Preston Gomez dies at 85
Preston Gomez, a longtime Angels consultant who also worked for the Dodgers and was manager for three Major League Baseball franchises, died today. He was 86.
Gomez passed away at St. Elizabeth Healthcare Center in Fullerton with his wife, Betty, and stepdaughter, Claudia, at his side, the Angels announced.
His death comes about nine months after he sustained serious injuries as the result of being struck by a truck in a gas station parking lot. Those close to him say he never fully recovered.
Gomez was the first manager of the San Diego Padres (1969-72). He also managed the Houston Astros (1974-75) and Chicago Cubs (1980). His record as a manager was 346 wins and 529 losses, and he is perhaps best remembered as a manager for replacing two pitchers from games in which they were throwing no-hitters -- San Diego's Clay Kirby in 1970 and Houston's Don Wilson in 1974.
Gomez spent the last 27 seasons working for the Angels in various capacities. His title last season was special assistant to the general manager.
He broke into the big leagues in 1944 as a 21-year-old shortstop with the Washington Senators. Gomez batted .286 in eight games before spending the rest of his playing career in the minor leagues.
He was third base coach for the Dodgers from 1965 through 1967 and also coached for the team in 1977-79.
Tommy Lasorda said of Gomez today: "The man spent his entire life in baseball. He came from Cuba and got the opportunity to work for the Dodgers. Al Campanis gave him an opportunity to be in professional baseball. He managed three major league teams and was a credit to the game. We are very sorry to see him pass away. He wore the Dodger uniform with pride and dignity. He has helped a lot of people in our game and he will be missed."
"Preston had an incredible passion for baseball and was a mentor for all of us who were fortunate to spend time with him," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He will
certainly be missed, but I know his presence will be felt every time we take the field because of the knowledge and wisdom that he imparted to us."
Gomez attended spring training every year, helping to evaluate talent but also serving as a friendly face and father figure to players, staff and virtually everyone affiliated with the team.
He counseled Jose Arredondo last spring, using his native Spanish language to advise a player 61 years younger than he was. The Angels credited Gomez with motivating Arredondo to transform himself from the hard-throwing prospect suspended for disciplinary reasons in 2007 to a rookie of the year candidate in 2008.
"I love the guy," Arredondo said last June. "He talked to me every day and said to calm down, play baseball, don't worry about anything else. ... I feel like I've grown up a lot."
“The Angels family has lost one of its invaluable members, and one of baseball’s truly great ambassadors,” General Manager Tony Reagins said. “His influence and impact on so many throughout the industry is impossible to measure. Though he will be missed, Preston’s legacy will forever remain a part of this organization."
Gomez was inducted into the Hispanic Baseball Heritage Museum and Hall of Fame in 2003. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, as well as a brother, two sisters, two sons, two daughters and two grandchildren, the Angels said.
In accordance with Gomez's wishes, there will be no memorial or funeral service, the Angels said.
A full obituary has been posted at LATimes.com.
-- Mike Hiserman and Bill Shaikin
Photo: Preston Gomez in a 2005 file photo. Credit: Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times