Nov 3, 2014

Short Time Mets Utility Player: Tom Paciorek (1985)

Thomas Marian Paciorek was born on November 2, 1946 in Detroit, Michigan. Paciorek was raised in a poor family of eight children. He claims his family was the last in the poverty stricken neighborhood to own a television set.

In 2002 he revealed that during their childhood, he & his four brothers were subjected to sexual abuse by a local priest. The brothers overcame their dramas & eventually made their story public in 2002. Tom stated that in the sixties it would have been impossible to have anyone believe the truth & as a result he suffered emotional trauma for years.

Two other Paciorek brothers also played pro baseball; John Paciorek played one game for the Houston Colt 45’s in 1963. Jim Paciorek batted .228 in 48 games for the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers. The six foot four, Tom Paciorek attended the University of Houston where he played baseball but was also a football star. In 1966 he was an All American defensive back with six interceptions, getting selected as a ninth round pick by the AFL Miami Dolphins.

In 1967 his Houston team went to the College World Series and Tom was the team's best player. He eventually became one of only three players to have his number retired by the University. In 1968 he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 5th round signing as an outfielder. The Dodgers convinced him to chose baseball over football.

After one season at A Ball in 1969, he was brought right up to AAA Spokane & then later AAA Albuquerque, where he hit over .300 in each of the next three seasons. He made a brief eight game appearance with the Dodgers in 1970, returning for another cup of coffee in 1971. In 1972 he batted .307 with 27 HRs & 107 RBIs at AAA Albuquerque getting brought up for good at the end of the season.

In 1973 Paciorek was a Dodgers fourth outfielder batting .262 with 5 HRs 8 doubles & 18 RBIs playing in 96 games behind Willie Davis, Willie Crawford & Manny Mota. The Dodgers finished second that year & made some big changes the next season that got them to the World Series.

In the off season acquired slugger Jimmy Wynn from Houston, Steve Garvey took over first base & Bill Buckner also moved to the outfield. This meant less playing time for Paciorek, but he still played in 85 games. He hit .240 with eight doubles, one HR & 24 RBIs.

Post Season: In the NLCS against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he had one pinch hit in Game #3. In the World Series against the Oakland A’s, he appeared in three games, going 1-2 with a double in the final Game #5 off Vida Blue.

In 1975 he fell to a .193 average playing in 65 games, finishing his six year career in Los Angeles. In November of 1975 he was traded with along with Jimmy Wynn, Lee Lacy, & Jerry Royster to the Atlanta Braves for Dusty Baker and Ed Goodson. In his first season in Atlanta, he hit .290 second on the club to Willie Montanez, playing in 111 games (324 at bats) in Fulton County Stadium. But in that off season the Braves got Gary Mathews & the former 1974 AL MVP Jeff Burroughs which meant less playing time for Paciorek. He fell to a .239 average in just 72 games in 1977.

In 1978 Bobby Cox took over as the Braves manager & sent Paciorek to AAA where he was eventually released & almost gave up baseball. His wife convienced him to try again & he gave the expansion Seattle Mariners a call. Paciorek got signed by the Mariners starting out in the minor leagues. When Ruppert Jones got hurt, he was called up too fill the role. Paciorek played in Seattle for four years (1978-1981) hitting a career high 15 HRs in 1980.

In the strike shortened 1981 season, he had a career year; making the All Star team & coming in tenth in the MVP voting. He batted.326 (second best in the A.L.) with a .379 on base % (tenth in the AL). He hit 14 HRs with 28 doubles (third in the AL) 132 hits (fifth in the AL) & 68 RBIs. In the winter of 1981 even after his fine season, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Todd Cruz, Jim Essian & Rod Allen.

In Chicago he hit over .300, with over 25 doubles & 55 RBIs in each of the next two seasons. In the 1983 White Sox AL Western Champion season, under manager Tony LaRussa he was the teams main first baseman. He led the club in batting (.307) and was the only Sox player to hit .300.

Post Season: In the 1983 ALCS he drove in the first run of the series with a single off the Orioles Scott McGregor in Game #1 at Baltimore. In four games he batted .250 (4-16). During the 1984 season, Paciorek set a strange record, when he came into a game as a sub in the 4th inning. The game lasted 25 innings, and Paciorek got five hits, setting a record for most hits by a player to not start a game.

In 1985 he began the year with Chicago & was batting .293 after 46 games when On July 16th he was traded to the New York Mets for minor leaguer Dave Cochrane, who never suited up in a Mets uniform.

It turned out to be a good deal for the Mets even though his stay in New York was brief. In his first Mets game, on July 19th, he played right field & got a base hit, against his old Braves team mates, in a heartbreaking 1-0 loss. On July 22nd he drove in two runs in a 16-4 Mets win, in the first game of a double header at Shea Stadium against the Houston Astros. On August 15th he hit his only Mets career HR in a 10-7 win against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Two days later his 7th inning triple in Pittsburgh broke a 2-2 tie scoring Rafael Santana & Sid Fernandez in what would be the winning runs over the Pirates. Tom had a hot streak, hitting safely in ten of twelve games during the last week of August into early September.

He also had four multiple hit games which raised his season average over .300.In September he saw more action as the Mets fought the Cardinals in the pennant race. In the month he went 2-10 as a pinch hitter.

Tom would play 46 games for the '85 Mets, 24 in the outfield, eight at first base & the rest as a pinch hitter. He went 4-16 in that role. He finished up the year with New York hitting .284 with a HR, three doubles, a triple a .325 on base % and 11 RBIs as a Met.

After a wild day game when Dwight Gooden hit his first MLB career HR, I was one of the last people to leave Shea Stadium. As most of the gates were closed down, my girl friend & I were trying to get a ride to Radio City Music Hall where we were going to see Heart that evening. In any event Pacoriek also left from the same gate, greeted us & went on his way. I remember realizing what a big guy he actually was.

In 1986 he was let go to free agency & signed on with the Texas Rangers, there he hit a solid .286 in 88 games. Paciorek retired after one more season in Texas in 1988. In his 18 year career; he played in 1392 games with a .282 batting average, 1162 hits, 86 HRs, 232 doubles, 55 stolen bases, a .325 on base % & 503 RBIs.

Retirement: After his playing days he became a broadcaster for the Chicago White Sox where Ken “the Hawk” Harrelson nicknamed him “Wimpy”.

Since then he has worked in the booth for The Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers & Washington Nationals.

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