Pat Gillick was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 2011. Every baseball fan knows about his more recent front office accomplishments with the Philadelphia Phillies and that he stands with the best general managers of all-time. But, his pre-front office playing days actually marked the start of his brilliant career.
He was a swing man for Stockton in the California League during his first professional season in 1959. He started 20 games and came out of the bullpen for 18 others. In 1960, he worked mostly as a starter (24 out of 26 combined games) for Fox Cities in the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League and for Vancouver in the Pacific Coast League.
He started the most games (26) of his career when he pitched for Elmira in the Eastern League and for Rochester and Columbus in the International League in 1962. He struck out 116 batters in 148 combined innings that season and won nine games.
By 1963, arm injuries had begun to take their toll on Gillick's playing career. He pitched in 36 combined games (eight starts and 28 relief appearances) that season for Elmira and Rochester. He only threw 95 combined innings, but posted the best combined ERA (2.18) of his career.
During Gillick's five minor league seasons he appeared in 164 games (which included 98 starts) and threw 729 innings. His overall record was 45-32, he had a 3.42 ERA and posted a 1.565 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched).
Leaving the game when he was 26-years-old couldn't have been easy. But, what Gillick accomplished after doing so proved to be historic.
After throwing his last pitch, he began working as an assistant farm director for the Houston Colt .45's in 1964. (That franchise became the Houston Astros in 1965.) He served as a scout and as a scouting director for the Astros through 1974. He was the New York Yankees scouting director in 1975 and 1976, before he became the assistant general manager of the expansion Toronto Blue Blue Jays in 1977. He then served as the Blue Jays' general manager from 1978 through 1994.
Gillick was general manager of the Baltimore Orioles from 1996 through 1998 and of the Seattle Mariners from 2000 through 2003. He was the Phillies' general manger from November 2005 through the end of the 2008 season.
All pure fans enjoy watching the best teams in the game battle for the World Series' title each fall. Reflecting on the perfect Phillies' season that this great man engineered in 2008 makes me appreciate how he effectively adapted his baseball passion.
Gillick wasn't able to realize his initial dream in the 1960s, but he used the remainder of his career to help an incredible number of players achieve their own major league goals.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He began his professional career in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons' front office (the Philadelphia Phillies former Triple-A affiliate), later worked as a freelance sports writer and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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