ATLANTA (AP/WJW) — Jim Poole, who pitched in the big leagues for 11 seasons and gave up the deciding homer to Atlanta’s David Justice in the 1995 World Series, died of complications from ALS. He was 57.
Georgia Tech, his alma mater, announced that Poole died Friday in the Atlanta area surrounded by family. He was diagnosed two years ago with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Poole made it to the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1990 and played predominantly with the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants. The left-handed reliever also had stints with the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers and Montreal Expos before his retirement after the 2000 season.
Poole made 431 appearances over his career, all of them out of the bullpen. He finished 22-12 with four saves and a 4.31 ERA.
The most notable moment of his career came in 1995, when Cleveland won the AL pennant and faced the Braves in the World Series. Poole made two appearances in that Series, the second of them in a scoreless Game 6 with the Indians needing a win to force a decisive Game 7.
Taking over for Dennis Martinez with two on and two out in the fifth, Poole escaped the jam by fanning Hall of Fame slugger Fred McGriff. But Justice led off the sixth with a towering homer over the right-field fence that would be the lone run in Atlanta’s championship-clinching victory. Tom Glavine and Mark Wohlers combined on a one-hitter in the 1-0 win.
Poole also made six postseason appearances for Cleveland in 1998, but the Indians were knocked off by the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series.
In a total of 10 playoff outings, Poole yielded four hits and two runs in 7 1/3 innings, with nine strikeouts.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Cleveland Indians 1995 World Series pitcher Jim Poole,” the Cleveland team, now known as the Guardians, said in a statement posted to social media. “Our thoughts are with the Poole family.”
Poole, a native of Rochester, New York, arrived at Georgia Tech and helped the Yellow Jackets win four straight Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championships.
He pitched in 120 games, struck out 263 batters in 188 innings and still ranks first in the school record book with 22 career saves, including 10 as a junior and nine as a senior. He was an All-ACC selection his last two seasons, graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and was enshrined in the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
A ninth-round pick by the Dodgers in the 1988 draft, Poole returned to his alma mater after his big league career to serve as a fundraiser and supporter of the baseball program.
He also served as the pitching coach at Johns Creek High School in suburban Atlanta.
After being diagnosed with ALS in 2021, Poole worked to raise awareness for the disease. He hosted an ALS Awareness Day during the 2022 baseball season, with the Yellow Jackets wearing Jim Poole shirts and both teams wearing honorary wristbands.
He spoke with FOX 8’s John Sabol last November about his diagnosis and what playing for Cleveland meant to him.
“Even giving up that home run to Justice, I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Poole recalled of his career-defining moment. “He beat me, and that was that. I did use it as a motivator, but I’m not and never have been embarrassed for having that moment.”
Even as his days got more difficult living with the disease, he told FOX 8 he still felt quite blessed.
“ALS does not mean the end of your life while you’re living,” he said at the time. “Never stop living life to the fullest.”
Poole is survived by his wife, Kim, three children and two grandchildren.