Preston Gómez (1922-2009)

Former baseball player, coach, manager, and scout Preston Gómez died yesterday. He had been severely injured last year after being struck by a motor vehicle. He was 86.

Born in Cuba, Gómez was the first manager of the San Diego Padres when they were created as an expansion team in 1969. He was hired by the historic former Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodger executive Buzzie Bavasi, who knew Gómez from the Dodgers, where he served as the third base coach from 1965 to 1968. (That term included the Dodgers’ 1965 World Series season.)

Gómez was only the second Latin American/Latino manager in baseball history when he took the helm in 1969. Before him there had been the cubano Mike Gónzalez who managed the St. Louis Cardinals during two interim stints, one in 1938 and another in 1940. (Gónzalez managed a total of 22 major league games.)  Accordingly, Gómez, it could be argued,was the first Latino to manage a major league baseball team on a permanent basis.

Preston Gómez played baseball for more than two decades on a professional basis, including 8 games in the big show (for the Washington Senators).  He made much more of a name for himself as a coach and as a manager (for the aforementioned Padres (1969-72), as well as he Houston Astros (1974-75) and Chicago Cubs (1980)).  For the last 27 years he worked for the California Angels as, first, a coach, and (since 1984) as a scout and consultant.

Latinos have a strong presence in professional baseball.  In a generation or two, we will also have a notable presence in the Hall of Fame.  Men like Gómez can be simultaneously regarded as pathbreakers for their early achievements but also as human records of baseball’s racial past–a past that prohibited the play of dark-skinned and African-descent Latinos while it allowed the participation of “white” ones.

Undoubtedly, he was an important part of baseball history.  For more information on his life in the big leagues, see the announcement from the Angels organization.

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