October 16, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Former Montreal Expos reliever Jim Poole died on October 6 due to complications from ALS.
He was 57.
Georgia Tech, Poole’s alma mater, shared the news of his passing on October 7.
“Jim Poole is a Georgia Tech legend, not just for his incredible achievements on the baseball diamond, but for the way that he attacked ALS over the past two years,” said J Batt, Georgia Tech athletics director.
“He is and will remain an inspiration. On behalf of the entire Georgia Tech athletics community, I send our deepest condolences to Jim’s wife, Kim, their children and grandchildren, and all of Jim’s family and friends whose lives he touched. He will be missed.”
Born in Rochester, N.Y. in 1966, Poole exhibited a strong left arm at a young age and eventually joined the Georgia Tech baseball team as a walk-on. He evolved into one of the best pitchers in the school’s history, helping the Yellow Jackets to four consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championships.
During his college career, he registered 263 strikeouts in 188 innings and collected 22 saves, which is still a school record. For his efforts, he earned All-ACC selections in his junior and senior seasons.
Poole was chosen in the ninth round of the 1988 MLB draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’d make his MLB debut with the Dodgers in 1990 and post a 4.22 ERA in 16 relief appearances for them prior to being dealt to the Texas Rangers that December.
After making five relief appearances with the Rangers in 1991, he was claimed on waivers by the Baltimore Orioles. He’d enjoy his best big league season with the O’s in 1993 when he went 2-1 with a 2.15 ERA in 55 games.
In March 1995, he signed with Cleveland as a free agent and developed into a key reliever on their American League pennant-winning squad that year. After recording a 3.75 ERA in 42 relief outings during the regular season, he made four appearances in the post-season, including two in the World Series.
Poole put together another fine season in 1996, posting a combined 6-1 record and a 2.86 ERA in 67 contests between Cleveland and the San Francisco Giants.
In 1998, he returned to Cleveland and didn’t allow a run in six post-season appearances. Short tenures with the Philadelphia Phillies and Detroit Tigers followed before he signed with the Expos on May 19, 2000.
“He’s got a good curveball,” Expos manager Felipe Alou told the Montreal Gazette after his club signed the veteran reliever. “At 33, he’s got experience.”
Expos left-handed reliever Steve Kline was also looking forward to having Poole in the bullpen.
“He’s going to help a lot,” Kline told the Gazette. “He knows his pitching, and he knows what he’s doing out there. He’ll come in and get that lefty out in a tight situation. That’s what we need.”
For his part, Poole was happy to be coming to Montreal, who had a 24-17 record at the time.
“I’ve been following the team from the other league,” Poole told the Gazette, “and obviously it’s a very exciting, very successful team so far. I look forward to contributing to that.”
In recent years, Poole had been employed as a situational lefty, often brought in to face just one left-handed hitter late in the game, but he believed he could do more than that for the Expos.
“I feel confident pitching to righties, also,” he told the Gazette. “If they need someone to eat some innings, I can do that. Whatever responsibility they give me, I’ll take.”
Strong Expos debut
And Poole did exactly what was asked of him in his first outing for the Expos. On May 23, with the club leading the Giants 3-2 in the seventh inning, he was called in to face pinch-hitter Terrell Lowery and struck Lowery out to earn a hold.
Unfortunately, that was the high point of his stint with the Expos. In his second outing, he allowed five runs without recording an out in the Expos’ 18-0 loss to the Giants.
He pitched against the Giants for a third consecutive game the next day and held them off the scoresheet for 2/3 of an inning.
Poole was shaky in his final two outings with the Expos before he was designated for assignment on June 2. Seven days later, Cleveland signed him, but he would not play in the majors again.
After hanging up his playing spikes, Poole returned to the Atlanta area to coach a high school team and serve as a fundraiser/supporter for Georgia Tech.
He was also a member of the MLB Players’ Association pension committee and served as chairman of the Major League Alumni Marketing Board.
He went public with his ALS diagnosis in 2021 and had worked to raise awareness for the disease.
In 2022, Georgia Tech held an ALS Awareness Day where their entire baseball team wore Poole jerseys.
“Jim Poole left an indelible mark through the years as a teammate, friend, committed advocate for his fellow players, and, most importantly, a loving and devoted family man,” a statement from the MLBPA read on October 7. “He was an inspiration during his playing career and a shining example of courage and grace in his fight against ALS.”
Poole is survived by his wife, Kim, three children and two grandchildren.