Even after 18 major league seasons, more than 750 appearances and two
All-Star Game berths, Tom Gordon can't shake the slights he endured as a
high school player in Florida. Enough scouts followed Gordon to the
restrooms and concession stands to confirm that he had a future in
professional ball. But Gordon also heard enough whispers and condescending
remarks to understand the stigma he would have to overcome.
Chris Short, Aaron Small and former Twins reliever Jeff Little were
undersized in name only. Gordon, at 5-foot-9, is the quintessential little
man with a big arm. Where talent evaluators are concerned, that combination
cries out for ambivalence.
"I heard it all the time -- I'm too short," Gordon says. "To this day, I still
hear it. Major league baseball either needs to can the stereotype or get rid
of some of these guys making the decisions. A lot of kids out there strive
and push themselves to be just as good as the bigger athletes, but they're
not getting the breaks."