Karpin: A Final “Ciao” For My Friend, Tommy “T-Bone” Giordano

“You always seem to amaze me with your depth of knowledge about so many aspects of our great game.”

When I first read that 19-word quote, it stuck with me and today it really came to the forefront because my friend, who authored that high praise, is gone.

93-year old baseball lifer, Tommy “T-Bone” Giordano passed away peacefully earlier today. Anyone who knew him, and there were many of us, was well aware that this sad day was coming.

I got to meet “T-Bone” a number of years ago but one of the few regrets that I’ve had in my career was that we didn’t meet earlier.

One of the real pleasures of covering baseball is the people you meet along with the way and Tommy “T-Bone” Giordano was at the top of the list. Our time together was spent at the ballpark before games, although I could never get him to accept an invite to my house. We would sit together in the media dining room and many times he was the focal point of the room. From other scouts to media people to the workers in the dining room, I would marvel at how many people wanted to interact with “T-Bone” during that time. Tommy wasn’t overweight but he loved his meals, he also enjoyed the company.

I treasured our friendship and the realization that I won’t be seeing him at the ballpark anymore won’t hit home until the season starts. That moment will provide an eerie reminder of what I went through when I went to the ballpark for the first time after my mentor, Bill Shannon died in a tragic house fire in October 2010.

“T-Bone” began his baseball career as a player with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1953, where he played 11 games as a September call-up. During that minor league season, T-Bone beat out Hall of Famer Hank Aaron (24-22) for the Class A South Atlantic League home run title. In the late 1950’s, he became a minor league manager and then transitioned into a Major League scouting and front office role as an Assistant to the General Manager.

T-Bone worked for the Orioles when they won their last World Series in 1983. He was also part of a successful Cleveland Indians organization in the 1990’s and also the Texas Rangers when they went to the World Series in 2010 and 2011. Before he passed, Giordano was re-signed by the Braves as a scout for the upcoming 2019 season.

T-Bone had a great eye for talent and his track record with prospects speaks for itself. While working for the Texas Rangers, Giordano recommended they take back Yankee prospect Robinson Cano as part of the deal in 2004 that sent Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees. Texas didn’t listen and selected shortstop prospect Joaquin Arias instead. While he worked for the Indians in the 1990’s, T-Bone was the “driving force in drafting and signing Manny Ramirez.” My nysportsday.com colleague Bill Coppola, cited that foresight in his tribute to his friend and mentor.

Tommy would occasionally refer to me as the “best scorekeeper in the business,” and I was always flattered when he did. When I was working a Yankee game as the Official Scorer, he would make it a point to come over and say goodbye when he was leaving the ballpark. If there was a controversial scoring call, you can bet I would get, and welcome, T-Bone’s input and I have to say, there were very few times that he disagreed.

We didn’t always agree on other baseball matters but there was always a healthy dialogue between us and I loved it because I was privileged to pick his brain on things. Sometimes, he would quiz me on fundamental baseball strategy and things like that, which leads me to the opening quote of this post.

Tommy gave me kind of a “homework assignment” when he asked me to write a scouting report on the Yankees. T-Bone valued my input and I happily agreed to put some time in to come up with a scouting report on what I saw were the strengths and weaknesses of the Yankees.

The final time that I spoke with Tommy was right before the season ended. While on a phone call, he told me that he read my scouting report and that he was adding some of my observations to his report that he was filing with the Braves before the playoffs began. T-Bone said he would mail me a copy of his final report and it arrived a couple of weeks later.

The report was six pages long, totally written, not typed, and it was fascinating to read. As I was going through it, I recognized some of my observations that were sprinkled throughout. For example, when I mentioned Aroldis Chapman, I pointed out that his fastball tends to straighten out after about 15-20 pitches in an inning. In his report, Tommy wrote Chapman’s fastball is “mostly straight after approx. 15 pitches,” and he made a point to underline it.

I pointed out how the Yankees like to “bunch” their outfielders (LF and RF are positioned more towards the LCF and RCF gaps) which creates space down the lines. In his report, T-Bone wrote that and recommended that the Atlanta runners may want to be aggressive on balls down the line. Aaron Judge has the great arm in RF but if he has to run from the RCF gap to go get a ball into the corner, the runners may have a chance to advance to second.

Suffice it to say, I was proud that this baseball lifer, who was so well respected for his work within the sport, thought enough of my knowledge that he would include it in his report. Attached to the report was a note from Tommy that read: (in case you can’t decipher the writing)

“Howie, great talking with you about our great game. You always seem to amaze me with your depth of knowledge about so many aspects of our great game. Always ready to sit and listen. Warm regards, T-Bone.”

I am hurting today but looking at the note (that I will keep forever) and the report that my friend sent me has helped begin the healing process.

Meeting and interacting with Tommy “T-Bone” Giordano will always be one of the great pleasures of my life and professional career. RIP my friend and as you always said to me when we ended our conversations, “Ciao.”

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