Pat Gillick built it – again and again and again.
And at every stop, they came: Victories, fans and championships.
Gillick, who spent 27 years as a general manager in the big leagues, was born Aug. 22, 1937, in Chico, Calif. The son of minor league pitcher Larry Gillick and actress Thelma Daniels, Gillick began his baseball career as a left-handed pitcher. He was a member of the University of Southern California team that won the College World Series in 1958, and he pitched for five seasons in the Orioles’ minor league system.
Gillick retired as a player in 1963 when he became the assistant farm director for the Houston Colt 45’s. After scouting for the Astros for several years, Gillick was hired as the Yankees’ scouting director in 1974, then became the Blue Jays assistant general manager just prior to their inaugural season of 1977. In Toronto, Gillick quickly ascended to the general manager’s role in 1978 – building the Jays into a powerhouse over the course of the next seven seasons. In 1985, Toronto won its first American League East title, followed up with two more division crowns in 1989 and 1991 and won back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993.
From 1983-93, the Blue Jays won at least 86 games every season.
“Pat has an exceptional memory – able to memorize flight numbers, phone books,” said former Astros executive Tal Smith of Gillick, who acquired the nickname “Wolley Segap” – Yellow Pages spelled backwards – for his ability to memorize the phone book. “But intelligence can only take you so far. Pat has succeeded because of two other factors: His perseverance and people skills.”
After leaving the Blue Jays following the 1994 season, Gillick took over as the Orioles’ general manager in 1996 and led Baltimore to two straight American League Championship Series appearances. He left Baltimore following the 1998 season before landing with the Mariners in 2000, orchestrating four winning seasons and ALCS appearances in both 2000 and 2001 as general manager.
After a three-year break from the top spot, Gillick returned as the Phillies’ general manager in 2006. Two years later, the Phillies gave Gillick his third World Series title as a general manager.
In 27 seasons as a general manager, Gillick’s teams advanced to the postseason 11 times and finished with 20 winning records.
Gillick was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011.