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VINE VOICEon March 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Co-authors Vernona Gomez and Lawrence Goldstone present an intimate portrait of Yankee Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez in "Lefty: An American Odyssey." Vernona is the daughter of Vernon "Lefty" and June Gomez.

Gomez was the glue of the Yankees' clubhouse and pitching rotation in the 1930s. He was the game's highest paid pitcher in 1935 with a $20,000 salary. The southpaw compiled a 189-102 won-loss record, won 20 games four times, led the league in shutouts and strikeouts twice and ERA twice. He fashioned a 6-0 record and a 2.86 ERA in five World Series.

The book focuses more on Lefty's personal life than his baseball career. For example, many more pages are devoted to Lefty's highly publicized marital problems and near-divorce (he and his wife, June, a Broadway dancer, reconciled and were married for 55 years) than any of his World Series performances.

The book offers a thorough account of Gomez's boyhood. Gomez started playing semi-pro ball at age 14 and played in the Pacific Coast League before joining the Yankees in 1930. Always a tough competitor, Lefty pitched in plenty of crucial games.

Although he was known as "El Goofo" for his humor and wit, he was astute and intelligent. Gomez roomed with Joe DiMaggio from 1936 to 1942 and they became lifelong friends. Lefty had the gift of gab and made friends wherever he went.

The book offers an interesting chapter on the 1934 Tour of Japan by Gomez, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and other major leaguers.

Arm problems led to the Yankees releasing Gomez in January 1943. He finished his career with one appearance with the Washington Senators in 1943. He retired at the age of 33.

The final 90 pages cover Gomez's life after he retired from baseball. Gomez worked for Wilson Sporting Goods for many years, traveling more than 100,000 miles, attending banquets, baseball functions, putting on clinics and promoting youth baseball. In 1957, he suffered a nervous breakdown caused by exhaustion and alcoholism. His daughter provides a lot of insight and stories about Lefty's personal life and relationships.

Lefty Gomez was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1972, becoming one of the few HOF pitchers with fewer than 200 wins. Lefty died Feb. 17, 1989, at age 80.
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on April 25, 2014
I always enjoy reading of Gomez's wit, and this shows us the man behind the tales. As his daughter worked on the book, we truly get into his character. She doesn't pull punches, but this is no "Daddy Dearest." It's a tale of love, and one that any baseball fan will enjoy.
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on September 5, 2013
Most baseball biographies, especially of old-timers from baseball's Golden Age, rely on statistics, newspaper reports, and, occasionally, teammates' remembrances. True insight into the ballplayer himself is rare.

Fortunately, this book about Hall of Fame pitcher Vernon (Lefty) Gomez, written by his daughter, is not like most baseball biographies. This terrific biography is chock full of personal anecdotes and family stories so that the reader gets a real insight into the man himself.

Though his nickname was Goofy, Lefty was a smart, interesting guy. He was a good friend of Babe Ruth's and was a long-time friend of Joe DiMaggio's. His wife was a star on Broadway. Lefty loved to travel and had plenty of entertaining stories to tell.

This is a very interesting biography with as much information about his life outside of baseball as it has about his baseball career. Highly recommended!!
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on June 14, 2014
Well written, quick paced biography of a fascinating baseball great. The book offers great insight into the man presenting a deeply intelligent, humble and self-deprecating man of many passions: baseball, airplane flying, saxophone playing. Lefty Gomez ran in multiple eclectic social circles.

The book provides wonderful historical and cultural context. The baseball moments and perspective is just right for both serious and casual fans.

Lefty is a most enjoyable biography.
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on July 6, 2012
Very enjoyable book for old-timers who were around in the thirties an forties and love baseball. The personal history of Lefty Gomez and his family grabs the attention and makes the book enjoyable even for those who are not interested in baseball.
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on October 20, 2012
Have just finished reading "Lefty, an American Odyssey." It was much better than I expected. The book is co-written by a grandaughter of Lefty Gomez, Verona Gomez and Lawrence Goldstone. It begins with the Gomez family history and goes into Lefty's childhood and how he spent many hours each day working on the family farm. Covered are his sandlot days, minor and Major League career and life after baseball with illustrations. The childhood of his wife June O'Dea and her acting career are also included in the book. Friends and former teammates add stories in this almost four hundred page book. Excellent!
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VINE VOICEon June 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
They didn't call Vernon Louis Gomez "Goofy" for nothing. The New York Yankees pitcher was never much of a hitter, especially when up against the likes of Bob Feller, the young fireballer for the Cleveland Indians. In a late afternoon game on a misty day, when Feller's fastball was hopping and the sun was going down, Gomez came to the batter's box and pulled out a match. As he lit it, the umpire asked, "You think that's going to help you see the ball?"

"No," said Gomez, "I just want to be sure Feller can see me!"

"Lefty" Gomez was one of the great wits of baseball, as much loved and admired for his humor and generosity as for his skills on the mound. He was the backbone of the New York Yankees pitching staff through the 1930s, winning twenty games or more in four of his fourteen Major League seasons. With Gomez on the mound, the Yankees won five American League pennants and five World Series (1932, 1936-39, finishing second in the league in 1931 and 1933-35). Lefty also was the winning pitcher in the first Baseball All-Star Game in 1933, and he would be named to the American League team for the six following seasons. Gomez's career stats are not spectacular - overall he won 189 games and lost 102, with a 3.34 earned run average (per nine-inning game) - but that's still the fourth highest winning percentage, .649, among pitchers who started their careers between 1900 and 1950 and had 200 decisions or more, and fifteenth highest among 200+ pitchers all-time.

Lefty was born in 1908 to a big American family (Spanish-Portuguese father, Welsh-Irish mother) on the shores of San Pablo Bay, north of San Francisco. Early on, he found a passion for baseball and developed into an effective southpaw with a blazing fastball. After several years of sandlot and semipro ball in the Bay area, he played for a minor league team in Salt Lake City and then for the fabled San Francisco Seals of the old Pacific Coast League before the Yankees bought his contract prior to the 1930 season. The Lanky Yankee played alongside such pinstripe legends as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie "Red" Ruffing, Tony Lazzeri, Bill Dickey, Phil Rizzuto, and many others who graced Yankee Stadium in the `30s and early `40s. It was not a long career - eight really productive seasons before a shoulder injury in 1939 precipitated a slow decline. He pitched only twenty-seven innings in 1940, then went 15-5 in helping the Yankees win the 1941 pennant. But Lefty was so erratic that year that he didn't pitch in the World Series victory over Brooklyn, and after a 6-4 season in 1942, the Yankees cut him loose. Lefty would pitch one game for the Washington Senators in 1943 - his last loss - before hanging up his cleats.

Fortunately, Lefty's life off the field was largely a happy one. In 1933 he married June O'Dea, a New York showgirl, and they would eventually have four children in more than fifty years of wedlock. Out of the majors, Lefty worked a few odd gigs before latching on to a long-time job doing sales and promotional work for the Wilson Sporting Goods Co., a position he held for almost four decades before his death in 1989. Lefty's ingratiating personality and humor made him a favorite on the after-dinner speaker circuit, and he also traveled abroad extensively, especially in Latin America, as a baseball instructor and coach.

One might be justifiably wary of any biography written by a son or daughter, but Vernona (Lefty's oldest child) and her collaborator, Lawrence Goldstone, keep a respectable distance from the father-daughter relationship. There's no doubt that this is an affectionate, even adoring portrait of her father and mother (indeed, the book might better be titled "Lefty and June" because of the prominence the ballplayer's wife receives in some chapters). But the authors also include some less pleasant episodes - marital discord, a miscarriage, the death of a son, Lefty's bout with alcoholism in his later years - and handle them openly and without sensation. Vernona must have worked on this book for many years, as she includes accounts based on interviews with a host of old-time players, wives, and other observers, most now regrettably gone.

LEFTY is not only a good picture of this talented, entertaining ballplayer - who finally won admission to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 - but gives a flavorful view of the Yankees in the `30s, struggling in the early part of the decade and then roaring back in the late `30s to the glory days of Joltin' Joe and the Bronx Bombers. Fans of baseball, and baseball history, will find LEFTY a worthwhile read.
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on December 9, 2014
A wonderful book, filled with insights into one of baseball's lesser known Hall of Famers, unless you're a longtime Yankees fan. I think his daughter and her collaborator did some fairly extensive research too back up their stories. And it really captured a side of a sports figure that we haven't seen before. She included his flaws and his drive to be a success. And it told some of his wife's story as well, which made the book more well rounded. She had a very interesting life as well and was a perfect match for her husband in many important ways.. Lefty was a unique individual and talented in ways beyond baseball. It's fascinating to see how he and his wife, June, interacted with so many people in the entertainment world. This is an American success story that children can emulate. I'm going to have my 15 year old son read it.
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VINE VOICEon May 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Vernon "Lefty" Gomez was one of the most popular and well-known men ever to play major league baseball ("MLB"). His outstanding, albeit injury shortened, career was the biggest reason for this. After all it got Lefty to the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. [See Lefty's impressive MLB career stats at, e. g., [...].] But he remained well known and intensely popular long after his MLB career ended in 1943 after 13 seasons with the NY Yankees (1930-1942) and one game in 1943 with the Washington Senators.

This book, by Lefty's daughter Vernona, with assistance from Lawrence Goldstone, shows why he was so popular. The book is more a personal memoir of Lefty's life than a formal biography and is based mostly on oral reminiscences from people who knew Lefty in all stages of his life.

The book is a fascinating read full of stories from MLB's "golden age" (1920-1941) when the game left the old "dead ball" era when the game was played pretty much one base at a time, there were few home runs and low scoring and close games were common. After Ruth hit 29 home runs in 1919 and followed with 54 (1920) and 59 (1921), everything changed and baseball exploded to new heights of popularity. The game's characters and colorful personalities soon became household words as the boom continued into the 1940's before being rudely constrained by World War II and the exodus of many MLB players, including top stars, into military service.

Lefty caught the wave at the right time then performed outstandingly to make his mark as a player. But he was also a man of high intelligence and considerable wit and became known, first to his teammates and opponents, and soon beyond baseball for his funny remarks and for his unusual speaking ability. The baseball world, moreover, also knew of his highly developed work ethic, his devotion to the craft of pitching and his great generosity of spirit. All of these traits eventually became known to the wider world and, indeed, continued throughout Lefty's life.

Having come from a life of hard work in his family (of which he famously said "[w] weren't poor. We just didn't have any money"), he never became arrogant or proud and would always take the time for fans or to help teammates and younger players. He was especially active with kids and spent much time running youth baseball clinics in the US and abroad as well as supporting amateur baseball. Over his life he quietly helped many in need with advice, with gifts of needed things or with cash.

In other areas Lefty gave generously of his time in volunteer work, toured many places in the world as a sort of baseball ambassador and was once sent as an official US good will ambassador to tour Latin America where he was well known and popular for his work with kids. Lefty and his colleague, famous umpire Jocko Conlan, brought off a successful and well-received tour in a region where the US had been none too popular at the time. All of this while handling a full-time senior sales job for Wilson Sporting Goods and fulfilling speaking engagements all over the US.

Lefty was married to the beautiful and successful dancer, singer and Broadway headliner June O'Dea, with whom he had four kids (two daughters and two sons), for just short of 56 years. June, having been active in vaudeville and musical theater since before she was a teen, had as much intelligence, independence and inexhaustible energy as Lefty; and the marriage seems to have been mostly happy. The book contains many stories of their courtship and June's life as a performer as well.

Lefty and June had been married for almost 56 years when Lefty died of complications connected to congestive heart failure on February 17, 1989, just nine days short of their anniversary. Typical of Lefty, near the end one of his doctors asked him to imagine getting ready to throw a fast ball and asked how bad the chest pains were. Lefty replied, "[W]ho's hitting, Doc?"

After Lefty's death, letters and calls of condolence flooded in from all over the US and abroad. Perhaps the most fitting was a hand-written note carried by five "very young" boys who biked over to Lefty's house, rang the doorbell and gave the note to June. It read:

"We appreciate the time he took for us. We're going to miss Lefty."

Highly recommended for all interested in Lefty, in the MLB of the period and (to a lesser extent) in the entertainment world of the day.
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on July 27, 2012
I first heard the name Lefty Gomez, while listening with my Dad to a 1956 Yankee-Dodgers World Series game: "Whitey Ford is my favorite Yankee, after Mickey Mantle." Dad replied, "When I was your age my favorite Yankee was Lefty Gomez, after Lou Gehrig." I would guess all kids learn about baseball players this way: fathers and sons playing catch and (today) watching games.

Lefty: An American Odyssey (New York : Ballantine Books ; imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, 2012) is a book about one of the great New York Yankees pitchers in the 1930s and early 1940s who appeared in seven All-Star games (1933 through 1939) and a member of five New York Yankees World Series championships (1932, 1936 through 1939). Vernon `Lefty' Gomez was a 20-game winner four times. Unlike teammates Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth who were inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame almost immediately after retirement, Lefty was not inducted until 1972, nearly thirty years following his in 1943. Verona Gomez, Lefty's daughter, and co-author Lawrence Goldstone, have written an informative and hilarious biography of Vernon `Lefty' Gomez and at the same time a nostalgic review of the America's national past time for most of the last century.

The book's Prologue, as but one example, gives the reader a nostalgic look at the August 4th, 1962 Old Timers Game at San Francisco's Candlestick Park where veterans of the Giants (who had recently in 1958 been in New York) played veterans of the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, which Triple-A franchise closed in 1957 to make way for the Giants. The Seals veteran ball players included outfielders Dom, Vince, and `Yankee Clipper' Joe DiMaggio, and pitcher Vernon `Lefty' Gomez. We learn that the taciturn Yankee Clipper roomed with the gregarious Lefty his first six years with the Yankees. Also, that Lefty and his wife June O'Dea, a Broadway actress, a few days after the game were to attend the `re-marriage' of Joe DiMaggio and his wife Marilyn Monroe in Los Angeles. Tragically, Monroe died the next day at home from a drug overdose. During DiMaggio's grief Lefty would call him twice a week just to talk. "That's what roomies are for." This bitter-sweet narrative tone gives Lefty a truth-stranger-than-fiction appeal and moves autobiography firmly into the realm of social history. This is a book not only about a great player until recently forgotten by most fans, but a book that remembers the greatness of the game itself. I highly recommend it to all who love the game. My Dad would have loved Lefty.
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