Remembering Lefty Gomez Upon His Death in 1989

When Lefty Gomez died in February of 1989, Emmett Watson penned these remembrances of him for the Seattle Times of February 21, 1989:

Gomez, a famous pitcher for the New York Yankees, lived in a small suburban town in Connecticut, where it was customary to have New England-style town meetings.

During one of these meetings, a discussion arose among the town burghers about lack of funds to establish a Little League baseball field. So they voted down the Little League field and went on to another order of civic business – the desire to place a fence around the town cemetery. They voted for the fence.

Gomez rose angrily to object. “What kind of thinking is this?” he demanded. “Have you all gone crazy?” The shocked citizens sat silent as Gomez continued. “Look at it this way. Nobody outside of it wants to get into that cemetery, do they? And the people who are already in there can’t get out, can they? Of what use is a fence? Use the money and build a Little League baseball field.”

I once asked Gomez about the special relationship he had with Johnny Murphy, a famous Yankee relief pitcher. In the declining years of Gomez’s career, Murphy was frequently called upon to finish Lefty’s games for him.

“In those last years,” Lefty said, “I could go, maybe, six innings, and then my arm would stiffen up, and I just couldn’t go anymore. It was always nice to see Murphy coming in to save me. A very special relationship. Murphy listed me as a dependent on his income tax.”

The New York Times added:
After his career ended in 1943, Gomez worked as recreational director of the Norden Bombsight Company; later served as a manager for the Yankee farm team in Binghamton, N.Y., where his proteges included Whitey Ford, and eventually represented the Wilson Sporting Goods Company.

In 1932 Gomez fell in love and started ”going with” June O’Dea, then the leading lady of the Broadway hit ”Of Thee I Sing.” He recalled ”hanging around the theater” and seeing ”the show so often I could act myself.”

His wife said: ”February 26 would have made 56 years that Lefty and I were married.” In newspaper clips, there were reports early on of a stormy marriage, and possible divorce – ”He could be kind of high-strung in those days,” she said – but they held on, and had four children and seven grandchildren.

Over the telephone now June O’Dea Gomez at home in Novato, in northern California, related a few of Lefty’s stories that she loved, her voice sometimes cracking with emotion, then she would pause, gathering herself and chuckling again.

”We had such a good time, all that laughter,” she said, ”even up to the end. In the hospital about a week ago, the doctor leaned over his bed and said, ‘Lefty, picture yourself on the mound, and rate the pain from 1 to 10.’ And Lefty looked at him and said, ‘Who’s hitting, Doc?’ ”

Published in: on December 7, 2008 at 5:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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