By BILLY HEYEN
Jim Poole relieved in all 431 of his major league appearances, but the Rochester-born left-hander recorded only four saves. The first of those came on May 18, 1991, for the Texas Rangers against the Boston Red Sox.
Poole entered with a nine-run lead in the top of the seventh, taking over for Goose Gossage. He walked Wade Boggs and allowed a run in the ninth inning, but he also struck out two and completed the game for the Rangers, earning a three-inning save. Poole added two more saves in 1993 for the Orioles and his final MLB save in 1998 for the Phillies.
On April 28, 1966, Poole was born in Rochester, N.Y., before moving to the Philadelphia area with his parents when he was young. Poole didn’t show an abundance of baseball talent early on, ending high school with a 2-16 personal pitching record. He went on to Georgia Tech, where he said the coaches kept him on the roster to help the freshmen grade-point average.
The Yellowjackets won four-straight ACC titles with Poole on campus, and he saved 22 games across his four-year career, which remained tops in program history upon Poole’s MLB retirement in 2000. The Dodgers drafted Poole after both his junior and senior seasons, first in the 34th round and then in the ninth.
Poole made his major league debut in 1990 for the Dodgers, in the eleventh inning of a tie game, against future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. That was the only batter Poole faced that day, and he set Gwynn down looking.
“That was unbelievable,” Poole said years later, according to SABR. “As a kid, you dream of striking out a batting king in your first big-league game. I couldn’t believe it. I could barely sit down afterward in the clubhouse.”
Poole was traded to Texas in the offseason, and he played for eight different clubs in his MLB career spanning 11 seasons. The others after Los Angeles and Texas: Baltimore, Cleveland, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Detroit and Montreal.
During his time in the Orioles organization, Poole spent time pitching at their Triple-A affiliate in his birthplace of Rochester. Poole saved 19 games across the 1991 and 1992 seasons for the Red Wings.
Possibly Poole’s most infamous outing came in the 1995 World Series for Cleveland. Poole entered for a left-on-left matchup with Fred McGriff in the fifth inning of Game Six and struck out the Braves’ slugger. Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove left Poole in the game to hit in the next half inning, and in the first plate appearance of his MLB career, Poole popped out on a bunt against Tom Glavine.
In the next half inning, Poole allowed a go-ahead home run to David Justice before retiring the side.
After the game, Poole told reporters: “I went up there fully confident that I could sacrifice Tony Pena to second. I promise you I didn’t take my failure to do that out to the mound with me, even though Justice was the first man I faced.”
Poole went on to post a 3.04 ERA with the Indians the following season, and he lasted through the 2000 season in the major leagues. After winning two games in high school, the Rochester-born Poole earned more than $4M in his major league career. Following retirement, Poole moved back to the Atlanta area where he’d attended college.
As of a few years ago, Poole was a high-school pitching coach and worked for Buckhead Investment Partners, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.