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Copiague teacher, baseball lifer Tom Giordano dies at 93

FILE - In this Martch 6, 2016, file

FILE - In this Martch 6, 2016, file photo, Tommy Giordano, special assistant to the general manager of the Atlanta Braves, sits in the stands after the team's spring training baseball workout, in Kissimmee, Fla. T-bone (a nickname that goes back to his days growing up in New Jersey, when his father would always make him a steak as a pregame meal) had every intention of coming back for his 72nd season _ staked out behind home plate, a stopwatch in one hand, a lineup card in his lap. (AP Photo/Paul Newberry, File) Credit: AP/Paul Newberry

Tom Giordano loved being known as a baseball lifer.

The longtime Amityville resident — who died Thursday at age 93 — spent seven decades in Major League Baseball, mostly as a scout. His most notable achievement, besides his longevity, was that he was the Baltimore Orioles executive who drafted future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. in 1978.

As Giordano was getting his footing as a part-time baseball scout in the 1950s and ’60s, he also was a full-time gym teacher, boys basketball coach and athletic director at Copiague High School. The baseball field there is named for him, with a nod to his baseball nickname “T-Bone.”

Giordano, who played 11 games for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1953, worked at Copiague because baseball scouts in those days did not earn enough to make it a full-time job, said Billy Coppola, one of his former students, who drove Giordano to ballparks in recent years.

“Obviously, his whole life was baseball, but back in those days he didn’t talk much about it and we didn’t know about it,” Coppola said. “He was ‘Mr. G’ to us. Most kids didn’t know he had this second life in baseball. They just knew him as the guy who made sports happen at school.”

Before coming to Copiague, Giordano played against Hank Aaron in the minors, homered twice in the majors and also managed in the minors. He scouted for the A’s and Expos while at Copiague, taking long unpaid trips, especially during spring training, Coppola said.

Newsday stories at the time show Giordano took his job at Copiague seriously. In 1972, he used his connections to get the Mets' Ron Swoboda, Ed Kranepool and Al Jackson to deliver antidrug messages to students. In 1974, he spoke out to Suffolk sports officials against schools that he said were running out-of-season practices, which was not allowed.

“My dad at his heart was a teacher,” said Giordano’s daughter, Gail Przeclawski of Orlando, Florida. “It was his DNA to focus on the basics, and I think that’s what helped him in his baseball career, too.”

Newsday reported his unusual career promotion — from Copiague to the Orioles — in a February 1976 local sports roundup: “Tom Giordano, athletic director at Copiague High School, is leaving at the end of March to join the Baltimore Orioles as head of player procurement and scouting. He has been a scouting supervisor with the Montreal Expos and organizer of baseball clinics on Long Island.”

Two years later, he drafted Ripken, jump-starting a career as a baseball executive that also included stops with the Indians, Rangers and Braves.

“His life was like a movie, because he was the guy who knew everyone,” said Yankees community adviser Ray Negron of Babylon, a longtime friend.

Giordano planned to work with the Braves as a special assistant to the general manager this year before suffering a blood infection in December, Przeclawski said. In a statement, the team said, “Tom’s baseball pedigree was unmatched, and helped make him the longest active scout in the sport last season.”

Giordano remained in touch with Copiague through the years. Athletic director Pete Cesare said Giordano often came by to speak with baseball players. “He used to take his championship rings off and pass them around, give pep talks to the baseball team,” he said.

The school named the field in his honor last May. At the ceremony, Giordano said: “Copiague became a great part of my life. The years that I had at Copiague were not even paralleled by my years in baseball. This is where I started and this is why I am so happy to be here today.”

Giordano, who also had a home in Orlando, is survived by two brothers, two children, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His wife, Berenice, died last Feb. 21. Przeclawski said a service is planned on Long Island next month.

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