Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Hank Gornicki


Date and Place of Birth: January 14, 1911 Niagara Falls, New York

Died: February 16, 1996 Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Baseball Experience: Major League
Military Unit:
US Army

Area Served: United States

Major League Stats: Hank Gornicki on Baseball-Almanac

Henry F “Hank” Gornicki was born on January 14, 1911 in Niagara Falls, New York. A graduate of Niagara Falls High School, he signed with the St Louis Cardinals in 1936, at the age of 25, and was sent to Daytona Beach of the Florida State League. In his rookie year, the right-hander was 16-9 with a 2.77 ERA. He advanced from Class D to Class B in 1937 with Decatur of the Three-I League where he was 11-10.

Gornicki won 17 games with Asheville of the Piedmont League in 1938 and was 9-0 with the club in 1939 before joining Rochester of the International League. He won 19 games with Rochester in 1940 and went to spring training with the Cardinals at St Petersburg in 1941. But the St Louis team had so many young pitchers that Gornicki barely got a look in. In his only start that spring he pitched a one hit, 8-0 shutout against the Phillies.

Gornicki started the season with the Cardinals and made his major league debut on April 17. He made a further four appearances before being sent back to Rochester for the regular season where he was 12-9 with a 2.83 ERA. The Cardinals sold him to the Cubs in September and he made one relief appearance before the deal was vetoed by Judge Landis. In 1942, he was sold to Pittsburgh and made 25 appearances that season for a 5-6 record and 2.57 ERA.

In 1943, Gornicki won a career-high nine games against 13 losses and achieved the unusual feat of winning both ends of a double header. On August 17 he held the Boston Braves to six hits, beating them 8-0 in the first game of a double-header. When Xavier Rescigno got into trouble in the ninth inning of the second game, Gornicki was called upon again and pitched hitless ball for an inning and two thirds. He gave way to a pinch hitter in the eleventh but the Pirates scored and he was credited with the victory. The following day – August 18 – Gornicki won a third game as the fourth pitcher used in a 7-6 win over the Giants.

Gornicki entered military service on March 10, 1944. A bad leg meant he could only be accepted for limited duty and the 33-year-old pitcher lost 14 pounds during a 20-day battle with pneumonia at Camp Wolters, Texas in April 1944. 

Private Gornicki suffered with leg problems throughout his service at Camp Wolters that hindered his ability to train as a soldier and to play baseball for the camp team.

He was discharged from service in 1945 and returned to the Pirates in 1946 but was optioned to Hollywood of the Pacific Coast League at the start of the season. He found himself back with the Pirates in May, making seven relief appearances.

A sore arm resulted in Gornicki pitching with Indianapolis of the American Association and Gainesville of the Big State League in 1947 in a bid to find his way back to the majors. Following an operation on his arm, Gornicki played briefly with Florence of the Tri-State League in 1948 but was unable to pitch successfully. The following year he qualified as an umpire for the Florida International League.

Hank Gornicki passed away on February 16, 1996 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He was 85.

Created May 5, 2008.


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