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Former NL manager Preston Gomez dies at 85
Preston Gomez, who managed the expansion San Diego Padres and later guided the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs during a six-decade career in baseball, died Tuesday. He was 85.
Gomez died in Fullerton, Calif. He never fully recovered from head injuries sustained last March when he was hit by a pickup truck while walking to his car in Blythe, Calif.
Gomez worked for the Angels for more than 25 years, and was on his way back from the team's spring training camp in Tempe, Ariz., when he was struck. The Angels announced his death.
Before the accident, Gomez had been a fixture around the ballpark and had been in the Angels' organization since 1981, most recently as an assistant to the general manager. Angels manager Mike Scioscia annually invited Gomez to instruct in camp.
"Preston had an incredible passion for baseball and was a mentor for all of us who were fortunate to spend time with him," Scioscia said. "He will certainly be missed, but I know his presence will be felt every time we take the field because of the knowledge and wisdom that he imparted to us."
The Cuban-born Gomez played eight games in the major leagues. He played and managed in the minors and served as coach, manager and executive in the big leagues for decades.
Gomez was the third-base coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1965-68, a span when they won two NL pennants and a World Series title.
"The man spent his entire life in baseball," Hall of Fame Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda. "He came from Cuba and got the opportunity to work for the Dodgers.
"He managed three major league teams and was a credit to the game. We are very sorry to see him pass away. He wore the Dodger uniform with pride and dignity. He has helped a lot of people in our game and he will be missed."
Gomez managed seven years in the majors, going 346-529 in a span from 1969 to 1980. He never had a winning season, coming the closest at 81-81 in 1974 in the first of his two seasons with the Astros.
In his first three years as a big league manager, the expansion Padres finished in last place every season. It was a feat that wouldn't be repeated by a manager for 15 years.
Amid those forgettable seasons came some memorable moments.
On July 21, 1970, Gomez pulled pitcher Clay Kirby for a pinch-hitter after eight no-hit innings against the Mets. To this day, the Padres haven't had a pitcher throw a no-hitter. And they lost that game 3-0.
Gomez was fired by the Padres just 11 games into the 1972 season, one of the earliest dismissals in major league history. But he would still find four more seasons of work as a manager, next relieving Leo Durocher in Houston.
Gomez was born Pedro W. Gomez Martinez on April 20, 1923, in Central Preston, Cuba.
At age 21 he played in eight games for the Washington Senators, going 2-for-7 with a double and two RBIs.
He spent a decade after that playing in the minor leagues, then spent another decade as a minor league manager, working in the systems of the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Yankees and the Dodgers.
Pitcher Billy Muffett, who played for Gomez for the Yankees' farm club in Richmond, Va., recalled an encounter with the manager after he had given up a couple of long home runs.
"Preston comes out to the mound and says, 'What did he hit?' I said, 'Preston, I believe it was a Rawlings,'" Muffett recalled in 1990.
"Well, he didn't think it was too funny. He said, 'Next time, throw fastballs' and walked back to the dugout."
Four years after becoming a Dodgers coach, Gomez moved to the Padres. He was hired by former Dodgers vice president Buzzie Bavasi, who had become president and part-owner of the newborn Padres. San Diego lost 110 games in Gomez's first season.
Gomez joined the Angels in 1981 as third-base coach and became a special assistant to the GM in 1985.
"The Angels family has lost one of its invaluable members, and one of baseball's truly great ambassadors," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. "His influence and impact on so many throughout the industry is impossible to measure. Though he will be missed, Preston's legacy will forever remain a part of this organization."
Gomez was inducted into the Hispanic Baseball Heritage Museum Hall of Fame in 2003.