IN HIS EIGHT Seasons in the major leagues, New York Mets outfielder Terrance Gore has never hit a home run. He only has one career RBI. But he leads baseball in a very important category: World Series Rings.
At three, Gore tied with Madison Bumgarner for the most rings among active players in the majors and has more than the entire Mets clubhouse combined. With his team among National League favorites heading into the 2022 postseason, the journeyman pinch running specialist is looking to add to his collection – with one aim high.
“I’m trying to get Tom Brady,” says Gore. “I like my chances.”
Brady, of course, owns seven rings as a future Hall of Famer quarterback for the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Gore — a 31-year-old streaker known only to the most die-hard baseball fans — finds himself almost halfway.
“I wish I had that many World Series rings,” says All-Star Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor. “I am a bit jealous.”
There’s a catch: Gore has never actually done this before played in a World Series game. Since drafting him in the 20th round in 2011 by the Kansas City Royals, Gore has had one of the most unique careers in sports history, a playoff basestealer who often made rosters in late September or October as one of the game’s fastest runners, used in the late innings of close games. He has made an important contribution along the way, but has yet to appear in the Fall Classic.
In June, Gore joined the Mets, his fourth team. In eight games, Gore hasn’t hit in three at-bats but stole three bases and hasn’t been caught once. The Mets are hoping that in October, Gore can help the team create runs on the basepaths while bringing some of the luck he’s in to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves, as well as the Royals in 2015, who all won World Series with Gore in their playoff rosters for the past two seasons.
“Everyone knows what I’m doing when I go out,” says Gore. “It’s like cat and mouse. Let’s go. There’s no hiding.”
BEFORE GORE BECAME an October lucky charm, he almost quit baseball.
In 2014, Gore was frustrated with his progress. As a child, Gore had imagined a career like that of Ichiro Suzuki or Juan Pierre. But in his fourth year in the Royals organization, he didn’t put in much effort as a everyday player at High-A Wilmington, hitting .218/.284/.258 with no homers and 36 stolen bases in 89 games. As he struggled in professional baseball, his ambitions dwindled, and he found himself dreaming not of MLB success but simply of making a living in the minors.
However, with a kid on the way, Gore also considered hanging up his spikes entirely.
“I didn’t have a plan,” says Gore. “I knew I had to do whatever it took to provide for the family.”
Gore saw no way into the big leagues. He wasn’t developing into an all-around player and as his teammates got younger and younger it felt like his window was closing. Gore routinely spoke to his agent Jay Witasik, who had played in the major leagues for 12 years, about leaving the sport.
As he faltered, Gore had dinner with former Royals slugger Mike Sweeney, who worked with the team as a special assistant. Sweeney pushed back on Gore’s plans to leave baseball and begged Gore to stay with him for another year – an opportunity may present itself soon.
That opportunity came a few months later, in early August, when Gore got the call to join the Triple-A Omaha Chasers, where the Royals wanted him to run and steal bases against higher-level competition. The plan was for Gore to move up to the big leagues and be a run-flat for the team’s postseason run.
“I had no idea,” says Gore. “I stole bases down there, but I only did it because I was good at it.”
Just a month later, Gore made his major league debut against Cleveland and ran in Single-A for the Royals just 26 days after his last game.
“It was like getting shot out of a cannon every time he took off,” said ex-major league player Rusty Kuntz, then the Royals’ first base coach. “I grew up with that kind of speed with Vince Coleman, Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, the guys in the Hall of Fame, and this guy is right there.”
Players like Salvador Perez, Jarrod Dyson, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas took Gore under their wing, a 23-year-old who nearly quit baseball and is now playing high-pressure games in October.
“I was just hoping and praying to God that you didn’t fall on your face in the middle of the base trail,” says Gore. “I’m notorious for tripping and I was very close to tripping, so I was like, don’t do that on TV.”
While the Royals didn’t win the 2014 World Series, they did lift the trophy in 2015. That year, Gore stole a base in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Houston Astros after spending most of the season in Double-A. Gore says he doesn’t remember much of his first two postseasons because he passed out from the pressure. Still, the thrill of success in the majors got him hooked.
“There was no turning back. Once you try it, it’s almost like a shark,” says Gore. “You get the taste of that blood and you’re like, oh man, I want to move on.”
SINCE THEN GORE has embraced his role as a leading pinch runner and adjusted his training strategy accordingly, declining the emphasis on hitting to focus on improving his speed through sprints and flexibility while working on reading pitchers on the mound. Perhaps the only comparable career in MLB history is that of Herb Washington, a four-time Michigan State All-American sprinter who played two years for the Oakland Athletics, stole 31 bases without a single shot and won a championship in 1974. Gore’s legs alone earned him his first World Series ring, and leaning all the way forward like Washington was the best way forward.
“I’m just going to ride that wave,” says Gore. “Be really damn good at it and see where it takes me.”
In 2018, the Royals sent Gore to the Chicago Cubs, who set him up for wild-card play in the postseason, where Gore stole a base and scored a run in a Cubs loss to the Colorado Rockies. He returned to the royals in 2019, spending his longest stint with the majors to date. He played 37 games, hitting .275/.362/.353 and stealing 13 bases before being sent to the New York Yankees and finding himself back in the minor leagues.
Prior to the 2020 season, Gore signed with the Dodgers, for whom he appeared in two regular-season games before being included in the 28-man roster for wild card play and the NLDS. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said it would be “pretty expensive” not to have Gore in the playoffs, even though the outfielder doesn’t appear in any games. And when the Dodgers won the World Series, Gore got his second championship ring.
Next, Gore signed with the Braves, who did not call him during the 2021 regular season. But when Atlanta reached the NLDS, Gore joined the roster and made one appearance as a pinch runner. And when the Braves won the World Series, Gore got his third championship ring, his second straight.
Noticing a trend in how teams were using him, Gore and Witasik developed a different free agent strategy for 2022, deciding to wait until mid-season to sign with a team. The approach allowed Gore to gauge which interested teams had a shot at postseason and where he could maximize his impact. They knew the same teams that took an interest in his speed in February would be just as interested in June ahead of a post-season run.
“For 99.9 percent of things, how things work, the player gets the deal and he evolves throughout the season. But he’s not that guy at Terrance,” says Witasik. “He’s a once-in-a-generation guy with his speed and skill.”
Gore feels the pressure every time he takes the field, knowing he’ll be called onto the basepaths in key situations. To prepare for those moments, he reads scouting reports that break down the pickoff moves and pitcher timing for each opposing team’s pitcher, studies videos of each of them holding runners on base, and examines everything from their feet up to her eyes.
“I’ve accepted it now. It got me three World Series rings, so why not just keep chugging along and see how far I can go.”
He may never win as many rings as Tom Brady, but with another at stake in October, he’s feeling pretty ambitious. If he wins a fourth ring and his third in a row?
“Put me in the Hall of Fame,” Gore says, laughing.
https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34696764/mlb-tom-brady-how-terrance-gore-racking-rings MLB’s Tom Brady?! How Terrance Gore is racking up rings