Tom Gordon

A starter in the minors, Gordon came up to the Royals in 1988 as a reliever. The following year, the 5’9″ 160-lb flamethrower was 10-2 in July as a set-up man, with 78 strikeouts in 66 innings — twice as many strikeouts as hits allowed. His dominating performance earned him a job in the Royals’ rotation, and he finished the year 17-9.

After spending another six solid years in Kansas City, Gordon signed with Boston before the 1996 season. It was not one of his most impressive campaigns — Gordon walked more than 100 batters for the first time in his career and surrendered an AL-high 134 earned runs. But it was also the only season in which Gordon threw more than 200 innings and by the end of the year his 12 wins had established him as one of the team’s best starters.

Nevertheless, Gordon’s role changed radically the following season when closer Heathcliff Slocumb was dealt to Seattle at the trading deadline. By mid-August, Boston skipper Jimy Williams had turned to Gordon as his new stopper and Gordon responded by striking out twenty-five in seventeen-plus innings of relief work down the stretch. In 1998, he topped the league with 46 saves and was named to his first All-Star team.

Gordon’s success continued in 1999, as he capped off a major-league record with his 54th consecutive save that June. But a nagging elbow injury limited him to just 21 appearances and Tommy John surgery in December forced him to spend 2000 on the DL. The Red Sox declined to exercise the option on Gordon’s contract, and the veteran hurler signed with Chicago for 2001.