Lefty Gomez (Vernon Louis Gomez)

Lefty Gomez

Lefty Gomez made his major league debut on April 29, 1930. He pitched in only 15 games and finished the season with a 2-5 win-loss record, a 5.55 earned run average (ERA). Coming into the 1931 season, Gomez had good pitching velocity, but the Yankees were concerned about the pitcher’s slender frame of 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) and 155 pounds (70 kg). Following a common medical strategy of the time, the team had most of his teeth extracted; they also had him drink three quarts of milk daily and gave him an unlimited meal allowance for road games. Gomez registered the second-best ERA in the American League in 1931. 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; he was a three-time league leader in shutouts and strikeouts. In the first major league All-Star Game (July 6, 1933), Gomez was the winning pitcher for the American League (AL) and drove in the first run of the game. This was out of character for him; he was notorious for poor hitting even by AL standards. Late in life, Gomez commented, “I never even broke a bat until last year when I was backing 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. Lefty Gomez holds the record for the most innings pitched in a single All-Star game (six, in 1934).

Lefty’s best season came in 1934, when 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. Among pitchers who made their MLB debuts from 1900 to 1950, only Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson and Whitey Ford have both more victories and a higher winning percentage than Gomez. Lefty Gomez won six World Series games without a loss, a career World Series record. He won a World Series game in 1932, two in 1936, two in 1937 and one in 1938. He also set a World Series record by receiving two walks in the same inning on October 6, 1937. Nicknamed “El Goofo” and “Goofy Gomez”, he was known for his sense of humor, even on the field. 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?” asked the umpire. “Do you think that match will help you see Feller’s fast one?” Lefty Gomez replied, “No, I’m not concerned about that. I just want to make sure he can see me!” Another time, a reporter asked the noted brushback pitcher, “Is it true that you’d throw at your own mother?” Gomez replied, “You’re damn right I would. She’s a good hitter.” Gomez also often remarked, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”

In 1940, Lefty Gomez 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, Gomez 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 him to the Boston Braves for $10,000. Lefty Gomez 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 ― on May 30, 1943, allowing four hits, four runs and walking five men ― before pulling a shoulder muscle in the fifth inning and retiring from baseball. He had a 189–102 career record with 1,468 strikeouts and a 3.34 ERA in 2503 innings pitched. Lefty Gomez spent the last years of his life in Novato, California, and he died of congestive heart failure on February 17, 1989, in Marin General Hospital in Larkspur, California.

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Born

  • November, 26, 1908
  • USA
  • Rodeo, California

Died

  • February, 17, 1989
  • USA
  • Greenbrae, California

Cause of Death

  • congestive heart failure

Cemetery

  • Mount Tamalpais Cemetery
  • San Rafael, California
  • USA

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