Gordon makes first Vets ballot
Yankees, Indians second baseman was 1942 AL MVP
Joe Gordon earned his nickname "Flash" from the way he performed at second base, turning double plays with the quickest of ease.
Gordon, a nine-time All-Star and 1942 American League MVP, appears on his first ballot of the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee. In 11 years on the Baseball Writers' ballot, his highest vote total percentage was 29 percent with 97 of 340 votes in 1969. Results of the 2007 Veterans Committee election will be announced on Feb. 27, and the induction ceremony will take place on July 29 in Cooperstown.
His play with the New York Yankees in the 1941 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers probably exemplified his career as he hit .500 and showcased stellar defense.
In Game 1, he cracked a solo homer to start the scoring, followed it with an RBI single, and was walked twice, once intentionally. In the field, he turned a double play with the tying run on first base to end a 3-2 win.
He walked three times, once intentionally, and turned three double plays in a Game 2 loss.
In Game 3, he tripled, walked and had four assists. Once again, one of his assists was a game-ending out of the 2-1 win.
Gordon had a two-run double in the ninth inning of Game 4, which gave the Yankees a 7-4 lead and the eventual victory, and drove in another run in the 3-1, Game 5 clincher.
His five double plays remain a record for a five-game Series and his overall play caused Yankees manager Joe McCarthy to proclaim, "The greatest all-around ballplayer I ever saw, and I don't bar any of them, is Joe Gordon."
The acrobatic Gordon, who attended the University of Oregon and competed as a halfback on the football team as well as in gymnastics, soccer, and the long jump, played for the Yankees and the Cleveland Indians from 1938-50. He was named to The Sporting News' Major League All-Star Team in six of his 11 seasons and led the AL in assists four times and in double plays three times.
"Joe was the second baseman when I came up in '41 and he kind of took me under his wing," Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto said in a 1978 New York Times article. "He was the most acrobatic fielder I ever played with. The plays he could make off balance, throwing in mid-air or off one foot or lying down ... unbelievable."
August Busch Jr.
Gordon was the first AL second baseman to hit 20 home runs in a season, doing so seven times, and holds the league mark for career homers at second base with 246.
He helped the Yankees win four World Series titles, then after the 1943 campaign, served in the U.S. Army during World War II, missing the 1944 and '45 seasons. In 1946, Gordon returned and suffered through his worst season as a pro, batting .210 with 11 HRs and 47 RBIs. The Yankees shipped Gordon to the Indians at the end of the season for pitcher Allie Reynolds. Gordon departed New York with exactly 1,000 games played and 1,000 hits.
Gordon regained his form with the Indians, batting .272 and leading the club with 93 RBIs in 1947 while pacing the League in assists once again. He finished second in homers (29) and total bases (279) to Ted Williams and was seventh in MVP balloting. More importantly, though, he became a mentor to Larry Doby, the AL's first black player, who had been a second baseman in the Negro Leagues but was moved to center field with Cleveland.
"The day I showed up in Chicago to join the Indians in 1947, I felt all alone," Doby recalled in a 2003 New York Times article. "When we went out on the field to warm up, to play catch, you know the way we always did, no one asked me to play. I just stood there for minutes. It seemed like a long time. Then Joe Gordon yelled: 'Hey kid, come on. Throw with me.' That was it. Joe Gordon was a class guy. He'd been a Yankee and the others looked up to him. So when he reached out to me, it really helped."
Even though he won the MVP in 1942, many argue that Gordon's best season came in 1948, when most of the game's stars were back playing full time with many of them having returned from stints in the military. Gordon helped the Indians take their first pennant in 28 seasons, batting .280 with 77 walks, 96 runs, 32 homers, 124 RBIs, and a .507 slugging percentage. Gordon finished second in the AL to Joe DiMaggio in home runs and was sixth in the MVP voting.
Gordon retired after the 1950 season with a .268 career batting average. He had 253 homers, 975 RBIs, 914 runs, 1,530 hits, 264 doubles, and 89 stolen bases in 1,566 games. Many argue that his numbers were impressive and could have been moreso had he not played in the cavernous Yankee Stadium and Municipal Stadium in Cleveland.
After his playing career, Gordon worked his way up through the Minor League system as a manager, eventually becoming a Major League skipper for four different teams. He managed the Indians from 1958-60, the Kansas City Athletics in 1961, the Los Angeles and California Angels from 1961-68, and the Kansas City Royals in 1969. He went into real estate after his managerial career and passed away from a heart attack at the age of 63 in 1978.
Chris Girandola is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.