The Obit For Tommy Byrne

Former Yankee Byrne dies at 87
'Wild Man' found success despite lack of control on mound

By Bryan Hoch /
12/22/2007 12:20 PM ET

NEW YORK -- Tommy Byrne, a hard-throwing left-hander who pitched in four World Series and was known for struggles with his control, died on Thursday in Wake Forest, N.C. He was 87.

A Baltimore product who grew up idolizing Babe Ruth, Byrne was signed by the Yankees in 1940 and debuted in New York in 1943. He pitched two stints with the Bombers, winning 15 games in both 1949 and '50 before returning to win a career-high 16 games in 1955.

Byrne's erratic control earned him the nickname "Wild Man." Byrne walked 179 batters in 1949 and 160 batters in 1950, and despite his high win totals in both seasons, he was dealt to the St. Louis Browns in June 1951 for left-handed pitcher Stubby Overmire.

Byrne was also known as a strong-hitting pitcher, one used frequently by Yankees manager Casey Stengel in pinch-hitting appearances. He sometimes batted seventh or eighth on the days he pitched.

Byrne batted .238 with 14 home runs and 98 RBIs in 601 career at-bats. With the White Sox on May 16, 1953, Byrne hit a pinch-hit grand slam off Yankees hurler Ewell Blackwell into the right-field seats at Yankee Stadium.

After spending time with the Washington Senators and Chicago White Sox, Byrne returned to the Yankees in 1954 at Stengel's urging and finished his career in New York, pitching a complete-game victory in Game 2 of the 1955 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Byrne would lose the decisive Game 7, to Johnny Podres, as Brooklyn celebrated the World Series victory with a 2-0 decision. Retiring after the 1957 season, Byrne had a career record of 85-69 with a 4.11 ERA in 281 Major League games.

In his post-baseball career, Byrne returned to Wake Forest, where he had attended college, and served as the town's mayor from 1973-87.

Thomas Joseph Byrne

Thomas Joseph Byrne, of 1108 Fairway Villas Drive, Wake Forest, died Thursday, December 20, 2007 at his home.

He was born December 31, 1919 in Baltimore, Maryland and was the son of the late Grace C. Phennice Byrne and Joseph Thomas Byrne. He attended Blessed Sacrament Elementary School and graduated from Baltimore City College High School.

Mr. Byrne came to Wake Forest in 1937 and played baseball at Wake Forest College. After graduating from Wake Forest College, he signed with the New York Yankees in 1940. Although his career took him to many distant places, he loved Wake Forest and always felt so accepted. Wake Forest was equally fond of Mr. Byrne, honoring him in 1955 and again in 2007 at “Tommy Byrne Day” festivities. Every year since 1957, Mr. Byrne donated the Tommy Byrne Award at Wake Forest-Rolesville High School

He was a veteran of the US Navy, serving as Gunnery Officer on the U.S.S Ordronaux 617 in World War II.

Mr. Byrne’s professional baseball career started in 1940 with the Newark Bears, a farm team for the Yankees, winning the International League Championship and being selected MVP. In 1943 he was on the NY Yankee World Championship team. During his baseball career, he played for the Tobacco State League in Angier, NC from ’38-’39; the American League; the Pacific Coast League where he was selected Player of the Year; the Pan American League in Maricabo, Venezuela. Tommy Byrne led each of these leagues in pitching.

In 1950, he was selected American League All Star Player and in 1955 he was Come Back Player of the Year, playing on 7 World Championship teams with the Yankees before retiring from New York in 1957.

After baseball, Tommy’s business endeavors included the oil business, farming operations, Byrne & Fish Clothing Stores, Real Estate Development and Wake Forest Country Club.

Mr. Byrne was extremely interested and active in the community affairs of Wake Forest. He was the first Chairman of the Wake Forest Recreation Commission, a Town Commissioner, Mayor for the town of Wake Forest and President of the Wake County Mayor’s Association. He served on the Governor’s Commission of Economic Development for RTP and was with the New York Yankees Good Will Tour for the USA in Japan in 1955.

Mr. Byrne was a member of the American Legion, the Knights of Columbus, the NC Hot Stove League Board of Directors and was an Honorary Board Member of the Minor League Baseball Museum in Wilson, NC. He was a member of the NC Sports Hall of Fame, the Baltimore City College Hall of Fame, the Wake Forest University Sports Hall of Fame and the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame. He received the Governor’s Award for baseball in 1989 and was selected Tar Heel of the Week by the News & Observer. He was a founding member of St. Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic Church and was presented the Wake Forest Birthplace Society Distinguished Service Award.

A Mass of Resurrection will be held at 10 o’clock Thursday morning, December 27, 2007 at St. Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic Church. Entombment will follow in Wake Forest Cemetery.

He is survived by his children, Thomas J. Byrne, Jr. and his wife, Sissy and John W. Byrne and his wife, Patty all of Fuquay-Varina; Susan Byrne Gantt and her husband, Kyle of Andalusia, AL and Charles P. Byrne and his wife, Betsy of Johnson City, TN; grandchildren, Mary Collins Byrne, Arie Kathryn Byrne, Kyle Gantt, Jr. and his wife, Bonnie, Addy Gantt Kanaley, Mary Martha Gantt, Elizabeth Gantt, Shane V. Byrne, Rhett N. Byrne, Tara L. Byrne and Charles C. Byrne; great-grandchildren, Tommy Kanaley, Eva Kanaley, Brianna Gantt and Evan Gantt and special friend, Donna Walsh.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 62 years, Mary Susan Nichols Byrne; his brothers, Joseph T. Byrne, Jr. and Edward Byrne; his “adopted parents”, Coach John and Ella Caddell and by his beloved dear friend, Nancy Clark.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic Church Building Fund, 520 W. Holding Avenue, Wake Forest, NC 27587 of to the Wake Forest Birthplace Society, P. O. Box 494, Wake Forest, NC 27588.

A Vigil service and Rosary will be held at 6 o’clock Wednesday evening, December 26, 2007 in the Chapel of Bright Funeral Home. Visitation will follow the service from 7-9 p.m.