“We’re not afraid of DiMaggio or Keller. The man we fear is Gordon.” – Dodgers manager Leo Durocher before the 1941 World Series.
He redefined the tools necessary for middle infielders, adding power to the mix while setting the bar even higher for acrobatic play in the field.
In the final analysis, however, one word has always defined Joe Gordon: Winner.
Born Feb. 18, 1915, Gordon – nicknamed “Flash” in reference to the popular comic book figure of the 1930s and his quick feet – combined hitting and fielding skills as few other second basemen ever have. He played for the New York Yankees (1938-1943; 1946) and the Cleveland Indians (1947-1950) and won five World Series rings (four with the Yankees) despite losing two years while he served his country in World War II in the Army Air Corps.
Gordon won the 1942 American League MVP Award – beating out Boston’s Ted Williams despite the fact that Williams won the AL’s Triple Crown that season. He was traded to the Indians following the 1946 season, and two years later led Cleveland to the World Series title. He appeared in the postseason in six of his 11 big league seasons.
Overall, Gordon was selected to play in the All-Star Game in nine of his 11 seasons. Gordon was the first AL second baseman to hit 20 home runs in a season, which he did seven times in his 11-year career, and once held the league mark for career home runs at second base (246). Defensively, he led the AL in assists four times and double plays three times.
Gordon also managed the Cleveland Indians starting in 1958 and led Cleveland to a second-place finish in 1959. In 1960, he was involved in the only manager-for-manager trade when the Indians and Tigers swapped skippers – with Jimmy Dykes going to Cleveland. He finished the season managing the Tigers, then signed to manage the Kansas City Athletics in 1961 and the Kansas City Royals in 1969.
Gordon passed away on April 14, 1978. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.