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Tom Paciorek

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Thomas Marian Paciorek (Wimpy)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Tom Paciorek was a solid contributor for 18 years in the major leagues, after which he became a successful announcer, though one criticized for being too much of a "homer". He was noted as a player and announcer for his frequent attempts at humor and levity. Additionally, he is noted for his athletic family heritage and for being a college football star. He overcame sexual abuse by a priest when he was younger.

[edit] Early life

Paciorek grew up in a poor family in Detroit, MI. He was one of 8 kids who shared a 3-bedroom house. He states that they were the last family in their neighborhood to earn a TV set, which may have made them the last family in Detroit to have such a possession given that his neighborhood was impoverished. His brothers included former major leaguers John Paciorek (famous for his perfect batting average) and Jim Paciorek (a bigger star in Japan than in the US).

Four of the Paciorek boys were victims of sexual molestation by a priest at St. Ladislaus, though they did not make this public until 2002. When he spoke out about it, Tom said it would have been useless to try to go up against the church during the 1960s. In 1993, Tom had filed a lawsuit over it, but the statute of limitations had expired. He stated that he suffered emotional trauma for years due to the abuse.

[edit] College career

After high school, Tom had a few scholarship offers, but nearly as many as older brother John managed. Wanting to stay close to his home, Tom went to the University of Detroit, but the school dropped football after his freshman year.

Tom then transferred to the University of Houston, where he would take the same course a couple of times to maintain his football eligibility before a counselor explained he couldn't do that. As a junior, the defensive back made six interceptions and was an All-American honorable mention. Paciorek slugged "something like 1.000" (which he states was a NCAA record) for the baseball team , which made the 1967 College World Series. Houston made it to the finals before losing and Tom made the CWS All-Star team as one of the top three outfielders.

One summer during college, Tom worked four days at the Kowalski Sausage Factory but was dismissed for getting into a garbage-throwing fight with a coworker which the factory owner observed. Tom then went to work for the Plymouth assembly plant where his father worked. He said it taught him "I would have rather suffered two-a-day football practices than ever work on an assembly line again."

As a senior, Tom made the football highlight reel for a hard hit he made on All-Pro tackle Edgar Chandler, but states that the film neglects the fact that Edgar had been chasing Tom around and tripped, at which point Tom went in. He said "I was one of those players who hit you hard only when you weren't looking." Paciorek missed half of the season due to a leg injury. The Miami Dolphins took him in the 9th round of the draft anyways and was offered a $2,000 bonus and $15,000 a year if he made the team. He waited till after the baseball season to make his decision.

In his senior year in baseball, Paciorek injured his good leg during the first game by running into a wall. Not healthy the rest of the year, he did not perform as well as a junior. The Los Angeles Dodgers still drafted him in the 5th round of the 1968 amateur draft and offered him a $20,000 bonus, convincing him to pick baseball over football.

[edit] 1968-1969: Rookie ball, class A

Tom was assigned to the Ogden Dodgers, where he roomed with Bobby Valentine. Paciorek batted .386/~.466/.653 in 29 games for Ogden, scoring 25 and driving in 23 while going 5 for 5 in steals and leading Pioneer League outfielders with 15+ games in fielding percentage (.977). Tom credits the managing of Tommy Lasorda in Ogden for helping lots of young Dodgers develop such as Charlie Hough, Ron Cey, Bill Buckner, Davey Lopes, Steve Garvey and Joe Ferguson. Lasorda also gave Paciorek the "Wimpy" nickname that would be his for the rest of his life. The nickname came from Popeye.

Paciorek didn't get to hang around Lasorda too long that year, though, as he was quickly promoted to the Bakersfield Dodgers. He was error-free in 32 outfield games there and hit .276/~.349/.302 with only a double and triple as his extra-base hits. His brother John belted 17 homers playing in the California League that year.

Tom returned to Bakersfield in 1969 and batted .318/~.380/.515 with 15 homers and 19 steals in 28 tries. He tied for 10th in the California League in home runs; he would have tied for 4th in batting average had he played enough to qualify.

[edit] 1970-72: AAA star

Paciorek skipped AA and played in 1970 for the Spokane Indians. Spokane would win the Pacific Coast League title with star efforts from Valentine, Garvey, Buckner and Paciorek. Tom hit .326/~.391/.528 with 36 doubles, 12 triples, 17 homers and 101 RBI but missed the PCL All-Star team as Winston Llenas, Buckner and Joe Lis took the outfield slots. Tom was 7th in the PCL in average, tied for the lead with 146 games, second to Valentine in doubles, tied for second in triples (behind Valentine) and third in RBI behind Llenas and Lis. He fielded .978, second among PCL outfielders with 100 games and was third among PCL flyhawks with 265 putouts. As a September call-up to the 1970 Dodgers, he went 2 for 9 with three strikeouts and two runs. He only got one start, playing 7 games off of the bench. Tom did get a hit in his first at-bat, a "little nubber down the third base line... making John and me the best-hitting brothers ever to play major league baseball (a combined 4 for 4). That lasted until my next time up, when I hit a line drive right at the shortstop and instantly became the worst big league player in my family. It was all downhill from there."

That off-season, Los Angeles acquired Richie Allen to join Willie Davis, Manny Mota and Willie Crawford in a crowded outfield and Buckner would also make it up to the majors regularly as yet another option. Paciorek later wrote, "Who's gonna play, me or Dick Allen? Okay, I told myself, next year it's got to be me."

Returning to Spokane in 1971, he had another huge year - .305/~.369/.489 with 89 runs, 14 triples, 15 homers and 105 RBI. He was sixth in the PCL in runs batted in and led the league in triples. He made the league All-Star team this time. As a September call-up this time, he only got into two games, both off the bench, going 1 for 2.

While Allen left Los Angeles after 1971, they brought in Frank Robinson. "Who's gonna play, me or Frank Robinson?" queries Paciorek.

Back in AAA for a third go-around, Paciorek moved to first base with the Albuquerque Dukes. He batted .307/~.362/.512 with 125 runs, 27 HR and 107 RBI in 147 games while going 10 for 12 in stolen base attempts. He led the PCL in at-bats (605), hits (186), runs, total bases (310), doubles and home runs. He tied Doug Howard for the sacrifice fly lead (12). He was 2 RBI behind Howard, the leader. He joined teammates Cey, Doug Rau and Larry Hisle on the All-Star team as the Dukes romped to a 92-56-1 record and the PCL title. He added four home runs in the World Baseball Championship, which the Albuquerque team lost in the finals. Tom was named PCL MVP and won the Minor League Player of the Year award as well. Called up to Los Angeles in late September 1972, he played regularly for the last couple of weeks of the year, hitting .255/.271/.404 in 11 games for the 1972 Dodgers.

[edit] 1973-1975: Riding the pine in LA

After his award-winning campaign in 1972, Paciorek got his first real crack at the majors at age 26 in 1973. Backing up Davis, Crawford and Mota, he hit .262/.304/.379 in 195 AB over 96 games. Tom said "All right, I told myself, next year's it got to be me. They got Jimmy Wynn..." With Wynn, Buckner and Crawford out there, Paciorek was again on the bench in 1974 and batted .240/.282/.371. He hit a pinch-hit double in the last game of the 1974 World Series. With the 1975 Dodgers, Tom only hit .193/.250/.269. He could have easily been written off as a AAAA player by many. Thankfully, he would get some actual playing time in 1976 to show what he could do given the opportunity.

[edit] 1976-1978: Atlanta

After the 1975 season ended, Los Angeles dealt Paciorek with Wynn, Jerry Royster and Lee Lacy to the Atlanta Braves for Dusty Baker and Ed Goodson. Playing 111 games and getting 324 AB, Tom put up a .290/.333/.383 clip for the 1976 Braves. Paciorek says "[t]he Braves must have been paying attention to the Dodgers, because they got Gary Matthews and Jeff Burroughs, and who's gonna play, me or..." Wimpy only got 155 AB in 1977; he did okay as a starter at first, but struggled off the bench, hitting .188/.176/.219 as a pinch-hitter.

Bobby Cox took over the reins for the 1978 Braves and sent Paciorek down to the minors out of spring training (he was briefly released by Atlanta during this period as well). He sat on the bench for a game with the Richmond Braves - "I must've sat well, though, because Gary Matthews separated his shoulder that night and I was recalled." Paciorek went 3 for 9 in five games in the five weeks before Matthews returned. He was released again and his wife convinced him to give baseball another try.

[edit] 1978-1981: Seattle. Regular playing time in the majors!

Paciorek checked the newspaper and found that the 1978 Mariners were struggling. He called his friend, Mel Didier, then the Mariners director of minor league operations, and asked for a shot. Seattle assigned Tom to the San Jose Missions, where he started slowly, but manager Rene Lachemann stuck with him. He had two huge games when they visited Albuquerque, thrilled to be back in his old haunts. That pushed his line up to .281/~.369/.526 in 16 games there; his 10 RBI in two games against the Dukes gave him 17, over one per contest. Mariners OF Ruppert Jones went on the Disabled List with an appendicitis attack and Lachemann told the Mariners that Paciorek was hot.

Tom came up to the Mariners in late June and started off 0 for 9. Jones was beginning to recover. On July 2, Seattle was low on healthy players so Darrell Johnson put in Paciorek at DH, hitting 8th. He lit off on Mike Caldwell, went 4 for 4 with a home run and drove in the winner. Tom got another start the next day and was 2 for 4 with a homer. The next day, he was 2 for 4 again. By the time Jones was healthy, Paciorek had finally gotten a regular job in the majors. At age 31 and in his 9th year in the big leagues, it was likely his last chance. He hit .347/.383/.535 in July and never really cooled off, finishing with a .299/.336/.450 line for Seattle, not bad for a guy who had been released twice that year and spent time in AAA.

Throughout his time in Seattle, Tom became known for his help with public relations. He appeared in a scriptless TV spot that won an award as the best commercial that year in Seattle.

Wimpy continued to perform well in regular action, hitting .287/.353/.445 for the 1979 Mariners, .273/.301/.431 in 1980 and then had a career year. For the 1981 Mariners, he batted .326/.379/.509 at age 34 and had a 151 OPS+, clearly his best. He made his only All-Star team, finished 10th in MVP voting, was second in the 1981 AL to Carney Lansford in average, 10th in OBP, 4th in OPS, 5th in hits (132), tied for 3rd with Cecil Cooper in total bases (206), 3rd in doubles (28), tied for 6th with Don Baylor in RBI (66), 6th in OPS+, 5th in extra-base hits (44), tied for 5th in times on base (171) and tied for 5th in sacrifice flies (7). He set a new Mariners record for average - "I figured that if that didn't ensure me a little security, nothing could. I was exactly right. Nothing could. The Mariners decided to trade me while I was hot." They dealt him to the Chicago White Sox for Todd Cruz, Jim Essian and Rod Allen.

[edit] 1982-1985: With the White Sox

Paciorek batted .312/.361/.490 (a 132 OPS+) for the 1982 White Sox and would have ranked sixth in the 1982 AL in batting average but did not play enough to qualify.

He had the highest batting average (.307) among the regulars on the division champion 1983 Chicago White Sox. Paciorek was part of an unusual three-way platoon at first base that year, joining Greg Walker and the defensive whiz Mike Squires there. Paciorek appeared in 67 games at first, Walker was in 59 games at first, and Squires were there for 124 games - those numbers add up to more than 162 games because Squires was a frequent late-inning substitution for both Paciorek and Walker.

Tom had a .347 OBP and .462 slugging that year for a 118 OPS+, his last very good year in the majors, coming at age 36. He batted .350/.395/.527 in the second half and .424/.454/.652 in their last 24 games to show an excellent finishing kick. He went 4 for 16 with a walk in Chicago's loss in the 1983 ALCS. He drove in one of Chicago's two runs that Series, the game-winner in the only contest they won.

The veteran's production collapsed in 1984 as he only managed a .256/.308/.358 line, followed by a .246/.293/.262 start in 46 games for the 1985 White Sox. Chicago designated him for assignment and he thought his career was over. The New York Mets needed some help down the stretch, though, so they sent Dave Cochrane over in exchange for Tom.

[edit] 1985-87: The last years as a MLB player

Wimpy hit .284/.325/.353 in 46 games for the 1985 Mets. With George Foster, Darryl Strawberry, Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra in the outfield, New York felt comfortable enough to let Paciorek go.

Tom signed with the Texas Rangers to rejoin his first roommate, Valentine, now the team's manager. Paciorek was not only one of the 10 oldest players in the 1986 AL, but he was older than his manager by four years. Tom hit .286/.305/.376 as a competent utility man for the 1986 Rangers. The next year, Paciorek batted .283/.302/.483 for a 104 OPS+ in 27 games as a backup 1B/OF with the 1987 Rangers.

=-=Career statistics==- Overall, Tom had hit .282/.325/.415 in the major leagues for a 103 OPS+. While he never drew many walks (35 was his big-league high), he had above-average contact hitting and power ability. Despite a poor defensive reputation, his statistics are acceptable for the positions he played.

[edit] 1989: One last return to the field

In 1989, he hit .272 in 48 games for the Orlando Juice of the Senior Professional Baseball Association.

[edit] 1988-2006: Broadcasting career

After his 18-year playing career ended, he was a television broadcaster for the Chicago White Sox from 1988 until 1999. It had been his longtime ambition. He stated that growing up in a Polish neighborhood with friends named Pochewnietski, Czekinski, Wojeski and Anjerski, he would have no trouble pronouncing player's names.

After spending 2000 as a Detroit Tigers broadcaster, he was a member of the Atlanta Braves broadcast team for five years.

In 2006, he was a color commentator for the Washington Nationals but he was let go after the season. He criticized president Stan Kasten for the decision, stating that he had a fun year and had worked well with Bob Carpenter.

Throughout his career as an announcer, Paciorek was known for rooting for whichever team was paying his salary instead of being objective, which rubbed some people the wrong way, as did his style of humor sometimes. It is clear that fans and teams felt comfortable enough with his work to keep him in the business for 19 years, though.

After being let go by the Nationals, Tom stated that he had no further desire to be an announcer, though he might pursue other options within baseball.

[edit] Other members of the Paciorek baseball clan

Tom's son Tom Paciorek Jr. played minor league baseball for one year. His brother Mike Paciorek played five years in the minors. His nephews Mack Paciorek, Pete Paciorek, and Joseph Paciorek also played pro baseball.

[edit] Sources

1969-1973, 1979 Baseball Guides, main B-R page, news reports about Paciorek's firing as Nationals announcer, news reports about Paciorek's abuse as a child and (primarily) The Fall of the Roman Umpire by Ron Luciano

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