By Father Gabe Costa
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Although primarily known for hitting, the team that would come to be called the New York Yankees has had some great pitchers. Hall of Famers Jack Chesbro, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock and Red Ruffing were all first-class hurlers. The triumvirate of Eddie Lopat, Vic Raschi and Allie Reynolds were mainstays for the five consecutive titles posted by the 1949-1953 Bronx Bombers. And the Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford, was one of the great money pitchers of all time, posting a .690 winning percentage. And the great Mariano Rivera is, well, the great Mariano Rivera.
For today’s blog I would like to highlight one of the funniest, most lovable, most quotable pitchers to ever wear the pinstripes — Lefty Gomez.
Vernon Louis Gomez was born in 1908 in Rodeo, California. He would live for more eight decades before he died in Greenbrae, California.
He was blessed with a full life. He would marry a Broadway star, June O’Dea, with whom he would have four children. He would play baseball with the incomparable Babe Ruth, joke with Lou Gehrig and run interference for Joe DiMaggio when the Yankee Clipper wanted to be left alone. He would put up pitching numbers which would lead to enshrinement into the Hall of Fame in 1972. And he could make people laugh.
Consider these seasonal/career statistics:
- A won-loss record of 189-102
- A lifetime winning percentage of .649
- A lifetime ERA of 3.34
- Four seasons of 20+ victories
- Two seasons leading the league in victories
- Three seasons leading the league in strikeouts
- 173 complete games
- 28 shutouts
- A lifetime WHIP of 1.352
- 0.5 home runs allowed per 9 innings
- A strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.34
Now let’s take a look at his World Series numbers:
- Five rings in five World Series appearances
- A won-loss record of 6-0, the best of all time
- An ERA of 2.86
- A WHIP of 1.311
- 0.4 home runs allowed per nine innings
- A strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.07
For good measure, his All-Star record indicates that he started five of the first six MidSummer Classics and posted a 3-1 record in these games.
Finally, here are a few of Gomez’s more famous quotes:
- Speaking to Gehrig, “Hell, Lou, it took 15 years to get you out of a game. Sometimes I’m out in fifteen minutes.”
- “I want to thank my teammates who scored so many runs, and Joe DiMaggio, who ran down so many of my mistakes.”
- “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
- “Jimmie Foxx has muscles in his hair.”
- “I talked to the ball a lot of times in my career. I yelled, ‘Go foul. Go foul.’”
- “I was the worst hitter ever. I never even broke a bat until last year, when I was backing out of the garage.”
- “I’m throwing as hard as I ever did, but the ball is just not getting there as fast.”
- “No one hit home runs the way Babe Ruth did. They were something special. They were like homing pigeons. The ball would leave the bat, pause briefly, suddenly gain its bearings and then take off for the stands.”
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