Preston Gomez, at 85; six decades in baseball included managing stints
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Preston Gomez, who managed the expansion San Diego Padres and later guided the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs during a six-decade career in baseball, died yesterday. He was 85.
Mr. Gomez died in Fullerton, Calif. He never fully recovered from head injuries sustained last March when he was hit by a pickup truck while walking to his car in Blythe, Calif.
Mr. Gomez worked for the Angels for more than 25 years and was on his way back from the team's spring training camp in Tempe, Ariz., when he was struck. The Angels announced his death.
Before the accident, Mr. Gomez had been a fixture around the ballpark and had been in the Angels' organization since 1981, most recently as an assistant to the general manager. Angels manager Mike Scioscia annually invited Mr. Gomez to instruct in camp.
"Preston had an incredible passion for baseball and was a mentor for all of us who were fortunate to spend time with him," 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."
A native of Cuba, Mr. Gomez played eight games in the major leagues. He managed in the minors and served as coach, manager, and executive in the big leagues for decades.
He was the third base coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1965 to 1968, a span when they won two NL pennants and a World Series title.
"The man spent his entire life in baseball," Hall of Fame Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda. "He came from Cuba and got the opportunity to work for the Dodgers."
Mr. Gomez managed seven years in the majors, going 346-529 in a span from 1969 to 1980. He never had a winning season, coming the closest at 81-81 in 1974 in the first of his two seasons with the Astros.
In his first three years as a big league manager, the expansion Padres finished in last place every season. Amid those forgettable seasons came some memorable moments.
On July 21, 1970, Mr. Gomez pulled pitcher Clay Kirby for a pinch-hitter after eight no-hit innings against the Mets. To this day, the Padres haven't had a pitcher throw a no-hitter. And they lost that game 3-0.
Mr. Gomez was fired by the Padres just 11 games into the 1972 season, one of the earliest dismissals in major league history.