Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Red Sox A-Z: G is for…

Gordon, as in Tom

Tom Gordon joined the Sox for the 1996 season. He had spent the previous seasons of his career with Kansas City. He was a highly touted young starter with a devastating curveball. I remember his baseball rookie cards being quite hot, and traded often between my friends. He had won as many as 17 games with the Royals. While he hadn’t had the same success in recent years, he was coming off three straight double-digit wins seasons. The Sox were certainly hoping he could keep that up, if not return to his younger form. The first season with the Sox went about that well. He picked up 12 wins that year, despite an ERA over five and a half. The next season didn’t go so smoothly. He only managed 6 wins, and ended up being shifted to the bullpen. While in the pen, he did manage to rack up 11 saves. Somebody had the bright idea that with that curveball, he could be great in the closer role. He started the 1998 season as their closer, and excelled in that spot. He made the American League All-Star team. He ended up with 46 saves to lead the league, saving his last 43 chances of the season. He was a major factor in the Sox making the playoffs that season.

It that year’s playoffs, the Sox quickly went down 2-1 in a five game series against Cleveland. Pedro had won his start, naturally, but the other two games went to the Indians. Game 4 presented a much-debated problem. Does Pedro get the start, on short rest, or not? Jimy Williams decided to throw Pete Schourek instead, and save Pedro for game five. He almost got away with it. Schourek pitched great, and the Sox clung to a 1-0 lead entering the 8th inning. Williams decided to try and close the door right then and there, and called for Gordon to start the 8th. As is usually the case with the Sox in those days, Gordon chose that moment to blow his first save in 44 tries. The Sox lost the game, and the series. I was fortunate enough to be at that game. This may have been my introduction to the heartbreak of being a Red Sox fan. It was definitely my first chance to experience at Fenway. Here we were, with it all playing out perfectly. As happened way too often, Jimy’s ridiculous move had actually worked. By dumb luck the Sox were going to win the game, and have a rested Pedro to win game 5. All that needed to happen was to have the best closer in the league close out the game. Figures.

After leaving the Sox, Gordon was able to fashion quite a career for himself. He closed for several teams, and even set up for a while in the Bronx. It was in that role that he couldn’t hold leads, allowing the Sox to come back from down 0-3. It’s funny, sometimes, how things come full circle.

G is for Gordon, Tom

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