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Sid Gordon

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Sidney Gordon

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[edit] Biographical Information

Sid Gordon's best years were after the age of 30. He found power and continued to hit for a decent average. Gordon played 13 years in the bigs, and missed some time due to World War II.

Gordon was called by one manager "a modest and quiet productive power hitter who was a dream to manage." Sid played in over 900 games in the outfield and another 450 plus at third base. He was a popular Brooklyn-born New York Giant of the late 1940s.

[edit] Early life

Gordon attended Tilden High School in Brooklyn. He got a tryout with the Brooklyn Dodgers shortly after high school graduation; Casey Stengel was impressed but did not sign Gordon at the time. Gordon would drive a coal truck for deliveries for his father's coal company during the summers. He later attended Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus. He was playing second base in sandlot contests when New York Giants scout George Mack discovered and signed him. Gordon's father Morris died before Sid made it to the minors and the younger Gordon initially wanted to stay in New York to help his mother run the family coal business. She told him to try his hand at baseball instead.

[edit] Minor leagues

Gordon was initially assigned to the Milford Giants and hit .352/~.449/.621 with 25 homers in his pro debut in 1938. He drove in seven runs with two homers in one game and led the Eastern Shore League in batting average, OBP, hits (135), triples (9) and total bases (256). Gordon was third in homers. He lost the slugging title to Henry Schluter, who also beat him out for league All-Star honors at third base. He fielded .923, about league average at third base, a position he had not played before that season.

In 1939, Sid hit .327 with 8 HR and 83 RBI for the Clinton Giants with 24 triples, most in the Three-I League. He was in the top 10 in the circuit in both average and runs batted in. He went 2 for 9 in a late-season stint for the Jersey City Giants. During 1940, Gordon spent all year in Jersey City, batting .261/~.338/.361. He presumably hit near the top of the order as his 39 RBI were 7th on the club while his 76 runs tied for second. Late that year, Gordon married Mary Goldberg.

Gordon batted .304/~.396/.396 for the 1941 Jersey City Giants. He was second on the club with 76 RBI, had the best average, was second with 7 homers, led with 80 walks and tied for the most steals (15). He even played 63 games at shortstop.

[edit] Majors

That kind of all-around performance earned him a late-season look at the majors at age 24. He hit .258/.378/.355 in 9 games for the 1941 Giants, playing primarily center field. Gordon tripled off Art Johnson in his first at-bat in The Show and tripled later in the game. Gordon was one of four Jewish players in the Giants starting lineup that day, alongside OF Morrie Arnovich, C Harry Danning and P Harry Feldman.

Gordon hit .316/.409/.421 in 6 games for the 1942 Giants but manager Bill Terry wanted him to get more experience at third base so he was sent down to Jersey City.

[edit] More development

With Jersey City in 1942, he hit .300/~.377/.410 with 15 steals, 10 homers (tied for the team lead) and a team-best 85 RBI. He actually didn't get much work at 3B, as he only played 12 games there (Joe Orengo was the regular). He played 127 games in the outfield and also saw action at second base, shortstop and pitcher (2 hits, one walk in 1 inning).

[edit] A regular role in the majors

Gordon spent a full year with the 1943 Giants, producing at a .251/.315/.373 clip with 11 triples, tying Jim Russell for 5th in the 1943 NL. Sid's 98 OPS+ wasn't bad. He played 53 games at third base, 41 at first base, 28 in left field and 3 at second base. He finished 4th on the Giants with 474 AB despite lacking a regular position.

[edit] Military service

He entered the Coast Guard in October 1943, playing service ball and was discharged in January 1946.

[edit] Giant threat

He hit .293/.380/.378 for a 114 OPS+ in his second full year in the majors, with the 1946 Giants. He tied for 6th in the 1946 NL with 8 triples and was the 6th-hardest batter to fan in the league (one K per 20.8 AB). He only made one error in 101 games in left field for New York. Gordon contributed 13 of the team's single-season record (since broken) 221 home runs in 1947. He batted .272/.347/.442 for a 107 OPS+.

Sid then hit a career-high 30 homers and scored a career-high 100 runs while driving in 107 runs in 1948. He was a regular third baseman in the majors for the first time after being primarily an outfielder in 1946-1947. New York's rival, Brooklyn, held a "Sid Gordon Day" in his honor that season, a rare instance of a team honoring a player from their primary foe. He homered twice that day. He finished the season with a batting line of .299/.390/.537 for a 148 OPS+. He was chosen for the 1948 All-Star Game but did not play. He finished the season 8th in the 1948 NL in average, 9th in OBP, third in slugging (behind Stan Musial and Johnny Mize), third in OPS (behind Musial and Mize), was 6th in runs, 6th in total bases (280), tied Del Ennis for 5th in home runs, was 4th in RBI (trailing Musial, Mize and Ralph Kiner), was 9th in walks (74) and tied for 9th in steals (8). He ranked 4th in voting for the 1948 National League MVP behind Musial, Johnny Sain and Alvin Dark. He would get MVP votes each of the next four seasons, but never again make the top 10.

Gordon credited his 1948 power surge to four changes coach Red Kress made to his batting stance.

At age 32, Gordon hit .284/.404/.505 for a 142 OPS+ as the main New York third baseman. He scored 87, drove in 90 and hit 26 home runs. He made the All-Star team and saw some action in the 1949 All-Star Game, replacing Eddie Kazak at third base to open the 4th inning. He threw out both Dom DiMaggio and Joe DiMaggio that inning. He doubled against Lou Brissie in the 5th inning and walked against Vic Raschi in the 7th before grounding out against Raschi in the 9th. For the season, he was 6th in the 1949 NL in OBP, 9th in slugging, 5th in OPS (behind four future Hall-of-Famers), 5th in homers, 5th in walks (a career-best 95) and first in grounding into double plays (24). In a game on July 3, 1949, he homered twice in one inning.

[edit] Boston

He was traded to the Boston Braves after the 1949 season along with Buddy Kerr, Willard Marshall and Red Webb in exchange for Eddie Stanky and Alvin Dark. New York had signed Negro League great Monte Irvin to man left field. He was with the team through their first year in Milwaukee, and hit between 25 and 29 homers from 1950 to [[1952 while driving in over 100 runs in both 1950 and 1951. For the 1950 Braves, the veteran returned to left field with former MVP Bob Elliott manning third. Gordon hit .304/.403/.557 for a career-best 156 OPS+. He had 33 doubles, 27 homers and 103 RBI. Gordon ranked among the 1950 NL leaders in average (8th), OBP (7th), slugging (4th behind Musial, Andy Pafko and Kiner), OPS (4th), doubles (8th), homers (9th), RBI (tied with Hank Sauer for 9th), walks (10th with 78) and OPS+ (3rd behind Musial and Pafko). He tied the National League record with four grand slams in a season.

Gordon batted .287/.383/.500 for the 1951 Braves with 96 runs, 29 homers and 109 RBI, a career high. He had a 143 OPS+. He was 9th in the 1951 NL in slugging, 8th in OPS, tied with Duke Snider for 8th in runs, tied with Snider for 8th in homers, tied with Ralph Kiner for 2nd in RBI (trailing only Monte Irvin), 9th in walks (78) and first in double plays ground into (28).

Gordon had his 5th straight year with a OPS+ of 140 or better with the 1952 Braves, when he hit .289/.384/.483 with 25 homers and 80 walks. He tied Kiner for 6th in the 1952 NL in OBP, was 6th in slugging, 6th in OPS, tied for 4th in home runs (even with Eddie Mathews, trailing Kiner, Sauer and Gil Hodges), tied for 8th in walks (with Sauer) and was 6th in OPS+. He had nine outfield assists and just one error, fielding .996 in left.

Gordon hit .274/.372/.461 for the 1953 Braves after the team moved to Milwaulee. The 35/36-year-old slipped to 19 home runs and 71 walks. For the first time, he failed to make the top 10 in the league in any department.

[edit] Pittsburgh and New York, one last time

To make room for Hank Aaron, the Braves dealt the fading slugger to the Pittsburgh Pirates with Sam Jethroe, Curt Raydon, Larry Lasalle, Max Surkont, Fred Waters and $100,000 in return for Danny O'Connell.

Gordon hit for a career-high .306 in 1954 but only launched 12 homers. His OBP was still excellent (.405) while he slugged .435. He had a 123 OPS+, manning right field a year before Roberto Clemente would take over that role in Forbes Field.

Sid hit only .170/.204/.191 in 16 games for the Pirates in 1955 and was sold to the Giants on May 23rd. Manager Fred Haney said "There isn't any sentiment in baseball, but I hated to see him leave our club. At 37, Gordon couldn't be figured into our future plans."

Gordon hit .243/.349/.444 for a 109 OPS+ in 66 games for the Giants in the remainder of 1955, backing up Hank Thompson at third base and playing some outfield.

[edit] Ending the playing career

Gordon signed as a player-coach for the 1956 Miami Marlins and hit .236/?/.379 in 55 games.

[edit] Career Statistics and evaluation

Gordon hit .283/.377/.466 in 1,475 major league games. He had 202 home runs, 805 RBI and 731 walks while only striking out 356 times in 4,992 AB.

Bill James lists Gordon as a player who may have lost a shot at the Hall of Fame due to World War II, writing "there are guys in the Hall of Fame who didn't have careers as good as Gordon's, and Sid missed two full seasons due to the war." James rated Gordon as the 49th-best left fielder in baseball history through mid-2000, right ahead of Ken Williams and Kevin Mitchell.

All three times Gordon left a team, his position was taken by a future Hall-of-Famer - Monte Irvin in New York, Hank Aaron in Milwaukee and Roberto Clemente in Pittsburgh.

[edit] Post-baseball life and death

Gordon became an insurance underwriter in New York. He had two sons, Michael and Richard. Michael Gordon caught for three years in the minor leagues, never advancing beyond A ball.

He died on June 17, 1975, at age 57 when he suffered a heart attack while playing softball in Central Park.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 2-time NL All-Star (1948 & 1949)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 5 (1948-1952)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1948)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 3 (1948, 1950 & 1951)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1948)

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