Coppola: My Friend And Mentor Is Gone

By William Coppola 
My friend and mentor is gone. Tom Giordano, universally known as TBONE throughout baseball for the past 70 years, passed away today peacefully at the age of 93. He was still actively working as a pro scout and senior adviser to the general manager and his staff of the Atlanta Braves.
He spent most of his career in the American league where he began as a player in 1948 playing mostly in the South Atlantic League, known as the SALLY league. In 1953 he led the league in homers. Beating out a young man by the name of Henry Aaron who had 22 to TBONE’s 24. That good season got him a call-up to play for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s late in the 53 season where his first hit was a homer off of White Sox righty Virgil Trucks.
When his playing days were over, he became a manager in the minor leagues for the A’s and then went on to become one of the most successful scouts and front office executives in baseball. Along with his friend and boss Hank Peters, they signed and developed what would become a dynasty in Oakland. Winning three consecutive World Series from 1972 through 1974. They then went on to Baltimore (1976–87) where as the scouting director and director of player development he drafted Cal Ripken and others who would win a World Series in 1983.
But the biggest find he made was when he was asked to go look at a young high school prospect and instead was impressed by the coach who he talked into becoming a minor league manager for the Orioles. That high school coach was John Hart who would rise up in the Baltimore organization, learning from Tom the ins and outs of professional baseball.
When Peters and TBONE moved on to Cleveland in the early 90’s they brought Hart with them. Tom was the driving force in drafting and signing Manny Ramírez. He eventually became vice president and assistant to president Peter, making Hart GM where they took a back seat to Hart’s genius in building the Indians into a dynasty of his own with two more trips to the World Series in 1995 and 1997.
Tom then went along with Hart to Texas as a senior adviser to the GM where he was instrumental in the trade that sent Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano. One of the players Tom pushed for in the deal was a young minor league player by the name of Robinson Cano. The Yankees were going to let Cano go in the trade but the Texas people wanted a shortstop and took Joaquín Árias instead.
Should have listened to Tom. Then guess what? Two more trips to the world series with Texas in 2010 and 2011.
I joined Tom as a special assistant for his last two years with Texas and then to his move to the Braves where he was reunited with Hart. Guess you know where I am going with this. Yes the Braves made the playoffs last year after a big rebuild and are possibly on the cusp of another dynasty. Amazingly, TBONE has been a part of winning organizations for most of his professional career.
I have known him since I was a kid in the late 60’s. Meeting for breakfast or lunch through the years when he was in town was always a treat. The time I spent with him over the past seven years though, have been extra special. Bringing me along for a wild roller coaster ride of unimaginable excitement. He gave me the chance to go from a baseball guy to the major leagues in one quick swoop.
The stories from his long history of scouting that were filled with endless trips around the country and Latin America looking for that diamond in the ruff, were a look back at a part of baseball history, that we will never see again.  Being able to meet everyone who knows him in the baseball world and going to more games in one year than most people do in a lifetime has been an amazing ride for me. The knowledge he shared with me about the game is mind boggling.
Tom has been a part of so many lives in baseball. He has helped so many people in the business and either saved or resurrected countless careers in and out of baseball. TBONE had this gift of not seeing something you didn’t see but three things you didn’t see, in baseball and people in general. He was charismatic and fun to be around and when it came to baseball, he made me believe I was a painter, putting oil on a canvas with Michelangelo. It was like working with a master.
In his passing I believe we have seen the end of a group of colorful, dedicated brilliant scouts. The last of the true caricatures of the game. Unique in their style, language and passion for the game of baseball.
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