Thursday, March 31, 2011

#127 - Tom Paciorek

Tom Paciorek is doing the big bat extended swing pose at Candlestick. This card is finally his first solo one after rookie cards in both '71 and '73 so he certainly deserved a shot to stretch it out. Tom is the third Dodger so far for whom '73 was his first significant season and with less than 200 at bats it was barely that. And things weren't going too swimmingly for him as through July he was hitting .213 with only five RBI's on less than 100 at bats, lots of them pinch ones. But from August on he got some outfield starts - primarily in left and center - and hit .295 the rest of the way.

Tom Paciorek grew up much like Willie Horton did from a few posts back: poor and crowded in Detroit. He and a few of his siblings were big local sports stars and Tom would attend the University of Detroit (until they cut their football program) and then the University of Houston from where he was drafted and signed by the Dodgers in '68. He put in two seasons of Class A ball and in '70 landed at Triple A where he was a big part of those kick-ass minor league behemoths that Tommy Lasorda managed. Tom would hit over .300 and drive in over 100 runs each of the next three seasons and in '72 was named TSN's Minor League Player of the Year. He got tiny amounts of playing time at LA each year and in '73 was on the roster to stay. But the outfield was crowded, especially with line drive hitters, and Tom could never crack the lineup full time. His at bats and average declined each of the next two seasons though he did get a little post-season action in '74 and did well hitting .667 with a double. After the '75 season he went to Atlanta with Jimmy Wynn, Lee Lacy, and Jerry Royster for Dusty Baker and Ed Goodson. In '76 he enjoyed his first season with more than 300 at bats and hit .290. In '77 the outfield got crowded again, his playing time was cut in half, and his average fell to .239. '78 was weird in that Atlanta cut him twice and after the second time Tom hooked up with Seattle. In the AL things got better.

Paciorek had a pretty good '78 half season for the Mariners, hitting just shy of .300. He followed it with a decent '79 in which he put up his first double-figure homer season and then in '80, at age 34, finally got into enough games to get over 100 hits. In '81 he hit .326 with a lifetime MLB high of 66 RBI's and made the All-Star team, continuing his snake-bit ways by having his best season in the strike year. As a reward for those numbers Seattle sent him to the White Sox for Todd Cruz and Jim Essian. In '82 and '83 Tom kept his average north of .300 and then got some starting time in the playoffs. His numbers came in in '84 and the next year he went to the Mets in a mid-season trade. He spent his last two seasons with the Rangers where he hit in the .280's. For his career he hit .282 with 86 homers and 503 RBIs. In the post-season he hit .316 in eight games. His baseball-reference bullpen page is about the most detailed I have ever seen.

Immediately after playing, Paciorek returned to Chicago where he was the White Sox color guy from '88 to '99. After a year in Detroit, from 2001 to '05 he did the same thing for the Braves. He then moved to DC for the Nationals and was done after the '06 season. In '93 he made headlines in a different way when he accused one of the priests at the Catholic high school he attended of sexually abusing his brothers and him. He had decided to come forth when the priest - a guy named George Shirilla - was reinstated after another molestation charge against him was thrown out because the statute of limitations had expired. While Tom got nowhere in his suit he did get the guy away from any more teaching positions.

Topps also gave a Player of the Year award out and it correlated pretty well with the TSN one. The formal name of the award is the Spink Award (Topps also gives one by the same name to a journalist). I have not been able to find the co-winner for '72 but I'm pretty sure it will show up soon. The cartoon is a clue to Tom's nickname when he played. It was Wimpy, after the guy that ate all the hamburgers in the Popeye cartoons.

Skipping the checklist, these two guys played down the coast from each other:

1. Paciorek and Ron Cey '72 to '75 Dodgers;
2. Cey and Derrell Thomas '79 to '82 Dodgers;
3. Thomas and Nate Colbert '72 to '74 Padres.

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