Gordon Gregory Tench
Born: August 10, 1931 (Trail, British Columbia)
Died: May 18, 2014 (Castlegar, British Columbia)
Gordie Tench was a fastball right-hander who spent five seasons in the lower levels of the St. Louis Browns system. The prospect from Trail, B.C., went 48-40 in his minor-league career pitching for six different teams.
He had just turned 18 when he was signed by the Browns after pitching a no-run, no-hit game against the Spokane (Wash.) Greek Americans in an amateur game. He struck out 17 batters.
The Browns assigned Tench to the Appleton Papermakers of the Wisconsin State League, where he went 9-5 with a 4.07 earned-run average.
The beanpole pitcher — he stood 6-foot-1, weighing 165 pounds — joined the Redding (Calif.) Browns of the Far West League the following season. He had a heavy workload, throwing 183 innings during which he issued 163 bases on balls, an indication he had yet to master the pitch that led sportswriters to call him a fireballer and a speedballer. Despite his wildness, he was named a league all-star.
During the season, he met a young local woman named Joan Broome, who had led an itinerant childhood during the Depression as her carpenter father scrambled for work before settling in California. The young couple wed three months after meeting in a ceremony conducted at home plate at Tiger Field.
Tench opened the 1952 season with the Anderson (S.C.) Rebels of the Tri-State League, a Class-B circuit and a stepping stone on his way to the majors. He continued to struggle with his control, issuing 86 bases on balls in 111 1/3 innings. A won-lost record of 8-6 was more favourable than a bloated 5.98 ERA.
In August, he was demoted to the Pocatello Bannocks, a Class-C team. He drove from South Carolina to Idaho, arriving on the Friday afternoon of a doubleheader. In the fifth inning of the first game, the bone-tired pitcher was pressed into service in the fifth inning. He threw five innings of no-hit, no-run ball, even striking out five Salt Lake City Bees in a row. Unfortunately for him, his team failed to score and Tench eventually sagged in the 11th, when he surrendered a run and was tagged with the loss for his efforts.
The righty went 9-9 in a season and a half with Pocatello in the Pioneer League. His best game came against Idaho Falls on July 17, 1953, when he limited the Russets to a single hit in a game he won by 2-1. (The lone hit was a double by the opposing pitcher, Earl Escalante, who also sometimes played third base.)
He had a brief stint with the Lewiston Broncs of the Western International League, notably being belted around by the Edmonton Eskimos in a 7-1 loss in 1953.
Tench pitched for the Boise Pilots in 1954, a dismal season. The club, part of the Baltimore Orioles system after the Browns franchise moved east from St. Louis, went 47-84 for a .359 winning percentage. The Pilots finished a whopping 31 games behind the pennant-winning Bees. Once again, tench managed to cobble together a winning record (6-5) on a staff that counted a remarkable 22 pitchers over the season, including a trio whose records were 1-9, 5-10 and 7-14.
In the summer of 1954, Tench crossed the border to pitch for the Spokane Builders in the fourth annual Lethbridge (Alta.) Rotary Tournament. As a pitcher, he won a morning game that put the Builders into the finals against cross-town rivals, Spokane Boutens, later that day. He started the second game as the catcher, belting a two-run triple in the seventh to break a 1-1 tie, according to accounts published by baseball historian Jay-Dell Mah. He then walked from behind home plate to the mound with one out and bases loaded in the seventh. He retired the next two batters, then got through the final two innings without giving up a hit. He was named the tournament’s most valuable player. He and the Builders split the $1,500 first prize.
After retiring from professional and semiprofessional tournaments, Tench delivered milk and break before becoming an insurance salesman. He returned to British Columbia in 1969 to care for his ailing parents, Anne (née Gavrilik) and Cecil. He lived in Rossland, Elkford, Soarwood and Fernie. He worked as a human resources specialist with Fording Coal and Crows Nest Resources. He played fastpitch softball and enjoyed golf and 10-pin bowling. He was known to play a game of cribbage or Scrabble with his wife every night. Faye died on April 9 and Gordie died 39 days later. He leaves three sons, six grandchildren and a sister.