Famed New York Yankees pitcher Vernon “Lefty” Gomez, who passed away in 1989, will be forever memorialized on Saturday at The Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum Hall of Fame. The ceremony honoring California-born Gomez will take place on the field at Yankees Stadium before the game against the San Francisco Giants.
“It’s very thrilling, because he worked his entire life for recognition for Hispanic players,” says his daughter Vernona Gomez, who co-wrote the biography “Lefty – An American Odyssey,” published earlier this year. “He was always very proud of his Hispanic heritage.”
The Spanish-American baseball player was the first man to win six World Series games without a loss, was a two-time winner of the Pitching Triple Crown in 1934 and 1937 and won the first All Star game in 1933. Perhaps more importantly, however, he didn’t quit working hard and giving back after his retirement.
Appointed Goodwill Ambassador to Latin America by U.S. Secretary of State John Dulles, he traveled to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Central America and South America to promote his beloved sport.
“He held pitching clinics in Cuba when Fidel Castro was a student, and devoted 20 to 30 years to putting on pitching clinics for the Cuban Little League,” recounts Gomez’ daughter.
He was also one of the first major league players to manage mixed-race teams in those countries, said his daughter. Thus Gomez had a role in developing baseball in these countries and bringing attention to MLB’s racial intolerance in the U.S.
“He never saw race or color or religious differences — he just saw talent,” says Vernona Gomez, who is a concert pianist and director and owner of Creative Coaching Music Studio in Southport, Connecticut.
Throughout his life, he gave many keynote addresses at regional and national events, and he also also brought baseball to soldiers at war. The American Legion awarded him the “Good Guy” Award for his humanitarian efforts.
“My dad is remembered exactly how he wanted to be,” says his daughter. “I asked him once how he’d like to be remembered, and he said, ‘A serious competitor and a nice guy,’ and I replied, ‘That’s it?’ and he said, ‘What else is there?’”
She adds that he was also very humorous and a joy to be around.
“He would say, ‘The journey of life may have hardships, but life is fun,” says Vernona who will be at the Yankees game with her two sons on Saturday, hearing the same roar of the crowd that her father did.