Sid Gordon

Sid Gordon

OF, 3B, 1B, 2B, LF, RF
August 13, 1917
5' 10"
185 lbs
Major League Debut:
9-11-1941 with NY1

Sid Gordon

As a sandlot player, Sid Gordon offered to pay his own way to a Giants tryout camp. After his play in the camp turned heads and earned a contract, his expenses were reimbursed by the club. Labeled a reserve player for the first part of his career, the popular Gordon often found himself in the lineup spelling injured teammates like Bobby Thomson and Whitey Lockman, capturing a large fan base, especially Jewish rooters. Gordon became one of Manhattan's most popular players, after being born and raised in Brooklyn. A reliable outfielder who could play acceptably at third base, the stocky righthanded hitter hit .251 as a Giants rookie in 1943, then spent two years in the service. In 1947 the Giants broke the single-season home run record, and Gordon hit 13 of their 221. In 1948 he blossomed with 30 homers, 107 RBI, and a .299 batting average. He held out in the spring of 1949 but finally settled for $2,500 less than he'd asked for. After the season he was sent to the Braves in a multiplayer deal that brought Alvin Dark and Eddie Stanky to the Giants. A check for $2,500 from Giants owner Horace Stoneham underscored the esteem in which Gordon was held. July 3, 1948 was dubbed "Sid Gordon Day" at Ebbets Field in 1948, marking a rare honor for a visiting player. Gordon was born in Brooklyn.

Quotes About Sid Gordon
"[John] McGraw searched for 20 years for a [player like] Gordon, and he just fell into my lap." — Giants manager Mel Ott

Quotes From Sid Gordon
"My heart is here and I hope I always play with the Giants." — Brooklyn-native Sid Gordon

Early life
Gordon was born in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, and was Jewish. His parents were Morris and Rose (née Meyerson) Gordon. Morris emigrated from Russia, and became a plumber and a coal dealer in the United States. Eventually, the family moved to the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

Gordon went to Samuel J. Tilden High School, where he was a star baseball player. In 1936, the year he graduated from Tilden, Gordon's high school coach arranged for Gordon to work out for Casey Stengel, then manager of the Dodgers. Stengel liked what he saw, but soon after the Dodgers fired Stengel.

Gordon attended Long Island University's Brooklyn campus.

Gordon kept playing in sandlot baseball, where he was noticed by scout George Mack of the Giants. In January 1938, he was signed as undrafted amateur free agent by the Giants, and Mack sent Gordon to Milford, Delaware, in the Eastern Shore Baseball League.

Minor leagues
At Milford, Gordon was put at third base, an unfamiliar position, but responded with a .352 average and 25 homers, while playing every game. Gordon led the league in hits (145), total bases (256), and triples (9).

In 1939 Gordon played in Three-I League with Clinton. He batted .327 and hit 24 triples. In 1941 he hit .304 and stole 15 bases in the International League.

At the end of the 1941 season, the Giants brought him up. Wanting to get Gordon more experience as an outfielder, manager Bill Terry sent Gordon to Jersey City in 1942, where he hit .300.

Major Leagues
NY Giants (1941–43)
On September 11, 1941, he appeared in his first major league game. The Giants put four Jewish players on the field: Gordon and Morrie Arnovich in the outfield, Harry Feldman on the mound, and Harry Danning behind the plate.

Gordon's first full year in the majors came in 1943; he hit only .251, but with 32 strikeouts and 43 walks showed discipline at the plate. He also hit 11 triples, 5th in the league.

World War II (1944–45)

With World War II raging, Gordon spent 1944 and 1945 in the Coast Guard.

NY Giants (1946–49)

Returning to baseball after the war, in 1946 he was 10th in the league in on base percentage (.380).

In 1947 he hit 8 triples, 6th highest in the league, and a career-high 13 outfield assists. The Giants broke the single-season home run record, and Gordon hit 13 of their 221. Giant manager Mel Ott had put together a 1-dimensional ball club built around a lot of sluggers with little speed. Leo Durocher famously observed that Ott was too nice a guy, and his team would finish last. Durocher listed a number of players whom he thought were nice guys, Gordon among them.

In 1948 Gordon changed his approach to hitting under the guidance of Giant coach Red Kress. As Gordon recalled, "Before 1948 I could hit a fairly long ball but it always went to right or right-center. At the Polo Grounds right-center is just a big out. Red Kress, a coach on the Giants, used to get me to pull the ball to left. He started out by moving my right-hand grip on the bat around a little and he opened up my stance – I now put my left foot toward third when I hit. I learned to roll my wrists more and to step into the ball. Pretty soon I was dropping them in left. Red spent hours working with me on it. I can't give him enough credit."

In 1948 Gordon was 3rd in the National League in slugging percentage (.537), 4th in RBIs (107), 5th in home runs (30; a career high) and at-bats-per-home run (17.4), 6th in runs (100; a career high) and total bases (280), 8th in batting average (.299), 9th in walks (74) and OBP (.390), and 10th in stolen bases (8). He was voted onto the All-Star team for his first time. The Giants had "Sid Gordon Day" at the Polo Grounds, and he received a new car, golf clubs, and a set of luggage. July 3 was also dubbed "Sid Gordon Day" at Ebbets Field, marking a rare honor for a visiting player. He finished 4th in voting for the 1948 National League MVP.

After his breakout 1948 season, Gordon held out in the spring of 1949. He signed for $2,500 ($23,000 today) less than he wanted. In 1949 he was 4th in the league in at-bats-per-home run (18.8), 5th in home runs (26) and walks (95; a career high), 6th in OBP (.404), and 9th in slugging percentage (.505). In 1949 he homered twice in one inning, tying a major league record that still stands. He was voted onto the All-Star team for the second year in a row. He finished 30th in voting for the 1949 NL MVP.

Boston Braves/Milwaukee Braves (1950–53)
When Durocher took over in late 1949, he wanted speed and a good double play combination. In December 1949 he traded Willard Marshall, Red Webb, Buddy Kerr, and nice guy Gordon to the Boston Braves for Alvin Dark and Eddie Stanky. The deal having been consummated, Giants owner Horace Stoneham told him that "it broke my heart to let you go," and sent Gordon a check for $2,500 as a token of his respect for the popular slugger.

In 1950, he had a good year, finishing 4th in the league in slugging percentage (.557), 6th in at-bats per home runs (17.8), 7th in obp (.403), 8th in batting average (.304) and doubles (33), and 9th in home runs (27) and RBIs (103), and 10th in walks (78). He also hit 4 grand slams, tying what was then the major league record. While he hit only 5 home runs at home, he hit 22 on the road; the 17 home run disparity tied for the greatest disparity ever in one season at the time. He finished 22nd in voting for the 1950 NL MVP.

Playing for Boston in 1951 and 1952, he moved with them to Milwaukee in 1953.

In 1951 he finished 2nd in the league in RBIs (109; a career high), 8th in the league in home runs (29), runs (96), and at-bats per home runs (19.0), and 9th in slugging percentage (.500) and walks (80). On August 11 he hit a home run in a doubleheader, the first major league games to be telecast in color. He finished 16th in voting for the 1951 NL MVP.

In 1952 he finished 4th in the league in home runs (25) and at-bats per home run (20.9), 7th in obp (.384) and slugging percentage (.483), and 8th in walks (77). He finished 30th in voting for the 1952 NL MVP.

Pittsburgh Pirates (1954–55)

In December 1953 he was traded by the Braves with Larry Lasalle, Fred Walters, Curt Raydon, Sam Jethroe, Max Surkont, and cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates for flashy infielder Danny O'Connell. It was the only six-for-one trade in major league history, and was surpassed years later only by the 7-for-1 deal that sent Vida Blue from Oakland to San Francisco in 1978. He hit .306 for the Pirates in 1954.

NY Giants (1955)

In 1955, as the 9th-oldest player in the league, he was back with the Giants, where he ended his baseball career.

Through 2010, he was third in career home runs (behind Shawn Green), fourth in RBIs (behind Buddy Myer), and sixth in hits (behind Brad Ausmus) among all-time Jewish major league baseball players.

Reactions to Gordon as a Jew; Anti-Semitism

A well-liked and highly regarded person wherever he traveled, Gordon was nevertheless subjected to a stark case of anti-Semitism. One day in June 1949 in St. Louis the Cardinals' bench was all over Gordon. Anti-Semitic remarks were hurled at Gordon. However, Cards manager Eddie Dyer said, "Sid is a friend of mine," and that Gordon had been attacked not because he was Jewish but because he was a good player and "the good ones receive the attention of bench jockeys." Gordon for his part took the high road, ignoring the anti-Semitic remarks, forcing the bigots to admire him.

When the Dodgers were desperately looking for a Jewish player and found Sandy Koufax, Walter O'Malley told reporter Dave Anderson that he hoped Koufax would be as good as Hank Greenberg or Sid Gordon.

Gordon is 3rd all-time of all Jewish baseball player in home runs (behind Hank Greenberg and Shawn Green, 4th in RBIs (behind Greenberg, Green, and Buddy Myer, and 6th in hits (behind Myer, Green, Lou Boudreau, Greenberg, and Brad Ausmus. In a 1976 Esquire magazine article, sportswriter Harry Stein published an "All Time All-Star Argument Starter," consisting of five ethnic baseball teams. Gordon was the left fielder on Stein's Jewish team.

"Gordon" seems surprising as a Jewish name. It is usually and properly assumed to be Scottish, Norman English, or Irish, as a place name meaning "spacious fort." However, according to Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges, the name is also "Jewish, Eastern Ashkenazic: probably a habituation name from the Belarus city of Grodno, whence the Eastern Ashkenazic surnames Gardin(ski). It goes back at least to 1657. It was widespread among Jews in Poland by the end of the 17th century, when two naturalized Polish noblemen, Henry and George Gordon, obtained legislation to prevent its continued adoption by Jews.

Member of the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (2004).

Personal life

Gordon married Mary Goldberg in 1940. They had two sons, Michael and Richard. Michael was a catcher in the minors from 1963 to 1965.

Gordon was playing softball in Central Park in New York on June 17, 1975, when he had a heart attack. Taken to Lenox Hill Hospital, he died several hours later. He was 57 years old. His wife Mary and two sons survived him. He was buried at the New #New Montefiore Cemetery, in Farmingdale, New York.

Sid Gordon
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