 1933, Gomez was married to June O'Dea, a Broadway showgirl who was touring in the musical ''Of Thee I Sing.'' Five years later, she sued for separation and for a time the couple made headlines with charges and countercharges that centered on the pitcher's temperament and zest for high life. She later dropped the suit and they were reconciled.

Bio

Vernon Louis "Lefty" Gomez (November 26, 1908 – February 17, 1989) was an American professional baseball player. A left-handedpitcher, Gomez played in Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees between 1930 and 1942 and for the Washington Senators in 1943. Considered one of the great pitchers of the day, Gomez was a seven-time All-Star and a five-time World Series Champion with the Yankees. He was also known for his colorful personality and humor throughout his career and life.

Gomez was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1972.

Gomez was born in Rodeo, California. His father, Francisco Gomez, had been born in California to a Spanish father, Juan Gomez, and a Portuguese mother, Rita. His mother, Lizzie Herring, was an American of Welsh-Irish descent.[1] He played sandlot baseball in Oakland while attending Richmond High School. It was during that timeframe that he was recruited by the San Francisco Seals.[2] The New York Yankees purchased Lefty from the Seals for an estimated $39,000.[3]

A 20-game winner four times and an All-Star every year from 1933 to 1939, Gomez led the league twice each in wins, winning percentage and ERA, and three times each in shutouts and strikeouts. In the historic first major league All-Star Game (July 6, 1933), Gomez not only was the winning pitcher for the American League, but also drove in the first run of the game. This was out of character for him, as he was, even by the standards of pitchers, notorious for poor hitting. "I never broke a bat until I was 73 years old," he said. "And that was from backing the car out of the garage." His career OPS+ of -7 is the fifth-worst in baseball history among players with at least 1,000 plate appearances.[4] Gomez holds the record for the most innings pitched in a single All-Star game (six, in 1934).

1934 was considered Lefty's best season, as he won 26 games and lost just five. In both 1934 and 1937, he won pitching's "Triple Crown" by leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts; he also led the AL both seasons in shutouts. His .649 career winning percentage ranks 15th in major league history among pitchers with 200 or more decisions; and among pitchers who made their ML debut from 1900–1950, onlyLefty GroveChristy Mathewson and Whitey Ford have both more victories and a higher winning percentage than Gomez

Gomez's 1933 Goudey baseball caA 20-game winner four times and an All-Star every year from 1933 to 1939, Gomez led the league twice each in wins, winning percentage and ERA, and three times each in shutouts and strikeouts. In the historic first major league All-Star Game (July 6, 1933), Gomez not only was the winning pitcher for the American League, but also drove in the first run of the game. This was out of character for him, as he was, even by the standards of pitchers, notorious for poor hitting. "I never broke a bat until I was 73 years old," he said. "And that was from backing the car out of the garage." His career OPS+ of -7 is the fifth-worst in baseball history among players with at least 1,000 plate appearances.[4] Gomez holds the record for the most innings pitched in a single All-Star game (six, in 1934).1934 was considered Lefty's best season, as he won 26 games and lost just five. In both 1934 and 1937, he won pitching's "Triple Crown" by leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts; he also led the AL both seasons in shutouts. His .649 career winning percentage ranks 15th in major league history among pitchers with 200 or more decisions; and among pitchers who made their ML debut from 1900–1950, onlyLefty GroveChristy Mathewson and Whitey Ford have both more victories and a higher winning percentage than Gomez.

Gomez also set a pair of World Series records: winning six games without a loss (1932-1, 1936-2, 1937-2, 1938-1); and most walks received by a batter in the same inning (Two in the 6th inning on October 6, 1937).[5]

In one game, he came up to bat when it was slightly foggy. Bob Feller was on the mound and Gomez struck a match before stepping into the batter's box. "What's the big idea?" growled the umpire. "Do you think that match will help you see Feller's fast one?" "No, I'm not concerned about that," Lefty said. "I just want to make sure he can see me!"

Another example of Gomez' quick wit came with a group of reporters. Noted for his accurate and frequent brushback pitches (also known as "throwing" at the hitter), one of the reporters asked Gomez- "Is it true that you'd throw at your own mother." Gomez replied- "you're damn right I would, she's a good hitter." (This has also been said of Early Wynn.)

In 1940, Lefty suffered an arm injury, which left him up for grabs by another team, but in 1941 he played fairly well, winning 15 and losing 5. During that season, he was said to be a great starting pitcher, but won through the support of Johnny Murphy, who relieved him in later innings. After the 1942 season ended, Lefty took a job as a dispatcher with the General Electric River Works, a defense plant in Lynn, Massachusetts, which only paid $40 a week. Then on January 27, 1943, the Yankees sold Lefty to the Boston Braves for $10,000.[3]

Lefty never appeared in a game with the Braves, as later in the year he was released from his contract and signed with the Washington Senators. He pitched just one game before retiring from the game. In his career, almost entirely spent with the Yankees, he had a 189-102 record with 1468 strikeoutsand a 3.34 ERA in 2503 innings pitched. Known for his great wit, Gomez often remarked, "I'd rather be lucky than good."

In retirement, Gomez became a sought-after dinner speaker known for his humorous anecdotes about his playing days and the personalities he knew. He was a bit of a screwball, nicknamed "El Goofo" or "Goofy Gomez"[1] (a likewise-alliterative counterpart to his contemporary, Dizzy Dean), and delighted in playing practical jokes on everyone from teammates to umpires. He once stopped a World Series game to watch an airplane fly overhead. He came up with the idea of a revolving goldfish bowl to make life easier for older goldfish.

On February 2, 1972, the Veterans Committee unanimously inducted Gomez into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Giants outfielder Ross Youngs and former American League President Will Harridge. The Committee noted that Lefty pitched in seven World Series games with no losses and five wins. Wearing a Yankee cap, Gomez became the second Hispanic player (of Hispanic descent) to be inducted.

The 1983 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was dedicated to Gomez; as he was one of the last surviving players from the 1933 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, he threw out theceremonial first pitch.

On August 2, 1987, he and Whitey Ford were honored with plaques to be placed in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. Gomez's plaque says he was "Noted for his wit and his fastball, as he was fast with a quip and a pitch." Despite advancing age, he was able to attend the ceremony. Although he was honored with the plaque, his uniform #11 has not been retired, and has since been worn by Joe PageJohnny SainHéctor LópezFred StanleyDwight GoodenChuck KnoblauchGary SheffieldDoug MientkiewiczMorgan Ensberg and Brett Gardner.

Lefty spent the last years of his life in Novato, California, and died of congestive heart failure on February 17, 1989, in Marin General Hospital in Larkspur.[6] A decade later, he ranked #73 on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players,[7] and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

On February 26, 1933,[8] Lefty married June O’Dea (born Eilean Frances Schwarz on December 18, 1912 in Revere, Massachusetts; died December 5, 1992 in Novato, California [9]). A Broadwayheadliner who starred in Of Thee I Sing, she gave up her career in 1936. By 1937 the marriage was on shaky ground. Apparently in an effort to rekindle their relationship, they sailed to Bermuda in January, returning to New York aboard the Monarch of Bermuda on the twenty-seventh.[10] It evidently didn’t help much, as Lefty traveled to Hollywood that April and June returned to Massachusetts to stay with family. Through the tabloids, she learned in December that Lefty was filing divorce papers in Mexico, charging incompatibility. Being a devout Catholic, June refused a divorce but agreed to a formal separation, citing abandonment and cruel and inhuman treatment.[11] Publicly, Lefty said the whole idea of divorce was absurd, but after the first of the year he moved to Reno to get a six-week divorce. It was his intention for the divorce to be finalized by the time he began spring training in Florida.[12] Separation proceedings continued for months, but were called off in May 1938.[13] Lefty and June went on to have two daughters, Vernona and Sharon, and two sons, Gery and Duane.[6]  

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