Karpin’s Korner: Reflections of a Friend

Howie Karpin

Today is a sad, but reflective day in my life.

It’s Valentine’s Day and I hope everyone is “feeling the love,” but it’s also the anniversary of the passing of a man who had an impact on my life.

Two years ago to the day, I lost a friend who I admired and greatly respected, while baseball lost, not only one of its best evaluators of talent, but also one of its greatest advocates.

Tommy “T-bone” Giordano was a baseball lifer who, literally, put his heart and soul into the game that he loved. He died at the age of 93, but he was employed as a scout, right up until the day he passed.

Giordano got the nickname, “T-Bone” thanks to his father. After he hit two home runs in a game, someone asked where he got all that power, and he said that his father would fix him a T-bone steak before every game.

Giordano had a major league career with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1953, that lasted a grand total of 11 games. That’s still 11 games more than you or I or millions or us have ever played in a major league baseball game. By the way, he hit one of his two career home runs in his very first game.

After his playing career ended, he began a long career as a scout, which was perfect for someone who possessed a baseball IQ that was off the charts. “This is a guy who was in baseball 72 consecutive years, former Major League scout and Giordano’s close friend, Billy Coppola said on my “Karpin’s Korner Show” on 365sportscast.com. “You don’t stay at his level that long unless you’re pretty good at what you do.”

Tommy has a couple of nice signings on his scouting resume’, including Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and Manny Ramirez.

This is what I wrote in my Karpin’s Korner column of two years ago in a tribute to my friend:

“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.”

Giordano had a gift for analyzing baseball players. Coppola said working with “T-Bone” was like working with a “great master.” “For every one thing that I saw, Tom would see three things and he would show me how to find those three things. It was like working with Michelangelo. He was, to me, the ultimate teacher.”

In September, 2018, Giordano gave me a homework assignment. “Write a scouting report on the Yankees for me,” he said. T-bone was working for the Braves at the time and he was scouting the Yankees in lieu of a potential World Series match up that season.

About four or five weeks after I gave him my report, I received an envelope from Mr. Thomas Giordano, Orlando, Florida. In the envelope was an exact copy of the scouting report that Tommy sent to the Braves and a note that read:

“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 was excited to read the report because I was wondering if he used any of my insight?

The report was written out, it wasn’t typed. It was six pages long (on one side) with a lot of detail. I was fascinated by what he saw from the Yankee players. As I was perusing the report, I was reminded that I had told him that Aroldis Chapman loses something off of his fastball after he gets to between 15 and 20 pitches in an inning. Sure enough, under Chapman’s break down, Tommy wrote, “Mostly straight after approx, 15 pitches.”

I also suggested that teams may want to bunt on Luke Voit, that note was in there. So was the fact that I wrote in my report that the 2018 Yankees were not fundamentally sound, particularly in the outfield. Giordano wrote, “They make fundamental mistakes in the outfield, missing the cutoff man, throwing to the wrong base.”

I was so flattered. Here was a man, who has all this credibility in the sport of baseball and he’s using some of my insights in the actual scouting report that he submits to the Atlanta Braves. Apparently, taking insights from other sources and using them in his scouting reports is not something T-bone did very often.

“I know personally how many times he would do that and the answer is, not that much,” Coppola said. “To actually use what they said, and I’ve heard people say things, that’s pretty special. To get close to him was not that easy when it came to what you were gonna do for him or not do for him, baseball wise. This baseball thing was very, very important to him and he wasn’t gonna put anything down that was gonna make him look bad.”

I assure you, no one made him look bad, but he made me feel awfully good while I was in his company.

Like Ellis Redding said, after Andy Dufresne escaped from Shawshank, “I miss my friend.”

You can hear the Billy Coppola interview and an interview with WCBS TV Sports Director and multiple Emmy award winner, Otis Livingston, tonight at 8 PM, eastern time on the Karpin’s Korner show on 365sportscast.com.

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