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Angels' Preston Gomez injured in accident

March 27, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Preston Gomez, 84, the respected and beloved special assistant to the Angels' general manager, remained in critical condition at a Palm Springs hospital Wednesday evening after being hit by a pickup truck in Blythe on Wednesday morning.

Gomez, on his way home from spring training, stopped at a Chevron station about 6:20 a.m., and after fueling his vehicle, told his wife he was going for a walk.

Sgt. Jeff Wade of the Blythe Police Department said Gomez "stepped out around the end of the gas pumps and into the path of a large pickup truck" driven by Jesse Mashore, 31, of Concord, Calif.

Gomez suffered major head trauma and bruises on his arms and legs and was taken to Palo Verde Hospital in Blythe, where he was stabilized. He was then airlifted to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. By late afternoon Gomez was moved to the intensive care unit.

"The situation is much more encouraging than it was [Wednesday] morning," said Angels vice president of communications Tim Mead, who spent the day at the hospital. "His vital signs are positive. He was squeezing his wife's hand."

Mashore received a sobriety field test, and no alcohol or signs of drugs were detected. Police are still investigating the accident, but no charges have been filed.

"It was just a freak and unfortunate accident," Wade said. "[Mashore] was crushed. He was holding Mr. Gomez's hand while waiting for paramedics to arrive."

Gomez, a native of Cuba, has spent 64 years in professional baseball as a player, coach, manager, talent scout and consultant. He spent the last 27 years with the Angels as a major league coach and a special assistant to the GM.

He spent three years in San Diego after being hired as the expansion Padres' first manager in 1969 and also managed the Houston Astros (1974-75) and Chicago Cubs (1980). In 2003, he was inducted into the Hispanic Baseball Heritage Museum Hall of Fame.

Gomez, who was in good health, is one of the warmest and friendliest figures in the game, a person who greets everyone with a handshake and an inquiry about how their family or kids are doing.

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia was so distraught when he heard the news that he canceled Wednesday's daily pregame meeting with reporters. After a 7-5 exhibition loss to the Chicago Cubs, Scioscia said it was an emotional afternoon.

"Preston means a lot to all of us here," he said. "As the day went on, we were getting better news. Hopefully he can keep improving, but it's definitely something that's weighed heavily on our minds today."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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