Flashback Friday: Flash

Tom Gordon in an Appleton Foxes uniform from the 1988 season. (1989 Appleton Foxes Program)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | January 15, 2010 7:23 AM ET

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Tom Gordon was a 20-year old pitcher at the beginning of 1988 when he was an Appleton Fox.  By the end of that baseball season he was in the major leagues, pitching for the Kansas Royals.  He was a sixth round pick of the Royals in 1986 and he is currently a free agent after an injury-plagued season with the Arizona Diamondback.

To have a rise that fast and a career of that length makes us want to take a look back 22 years to two games in his Midwest League career that showed what a special player Flash Gordon was when he was with Appleton .

The first article is a game story written by Dan Vanderpas after the game between the Foxes and the Burlington Braves on May 16, 1988.  It appeared in the May 17 edition of the Appleton Post-Crescent.

The second article is from the May 22 edition and appears to be a wire report - with a little local rework by an unnamed PC writer - of the May 21 Foxes' game in Waterloo against the Indians.


Foxes get to eat cake

There was a birthday bash at Goodland Field Monday night.

Appleton Foxes manager Brian Poldberg and pitcher Tim Odom celebrated birthdays, and thanks to Tom Gordon, they had their cake and ate it, too.

Gordon presented the team with a gift of a 16-strikeout, 3-1 gem over the Burlington Braves.

Gordon, a 20-year-old native of Avon Park , Fla. , went the distance in reducing his earned-run average to 1.33 in 54.2 innings.  He now has 78 strikeouts.  He threw 127 pitches and scattered six hits.

Appleton scored three runs in the second to provide the steady Gordon with all the runs he needed.

"The more they (his teammates) hit the ball, the better I felt," said Gordon after the game as teammates around him chomped on birthday cake.  "It was just my team helping me and me helping my team.

"You can do a lot with a 3-run lead because they've got to play catch-up ball.  In baseball three runs is not a lot, but if you've got a good pitcher on the mound you can fairly get by most teams."

The quick, but cold, 2-hour, 8-minute game also featured strong pitching from Burlington lefty Dave Karasinski.  It was the first start for the 22-year-old hurler from Detroit .  Karasinski struck out eight.

The Foxes used five singles, including two up the middle, to go on top 3-0 in the second.  Dave Howard knocked in the first run and Terry Shumpert drove in the next two.

Karasinski lamented that he didn't get down in time to field Shumpert's hit up the middle.

"I would have rather fielded those ground balls in the second inning and maybe we'd still be playing," he said.  "I thought the ball was hit harder than it was."

Said Shumpert: "I think he (Karasinski) got better in the later innings.  His breaking pitch started breaking a little sharper."

Shortstop Dave Howard, whose father, Bruce, pitched with the White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Washington Senators in the 1960's, said: "Tommy shouldn't be here.  After every game he pitches I tell him, 'I'll see you next year,' because I think he's going to Memphis (AA) after every outing, he's pitching so good."

Burlington threatened often, but didn't spoil Gordon's shutout until the eighth.  In the third, Brian Deak walked to start the inning.  After Andy Tomberlin struck out, Steve Glass got Burlington 's first hit, a single to put runners on the corners.  Glass hit a 1-and-2 pitch to right.  Then Gordon struck out leadoff man Sean Ross and Rich Casarotti to end the threat.

"I just feel really relaxed at the plate," said Glass, who accounted for three of Burlington 's six hits.  "I am just trying to hit the ball hard and luckily it's falling for me.

"He (Gordon) did have a lot of good stuff.  I just got lucky because I hit his hitter's pitches instead of me swinging at his pitcher's pitches.  He's the fastest pitcher we've seen so far."

Al Martin struck out but went to first on a third-strike wild pitch in Burlington 's eighth.  Martin stole second and went to third on catcher Jorge Pedre's throwing error.  With two out, John Mitchell singled up the middle to drive Martin home.  Then Gordon made Deak his 15th strikeout victim for the third out.

"I wanted the shutout, but we need to win," Gordon said.  "I like to have a shutout and someday we'll come up with it, but we need to win and that's basically what I'm working on trying to help the team."

Poldberg said: "We haven't had too many quick games lately, but when Tommy comes out there and you score a couple of runs you have a good chance of winning the game."

"Right now (to be called up), it's just a matter of him getting command of himself because the higher up he goes a lot of hitters will be taking the high fastballs that the younger hitters are swinging at."

Gordon's 19 strikeouts wasted in Foxes' loss

WATERLOO - What's a guy got to do to get a win?

That's what Appleton Foxes pitcher Tom Gordon must be wondering after the Foxes' game Saturday afternoon at Waterloo .

Gordon struck out 19 batters - three short of the Midwest League record - and held the Indians to one hit through seven innings only to have Waterloo score five runs off Foxes' relief pitchers and win 5-4.

The Foxes right-hander gave way to Karl Drezek in the eighth inning with a 3-0 lead after he reached the 130-pitch limit set by Foxes manager Brian Poldberg.  Drezek promptly walked the first three batters he faced and was replaced by Keith Shibata.

The Indians' Roman Bautista greeted Shibata with an RBI single, and Troy Neel followed with a 2-run single to tie the score at 3-3.  Shibata balked in a run and was replaced by Brian Meyers, who gave up an RBI single to Bill Knarleski to give Waterloo a 5-3 lead.

The Foxes' scored one run in the ninth when David Howard collected his fourth hit of the game, went to third on Bobby Knecht's third hit and scored when Jeff Baum reached on an error.

However, Waterloo relief pitcher John Olin then struck out Don Wright and Tom Watkins to end the game.

Gordon's 19-strikeout total included streaks of five, six, and seven batters during the game, which narrowly missed the league record of eight consecutive strikeouts.

Scott Khoury broke up Gordon's streak of seven strikeouts with a popup to third in the seventh inning - the first ball that had been hit fair since Knarleski's 2-out single in the third.

Appleton built its 3-0 lead by scoring single runs in the second, third, and sixth innings.

Wright singled to open the second inning, stole a base, and scored on Doug Bock's RBI single.  In the third, Trey Gainous doubled and scored on Knecht's single.  Howard scored on a ground out in the sixth after he hit a 2-out double.

Waterloo starting pitcher Angel Ortiz improved his record to 4-1 with the win.  He struck out 13 batters before giving way to Olin, who recorded his ninth save.

The Foxes will close out their 4-game series with the Indians with a 1:30 p.m. game today in Waterloo .  Appleton will then play a four game series in Cedar Rapids to close out an 8-game road trip before returning home.

The Foxes will play South Bend at Goodland Field this Friday at 7 p.m. to start a 7-game homestand, which will include two games with Kenosha and one with Madison .



1. A 130-pitch limit?  Gordon has a 22 major league year career.  Good thing It wasn't a 150-pitch limit or he might have only pitched for 15 years.  If my math is correct, Gordon tossed 257 pitches in those two games, which were played four days apart.

2. The Midwest League Record Book lists Robert Sprout of Decatur as the holder of the record for most strikeouts in a game.  Sprout had 22 strikeouts in a game on August 18, 1960 against Waterloo .

3. A couple of inconsistencies:  Story number one states that Gordon had 16 strikeouts.  The Midwest League Record Book has Gordon with 17 K's in that game.  Story number two mentions that eight consecutive strikeouts is the record.  The MWLRB notes that Art Groza of Burlington struck out 10 straight Dubuque batters in a game on May 22, 1966.

4. The MWLRB has Gordon holding the league record for MOST STRIKEOUTS, TWO CONSECUTIVE GAMES: 36.

5. The following Appleton players mentioned in the articles above made it to the big leagues.  Gordon, Shumpert, Pedre, Howard.

6. The following opponents mentioned in the articles above made it to the big leagues: Burlington : Al Martin, Andy Tomberlin; Waterloo : Troy Neel and John Olin (who is listed as Steve Olin at Baseball Reference).

7. It is interesting that Gordon, a pitcher, was a teammate of David Howard, a shortstop.  As mentioned in the first article, David Howard was the son of Bruce Howard, a former Major League Pitcher.  Twenty-one years later, the Gordon's son, Dee played shortstop for the Great Lakes Loons.

8. One other interesting note: Tom Gordon was Baseball America 's Top Prospect in all of baseball for the 1988 season.  Dee Gordon was voted as the Top Prospect of the Midwest League.

9. One last interesting note: Dee Gordon was born on April 22, 1988, one month before his father's 19 strikeout performance in Waterloo .

Previous Flashback Fridays:

10/16: Organist at Goodland Field

10/23: Coming Home

10/30: The Next Unit

11/6: Rattler Rally

11/13: The Beginning of the End

11/20: Frankie

11/27: Stewart Cooper

12/4: Craig Kuzmic x 9

12/11: Family

12/18: Foxes in SI

1/8: Ready for 1960

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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