Tom Paciorek: Mid 1980's Mets Utility Player (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 choose 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. It was then he & Bobby Valentine became lifelong close friends.

Trivia: He earned the nickname of "Wimpy" the hamburger eating character from the Popeye comics & cartoons, from Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.

MLB Career: 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.

1974 Post Season: In the NLCS against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he had one pinch hit appearance, getting a single in the Game #3 Dodger loss. 

In the World Series loss to the Oakland A’s, he appeared in three games in that role, going 1-2. He had a double in the final Game #5 off A's pitcher, 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. I

Braves Career: 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 signed Gary Mathews & the 1974 A.L. MVP slugger, Jeff Burroughs which meant less playing time in a reserve role for Paciorek. In 1972 he appeared in 72 games & hit just .239.

In 1978 Bobby Cox took over in his first stint as the Braves manager, he demoted Paciorek to AAA & he was eventually released.

Feeling his career was over, he almost gave up on baseball. 
His wife convinced him to try again & he gave the expansion Seattle Mariners a call. 

Mariners Career: Paciorek did land a deal & got signed by the Mariners with a minor league contract. When outfielder Ruppert Jones got hurt, Paciorek was called up to fill the role. Paciorek ended up remaining 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 A.L. 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. 

After his fine season, he asked for a three-year contract, but the Mariners felt differently, in the winter of 1981 he was traded to the White Sox for Todd Cruz, Jim Essian & Rod Allen.

White Sox Career: 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) as he was the only Sox player to hit .300.

1983 Post Season-ALCS: 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). 

Trivia: 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.

Mets Career: It turned out to be a good deal for the Mets even though his stay in New York was brief. Here his old friend Bobby Valentine had just been a Mets coach & two weeks prior was selected to manage the Texas Rangers.

In his first Mets game, on July 19th, he played right field & got a base hit, against his old Braves teammates, 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 second place 1985 Mets, 24 in the outfield, eight at first base & the rest as a pinch hitter. 

 He finished up the year hitting .284 with a HR, three doubles, a triple, 11 RBIs & a .325 on base %.  He went 4-16 in the pinch-hitting role.

*from centerfield: 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 girlfriend & I were trying to get a ride to Radio City Music Hall where we were going to see Heart that evening. In any event, Paciorek 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. It was with a little help from his friend Bobby Valentine who was now his manager. 

Quotes- Tom Paciorek: " I always knew he would be a major league manager & I was hoping it would be before my career was over. He was one of the main reasons I'm here. Bobby & I played together in Seattle in 1979 his last year as a player & I always felt that was the most fun I ever had in baseball".

In 1986 as the Mets won the World Series, Paciorek hit a solid .286 in 88 games for the second place improved Rangers. In 1987 he played one more season, batting .283 in 27 games with Texas. Paciorek retired in 1988. 

Friends for life Bobby Valentine & tom Paciorek

Career Stats: In his 18-year career; he played in 1392 batting .282with 1162 hits, 86 HRs, 232 doubles, 55 stolen bases, a .325 on base % & 503 RBIs.

Retirement: After his playing days he became a long-time baseball broadcaster & analyst. 

His longest stint was with the for the Chicago White Sox (1988-1999). where His broadcast partner, Ken “the Hawk” Harrelson gave him the name. 

Paciorek has also worked in the booth for The Detroit Tigers (2000) the Seattle Mariners (2001) Atlanta Braves (2002-2005) & Washington Nationals (2006).

Honors: Paciorek is a member of the National College Baseball Hall of Fame & the National Polish American Hall of Fame.

Family: Tom & his first wife Christine have five children together.


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