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A Friend and Legend Remembered…

Image Credit: Major League Baseball

TAMPA BAY, FL– Four years ago, on Valentines Day, not only did I lose my friend, and mentor, but, for many former and current executives, players, coaches, and fans, they lost a legend, Tom Giordano, known as T-Bone. I’m sure many fans never heard of him, but most people “in baseball” did, and if they didn’t know him personally, they knew about him. 

Among his many accomplishments, in 1953, playing for Savannah in the South Atlantic League, he “out homered” (24-22), Henry Aaron, who was playing for the Jacksonville Braves. Later that year, he was called up by the Philadelphia Athletics, and homered in his first game in the major leagues. Though his playing career was short, he became a coach, manager, and scout, eventually signing Cal Ripken and Manny Ramírez to major league contracts. 

As a baseball executive, he was instrumental in building championship teams with the Oakland Athletics in the early 1970’s. He “discovered” John Hart, and gave him his big break in baseball by assisting him in Cleveland, Texas, and Atlanta. Each team appeared in two World Series. 

Image Credit: Joe Ferrara/Latino Sports

Tom Giordano, (on the right in the picture above), affectionately known as “T-Bone” passed away at age 93 in 2019, after a 70-year-career, that included stints as director of scouting, farm director, and special assistant to several general managers. On many occasions, he was asked when he was going to retire and without hesitation stated, “I am going to work until I die.” He did.

In April of 2016, I was working at a major hotel chain in the Tampa Bay area, where Tom would stay during his frequent visits, scouting the Rays. Our sales manager, Jason Mallory, informed me Tom would be staying with us on his first trip of the season. Being a diehard baseball fan, I wanted to meet the man known as “T-Bone.”

One morning, I received a call from Jason informing me, Tom had arrived the previous evening, and though it was an off day for me, I drove to the hotel and was directed to his table. 

“Good morning, Mr. Giordano, my name is Joe.” I apologized for interrupting his breakfast. 

Giordano, the gentleman, stood up from his breakfast. Giordano, the gentleman, then, shook my hand and replied: “Nice to meet you, I am T-Bone.”

I responded, “I do not want anything from you, just to talk baseball.” 

After a smile, he introduced me to his friend, and confidant, Bill Coppola, who is now a friend, and colleague at Latino Sports. Tom and I spoke in general terms about baseball and we agreed we would get together again… 

After a few visits to the hotel and several conversations, Tom invited me to accompany him and Bill to Tropicana Field and sit in the press box to watch a Rays game. Of course, with a big smile on my face and butterflies in my stomach, I accepted. 

This was the start of a three-year relationship between T-Bone and Bill. Both became very close friends, but the story does not end here… it began a whirlwind relationship that involved major, minor and rookie league baseball games throughout Florida. We laughed, cried, talked, and occasionally had differences of opinion, but Tom became “family”… a person I loved, admired, and respected, who will forever be in my mind and heart. 

And, by the way… after spending much time with him, several people I had met may not have known my name, but referred to me as “Ribeye” because of my association with T-Bone. 

“T-Bone and Ribeye!” Not a menu item at Bern’s Steak House in Tampa Bay, but two people who established a bond and lasting relationship. 

Rest in Peace Tom. I love you and miss you and I was so fortunate to have known you.

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