In Memoriam — Tom Jordan
I sat in the Historical Society of Southeast New Mexico awaiting his arrival. I was amazed that in less than a month, the Historical Society would celebrate the 100th birthday of Tom Jordan. Tom was known around the country as the oldest living former Major League Baseball player.
Suddenly, the door swung open and Tom came in on his scooter — with his ever-present brown hat. Tom at 99 years old was larger than life and humble. With him was his daughter-in-law, Shelia, and son, Tom Jr. Executive Director Amy McVay-Davis sat and went over the plans for his party.
It was going to be a meet and greet, a couple of days after his birthday. All the Noon Optimist and Lions Hondo little leaguers would try to attend and get autographs, shake Tom’s hand and maybe get a photo. All of it depended on Tom’s health and strength. Adults would come by and shake his hand and share memories.
Tom loved living in Chaves County and Roswell. It is here that he raised a family and helped his son, Tom Jr., give Roswell their forever-lasting moments in sports history. Tom Jr., would help lead Roswell to the 1956 Little League World Series championship. The Roswell baseball team is the only team from New Mexico to ever win the Little League World Series.
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When Fred Caligiuri died on Aug. 26, 2019, Tom became the oldest living baseball player at 99 years old. As Tom’s birthday came closer to hitting 100, he became more in demand. People would send him things to be autographed. Each day, media people from all over the country would call for an interview. Tom made speaking appearances from Artesia to as far away as St. Louis, Missouri.
Tom was a baseball junkie, he managed and played minor league baseball. In the final year of his life, he was honored by the St. Louis Browns Historical Society. None of the other things mattered or gave him as much joy as when he was honored to throw out the first pitch for the Albuquerque Isotopes.
It was that day, and simply 45 minutes of the pregame, being on the field with the managers and players. It was all the attention being heaped upon him by KOAT TV, the Isotopes and RDR Sports.
It was only when he had his scooter on the field and he could hear the fans cheering and giving him a standing ovation: Tom basked in the glory of adulation. For that day, he wasn’t 99 years old going on 100 — he was 30 years old, getting ready to play a game.
Tom loved the attention, but more than that, Tom was a simple man that loved his family, farming and baseball. It was a shock to his family, friends and fans that he passed away 10 days before Roswell was set to celebrate his 100 birthday.
RDR Sports did not want to enter the new year without acknowledging Tom’s life and the contributions he made to the Roswell community.
Tom Jordan goes to the ‘big baseball park in the sky’
From the Aug. 27 edition of the Roswell Daily Record
All Tom Jordan wanted was to have one more day in the show, (Major Leagues) and one in the Minor Leagues. He was able to get one of his two bucket-list wishes, but for the other, he just ran out of time. Tom ran out of time in the game that counts — life. On Monday, Tom Jordan passed away as the oldest living former Major League Baseball player.
On July 21, at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, the Isotopes had Retro Night where Tom was back in the house he helped build. That night he wasn’t the oldest living baseball player, he went back in time to where he was the manager of the Dukes and was in his glory. Tom reveled in the cheers from the fans, the autographs he signed and interviews he gave to the media. Tom loved being the oldest living former Major League Baseball player — Tom loved baseball.
Tom was able to wheel his scooter out in front of the pitcher’s mound as the stadium announcer introduced him: “And now fans, for the moment you have been waiting for — he was a player-manager for the Albuquerque Dukes back in 1953-’54 seasons, ladies and gentlemen, the oldest living former Major League Baseball player who is 99 years old: Tom Jordan.”
Tom tipped his hat and drank in the adulation, he wound up and faked like he was going to throw the ball to home plate twice. Each time he faked like he was throwing the ball to home plate, it aroused groans and moans from the fans as they anticipated him throwing the ball.
On the third time, Tom let it go, the fans cheered him and gave him a standing ovation, which he tipped his hat and soaked in the cheers. For that moment, Tom was a kid again. In his later years, this was one of the highlights that made his day. That day was the day he looked forward to and that day gave him the sparkle in his eye. To know he was revered, and that people came out to say thank you to him out of respect for what he did for the game meant everything to him.
“We love having our old heroes come back,” ‘Topes general manager, John Traub said. “We’ve been waiting for an opportunity to get Tom back to see the ballpark. A lot has changed since he was last here. The fans enjoyed having him back.”
Tom was hoping to go to the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians for a visit later in the season. Later this month, he was going to be honored by the St. Louis Browns — the last Major League team he played, but his health began to fail. Even at 99 years old, Tom was busy living his life and making plans for the future and doing interviews. He loved talking about the old days and what it was like to see Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio and some of the other greats that baseball fans can only read about now.
Tom had a heart that could not be fixed. He had stents put in last year, and in May, he had a heart valve put in — he was the oldest living person to receive a replacement valve. Tom lived his life doing the things he loved: having a family, owning a farm and playing baseball. Not many people have the opportunity to do what they love for a living. Tom never worked a day in his life.
Shelia Jordan, Tom’s daughter-in-law, asked that in lieu of money or flowers, that if people would just love each other and pay it forward, that would be the best way to honor him. Tom was a person that paid it forward with his life. He would like for people to do whatever they want to do. Tom was a person that paid it forward. Shelia asked if the good folks of Roswell and Chaves County would come out to the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico at the archive’s facility, 208 N. Lea Ave. on Sept. 5, from 5-7 p.m., to celebrate his life with them and enjoy cupcakes and ice cream.
On Sunday, the last thing Tom watched was the Little League World Series, as Louisiana won.
Tom spent the day talking with his family members. Tom told his niece: “I had a very good life and I’m a lucky man. I got a chance to do things that other people never got to do. I’m tired and I’m ready to go to the big baseball park in the sky, to play for eternity.”
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or email@example.com.