Kirkus Reviews QR Code
LEFTY by Vernona Gomez

LEFTY

An American Odyssey

By Vernona Gomez (Author) , Lawrence Goldstone (Author)

Pub Date: May 15th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-345-52648-9
Publisher: Ballantine

A veteran author teams with the daughter of Vernon “Lefty” Gomez (1908–1989) for a biography of the Yankee legend.

One of the game’s singular personalities and greatest big-game pitchers, Lefty Gomez entered the Hall of Fame in 1972. In a career cut short by injuries, he nevertheless managed to win 20 games four times, lead the league three times in strikeouts and shutouts and twice in ERA. A fierce competitor, he started and won six of seven World Series games (while losing none), and three of four All-Star games. Daughter Gomez and Goldstone (Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865–1903, 2011, etc.) dutifully cover the baseball heroics, from Lefty’s California boyhood, the town teams and semi-pro ball, his signing with the San Francisco Seals and his storied Yankee career. The narrative’s chief delight, though, is the treatment of Lefty the character. For his pranks, eccentricities and high-spirited antics, he acquired the nickname “El Goofo,” but the moniker belied a steady character that led teammates to confide in him, a keen native intelligence and ready wit. Sure, he once famously held up a World Series game as he contemplated a passing airplane, but this same man perfectly captured the fearsome slugger Jimmie Foxx by remarking, “He has muscles in his hair.” Thanks partly to his marriage to showgirl June O’Dea and his post-playing career as sales rep and goodwill ambassador for Wilson Sporting Goods, Lefty traveled widely and appears to have hung with an endless list of famous friends: sitting in with bandleader Eddy Duchin, chumming with James Michener, dining with Hemingway, fishing with Ted Williams, playing cards with the Babe. Though this largely adoring treatment acknowledges some dark passages—a near-divorce, a midlife bout with alcoholism, the motorcycle death of a beloved son—the overwhelming impression is of a crowded, accomplished life exuberantly lived.

An amiable portrait of a baseball great—like Yogi Berra, Dizzy Dean and Satchel Paige—whose outsized personality looms even larger than his considerable athletic achievements.