Gordie Windhorn was a baseball player caught in one of those classic situations where he was never quite able to rise above the dreaded 4-A status. The right-handed outfielder played 12 productive seasons in the minor leagues, and another 6 as one of the first regular American players in the Japanese leagues, but could never get more than a few cups of coffee at the major league level. Even so, he was able to play professional baseball for nearly 20 years; not a bad career considering how long most players stick around.
Windhorn was signed by the New York Giants in 1952. He had not regularly played baseball prior to being signed, but rather, was a high school track star. He only was noticed by the Giants because he had gone to an open tryout in Phoenix with a friend who was hoping to get signed. Windhorn went along for moral support, but shagged some balls in the outfield, and showed enough athleticism and promise that the Giants decided to give him an opportunity.
The Giants had Windhorn in their system for a few seasons, before letting him go. He bounced around the minor league affiliates of several franchises, before being obtained by the New York Yankees in 1957. In 1959 he received the James P. Dawson Memorial Award as the Yankee’s outstanding rookie during spring training. Although he didn’t break camp with New York, his .312 batting average with Denver, combined with his spring training production, led to a late season call-up, and his major league debut.
In 11 official at bats with the Yankees in September, 1959, Windhorn went hitless, and was unable to impress anyone enough to make the Big Leagues again the following year. 1960 was spent with Montreal of the International League. He abruptly quit mid-way through that year, telling reporters he was going home to manage a bowling alley in Virginia. He punctuated his retirement, by hitting a game winning home run in his “final game.”
Windhorn did not stay retired, and returned the following year. He played briefly in the majors in 1961 with the Dodgers, and 1962 with the Athletics and Angels. In total, he played 95 major league games and had 108 official at bats, producing a .176 batting average. He also had 2 home runs, coming in successive games against the Phillies in 1961. More information about his career statistics is available at http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/windhgo01.shtml.
Windhorn played professionally until 1969, finishing his career in Japan. Although he came to the game late, he made himself in a very solid player, and experienced a lot of success. Recently, I was able to exchange letters with him, and got some answers that illuminated his career a little further.
Gordie Windhorn Questionnaire:
If you could do anything differently about your career, what would that be?: Start my major league career with teams other than the Yankees or Dodgers.
What was the strangest play you ever saw on a baseball diamond?: Saw many while playing my six years in Japan.
Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Bill Rigney (manager).
Who hit the farthest home run you ever saw?: Mantle (many) and Frank Howard.