Obituary: Tommy Giordano (1925-2019)

R.I.P. to Tommy “T-Bone” Giordano, a second baseman who played in 11 games for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1953. That was the start of a long career spent as a scout and executive for several teams. He died on February 14 at the age of 93 from a blood infection. Up until last year, he was working for the Atlanta Braves as a scout. He also served in various roles for the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians.

Tommy Giordano, in the blue vest, watches a Spring Training game from 2016. Source: Casper Star-Tribune, March 8, 2016.

Tommy Giordano was born on October 9, 1925 in Newark, N.J. He signed his first professional contract in 1948, joining the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He hit .253 in a couple of Class-B teams and spent the next several seasons playing for Class-A teams in several organizations. He spent most of his time with the Augusta (Ga.) Tigers in the Sally League. Not every statistic is available from that era, but Giordano hit in the low to mid-.200s while showing occasional pop at the bat.

Giordano had a career season while playing for the Savannah Indians in 1953. While batting in the leadoff spot, he slammed a career-high 24 home runs and had 83 RBIs, ending up with a .281 batting average. He did so well that the Athletics brought him up to the majors for a tryout near the end of the season.

His first game in the majors came against the Chicago White Sox and pitcher Virgil “Fire” Trucks. He struck out in his first at-bat, apparently drawing some jeers from the White Sox dugout. He shut them up by belting a long home run off of Trucks in his next at-bat.

“Boy, was I ready and waiting for a good one next [at-bat],” Giordano said in The Ottawa Citizen. “There wasn’t a sound [from the Sox dugout] when that ball disappeared from view.”

He homered again off of the Senators’ Spec Shea about a week later, but he managed a total of just 7 hits in his 11 games with the A’s. Along with the two homers, he also doubled twice and walked 5 times for a .175/.267/.375 slash line. He was 28 by the end of the 1953 season, though, and the A’s returned him to the minors the following year.

Giordano played until 1959, spending his last four years as a player-manager for teams in the Twins’ and Royals’ organizations. In 947 games in the minor leagues, he hit 84 home runs and retired with a .256 batting average.

Giordano would go on to spend more than 70 years in baseball. He spent some time in the front office, but much of it was spent on the road as a scout, looking for the next superstar. He found more than his share of them, too. He recommended that the Orioles draft Cal Ripken Jr., and he did the same with Manny Ramirez and the Indians.

Giordano’s last job in baseball was as a special assistant to the general manager for the Braves. In a 2016 Associated Press feature on Giordano, John Hart, then president of operations for the Braves, explained how valuable Giordano was, even in the sabermetric age.

“You’re absolutely crazy if you don’t use analytics. But we’re also an organization that is committed to the opinions and the evaluations of the scout. If a scout doesn’t sign off on it, I don’t care what the analytics say. We’re not taking him,” Hart said.

Giordano, for his part, loved his job, even after seven decades in baseball.

“It continues to enrich me that I’m able to be of help to young guys who want to be successful in what they’re doing, whether as a scout or a manager or a front-office guy,” he said.

One other fun fact from that AP article. While Giordano was having his career year with Savannah in 1953, manager Ben Geraghty of Jacksonville asked him to work on defense with a rookie second baseman named Hank Aaron. After trying to teach the youngster the finer points of turning a double play, he saw that Aaron wasn’t paying attention.

“I said to Ben, ‘Get him off the infield. He’s gonna get killed. He’s got a great arm. Put him in the outfield,'” Giordano recalled.

That worked out pretty well for Aaron, as the history books showed. The new outfielder would go on to lead the Sally League in almost every offensive category that season, but he didn’t lead the league in home runs. Aaron’s 22 homers was just shy of Giordano’s 24 round-trippers. Not everybody can say they out-homered Hank Aaron, but Giordano could.

Obituary (via ESPN):

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