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Vernon Louis Gómez (November 26, 1908 in Rodeo, California - February 17, 1989 in Greenbrae, California) was a left-handed Major League pitcher who played in the American League for the New York Yankees between 1930 and 1942.
In his career, almost entirely spent with the Yankees, he had a 189-102 record with 1468 strikeouts and a 3.34 ERA in 2503 innings pitched. His contract was sold to the Boston Braves in 1943. Released by the Braves that year without appearing in a game, Gomez signed with the Washington Senators, but pitched only one game before being released to end his career.
Gomez was known for saying, "I'd rather be lucky than good." His stats show he was both. A 20-game winner four times and an All-Star every year from 1933 to 1939, Gómez led the league twice each in wins, winning percentage and ERA, and three times each in shutouts and strikeouts. 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; and among pitchers who made their ML debut from 1900–1950, only Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson and Whitey Ford have both more victories and a higher winning percentage than Gomez.
In the historic first major league All-Star Game (July 6, 1933), Gómez not only was the winning pitcher for the American League, but also drove in the first run of the game. This was out of character for him, as he was, even by the standards of pitchers, notorious for poor hitting. "I never broke a bat until I was 73 years old," he said. "And that was from backing the car out of the garage."
In retirement, Gómez became a sought-after dinner speaker known for his humorous anecdotes about his playing days and the personalities he knew. He was a bit of a screwball, nicknamed "El Goofy", and delighted in playing practical jokes on everyone from team mates to umpires. He once stopped a World Series game to watch an airplane fly overhead. He came up with the idea of a revolving goldfish bowl to make life easier for older goldfish. Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1972, on August 2, 1987, he and Whitey Ford were honored with plaques to be placed in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium. Gómez's plaque says he was "Noted for his wit and his fastball, as he was fast with a quip and a pitch." Despite advancing age, he was able to attend the ceremony. Although he was honored with the plaque, his uniform #11 has not been retired, and has since been worn by Joe Page, Johnny Sain, Hector Lopez, Fred Stanley, Dwight Gooden, Chuck Knoblauch and Gary Sheffield. In 1999, he ranked #73 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
- Sold by San Francisco (PCL) to New York Yankees (August 17, 1929).
- Sold by New York Yankees to Boston Braves (January 25, 1943).
- Released by Boston Braves (May 19, 1943).
- Signed by Washington Senators (@May 21, 1943).
- Released by Washington Senators (July 15, 1943).
- 7 Time All-Star: 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939
- World Series Champion: 1932 New York Yankees, 1936 New York Yankees, 1937 New York Yankees, 1938 New York Yankees, 1939 New York Yankees