Born: May 4, 1971
Town: Bayonne, New Jersey
Joseph Thomas Borowski was born May 4, 1971 in Bayonne. Joe had a powerful, athletic build which he put to particularly good use on the football field and baseball diamond while growing up in Bayonne. Given his choice, Joe would have picked the NFL. He was an All-State and All-America tight end for the Marist High School Royal Knights as a junior and senior. He was also a heavily scouted pitcher.
During his senior year, Joe could not bring himself to commit to either sport. By the time he started leaning toward football, all of the scholarships that had been on the table for him were gone. Meanwhile, the White Sox drafted him in the 32nd round in 1989, gambling that he might choose baseball instead. After playing one season of ball for Rutgers, Joe decided to sign with the White Sox. He began his pro career in 1990. In 1991, he was traded to the Orioles organization for Pete Rose Jr.
Joe worked his way through the farm system as a relief pitcher. He was called up to Baltimore as a roster-filler for a few games in 1995. Not expecting to see any action, Joe began tinkering with a split-finger pitcher in the bullpen during a game between the Orioles and White Sox. The phone rang and Joe was told to warm. The next thing he knew he was on the mound. Joe can’t explain why, but he threw the untested splitter to Tim Raines and Lance Johnson. He retired both All-Stars and logged a 1-2-3 inning.
Over the next seven seasons, Joe was a journeyman pitcher for the Orioles, Braves, Yankees, Reds and Cubs. In 2003, he was given a chance to finish games for the Cubs and blossomed as a closer. He saved 33 games, good for sixth-best in the National League. Joe lost his mojo in 2004, but regained it with the Marlins in 2006, saving 36 games this time. The Indians offered Joe a sweet free agent deal to be their closer in 2007 and he responded by leading the American League with 45 saves. He was a major reason Cleveland got to within one victory of the World Series that year.
Joe injured his arm in 2008 and was simply not the same pitcher anymore. The Indians released him in July and Joe worked himself back into shape. But as Spring Training 2009 dawned no teams offered an invitation. He announced his retirement a few months before his 38th birthday.