Bitsy Mott, Bordie Waddle, Rinty Monahan, Skeeter Kell, Ozzie Van Brabant, Taffy Wright, Gerald Fryfogle, MacDuffee Biggs, Tony Napoles, Wiley Williams, Enid Drake, Bordie Waddle, Dixie Upright, Buzz Dozier, Perley Grant and Bobo Holloman.
These are some of the colorful names of ballplayers who Tom “TBONE” Giordano played with in the minors from 1948 to 1959. Tom worked over 70 consecutive years in professional baseball and would still be working today if he hadn’t succumb to an unexpected infection that took his life at the age of 93 one year ago. He would roll off some of these names when he would tell me some colorful stories about playing in the minors. Some were short and others were long. Some kept to the point and others would wander with his memories of those days in the deep south, living the life that every kid dreams of.
So many stories and names. Yet there is one name that was very special to him, Joe Deluca. Joe was his best friend and visa versa. Joe worked for Tom as a scout with Baltimore and Cleveland. He was the scout who signed Manny Ramirez out of the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. Tom and Joe shared many amazing stories of their exploits in tracking down prospects in the Northeast.
One time, they were leaving the home of a kid they wanted to sign. They left via the front door and noticed that the Dodgers’ scouts were entering the same house through the back door. They needed to know what the Dodgers were offering the kid. So when they noticed a ladder on the ground near the side of the house, they hoisted it up to the kitchen window and Joe climbed up to listen to the offer. Although a funny story it showed, not only the tenacity but the quick-witted thinking that they demonstrated in trying to acquire the best talent for their organization.
The bond these two had was enormous and stayed that way their whole lives. They were totally loyal and trusted friends as well as respected baseball men among their peers.
Today I received news that Joe had passed away at the age of 91. I imagine the two of them are together again in heaven looking for that diamond in the rough. It is fitting that both of them passed away in the month of February, one year apart, because it is the beginning of the baseball season. It was the time of year that they both looked forward to, from when they were kids.
Baseball, to these amazing caricatures of the game, was all that mattered. It kept them both incredibly sharp and creative right to the end of their treasured lives. It allowed them to feel young and have a purpose.
We are witnessing the end of an era losing these two brilliant, colorful baseball men as well as the others who are no longer roaming the ball fields of the world. Rest in peace my friends.