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Gordon's induction a heartfelt tribute

Gordon's induction a heartfelt tribute

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Judy Gordon had said on Saturday that she cries easily. The daughter of the late Joe "Flash" Gordon, the former second baseman for the Yankees and Indians who was elected into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee this year, held back those tears for much of her speech on Sunday.

But toward the end, when she talked of her father's final days in 1978, the tears started coming.

"He insisted against having a funeral," Judy said. "And as such, we considered Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame as his final resting place to be honored forever."

Gordon received that honor on Sunday, as he was recognized for an 11-year career that included six pennants, five World Series titles, and an American League record 246 home runs by a second baseman.

In a time when middle infielders weren't known for power, Gordon set a new standard. He was the first AL second baseman to hit 20 home runs in a season -- a feat he achieved seven times in 11 seasons.

Gordon received the 1942 AL MVP over Ted Williams, even when Williams won the Triple Crown. Gordon hit .322 that season with 18 home runs and 103 RBIs.

He topped those numbers six years later, in his second season after being traded from New York to Cleveland. Gordon led the Indians with 32 home runs and 124 RBIs en route to the franchise's last World Series title.

"Dad was given a case of Wheaties and a case of bubble gum for every home run he hit that year," Judy Gordon recalled. "As I think back, even our dogs seemed more athletic eating Wheaties."

Gordon lived up to his nickname of "Flash" in the field, showing off the acrobatic skills he had acquired as a gymnast at the University of Oregon.

After his playing career, Gordon served as a manager for the Indians, Tigers, Athletics and the expansion Kansas City Royals. In 1960, he was part of the only manager-for-manager swap in Major League history when he switched jobs with Detroit manager Jimmy Dykes.

Gordon finished his managerial career with a 305-308 record.

Judy Gordon used her speech as a time to celebrate not only Joe Gordon the player, but also Joe Gordon the man. She talked about his difficult upbringing in Arizona -- living for a time with his brother in a tent -- and Portland, where he learned how to play the game.

Gordon was as versatile off the field as he was on it. His daughter mentioned his skills as a classical violinist, a cowboy, a golfer, a ventriloquist and a comedian. Not all those talents were always welcome, though, as Gordon would practice his calf-roping on Judy and her brother and the humor that kept his kids in stitches sometimes abhorred his wife.

"His facial contortions kept us kids in hysterics when we ate in restaurants while traveling cross-country," Judy Gordon said. "Our mom would get so embarrassed she'd go sit in the car while we ate."

Judy Gordon was proud to see that her father was inducted on July 26 -- the same day his Cleveland teammate Larry Doby was enshrined in 1998. Gordon had reached out to Doby when he broke the American League's color barrier with the Indians in 1947.

"That was how my father lived his whole life," she said. "My family and I would like to say how very grateful we are for this special tribute to my father."

Tim Britton is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["hall_of_fame" ] }
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