For all you younger fans, I assume some of you are wondering what's with the diamond-shaped "Preston" patch on the Angels' uniforms? Well, our seasoned readers all know it's for a great baseball man we lost this year in Preston Gomez, the great player, coach, and scout for so many teams.
Gomez died in Fullerton, Calif., on Jan. 13 this year. 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 camp in Tempe, Ariz., when he was struck by a truck. The Angels announced his January death immediately.
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 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 Dodgers from 1965-68, a span over which they won two NL pennants and a World Series title. Gomez returned to third-base coaching in 1977-78 for the Dodgers.
"The man spent his entire life in baseball," Hall of Fame Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda said. "He came from Cuba and got the opportunity to work for the Dodgers."
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 Houston 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.
In those forgettable seasons came some memorable controversial moments.
On July 21, 1970, Gomez pulled an unthinkable move as he pulled pitcher Clay Kirby for a pinch-hitter after eight no-hit innings against the Mets. Still to this day, the Padres haven't had a pitcher throw a no-hitter as they also 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 immediately found four more seasons of work as a manager, taking the reins in Houston from Leo Durocher.
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 RBI.
He spent a decade after that playing in the minor leagues, managed with the reds and Yankees in the minors as well...
Four years after becoming a Dodgers coach, he was hired by former Dodgers vice president Buzzie Bavasi in San Diego. Buzzie had become president and part-owner of the newborn Padres. San Diego lost over 100 games that 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.