For Your Consideration: Lefty O’Doul, Pitcher, Slugger, Manager and Baseball Good Will Ambassador

I’m pleased to present this guest post from Joe Guzzardi. I recently announced that I’m asking readers, other baseball writers, and anyone else interested to vote on the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. Today, Joe writes about one of the 300 players on the super ballot for this project. My SABR chapter has organized a letter-writing campaign to get Lefty O’Doul inducted to Cooperstown as an ambassador to the game. Joe suggests he may be worthy for much more.

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As you work your way through Graham Womack’s list of 300 potential Hall of Fame inductees, those outstanding players who may merit induction, eventually you will come to candidate #204, Lefty O’Doul.

Once you do your O’Doul research, you’ll learn that he contributed in four different facets of baseball: pitching, slugging, managing and spreading good baseball will throughout the world.

After limited success (1-1, 4.40 ERA) as a pitcher for the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox from 1919-1923, O’ Doul developed a sore arm. The Red Sox sent O’Doul to the Pacific Coast League and converted him into a slugging outfielder who became one of the most outstanding hitters in baseball history.

Back with the New York Giants in 1928, O’ Doul hit .318 as a platoon player. Then, in 1929, O’Doul led the National League in batting with a .398 average, 254 hits, 32 home runs with 122 RBIs and 152 runs scored. O’Doul’s hits total broke Rogers Hornsby’s 1922 National League record which was eventually tied by Bill Terry in 1930.

Despite hitting .383 with 22 homers in 1930, O’Doul was traded to the Brooklyn Robins, now the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1932, he batted .368 for the Robins to win another league batting title. After a slow start in 1933, when he batted just .252 through 43 games, O’Doul was again traded, this time back to the Giants. He rallied to hit .306 during the balance of season, but played just one more year before his career ended in 1934.

That began the third phase of O’Doul’s career—the most successful manager in PCL history. O’Doul piloted the San Francisco Seals through 1951. After his stint with the Seals ended, O’Doul also managed the San Diego Padres, 1952-54; Oakland Oaks, 1955; Vancouver Mounties, 1956; and the Seattle Rainers, 1957. O’Doul ranks ninth on the all-time victory list for all minor league managers with a 2,094-1,970 record and, in 1945, was elected as the Sporting News Minor League Manager of the Year.

While managing the Mounties O’Doul, age 59, went to bat against the Sacramento Solons during a regulation game. When the Solon manager Tommy Heath foolishly pulled in his outfielders, O’Doul knocked the ball into deep center field for a triple and later scored.

Among his hitting pupils during his many years managing were Joe and Dom DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey.

O’Doul is not only a legend in San Francisco where his thriving restaurant is the oldest continuous sports bar in the country but also in Japan where he spent years organizing barnstorm baseball games that featured American All Stars like Lou Gehrig, Frankie Frisch, Al Simmons and Lefty Grove. Eventually, O’Doul helped oversee the construction of Tokyo’s Korakuen Stadium, Japan’s baseball mecca.

Will O’Doul, who died in 1969 at age 72, be one of your 50 choices for enshrinement? After all, O’Doul’s .349 career batting average is the fourth highest in baseball history. And in 2002, the Japanese Hall of Fame elected O’Doul as its only American member.

O’Doul is worthy. The question is whether he outshines the other candidates you’re evaluating.

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Joe Guzzardi belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. Email him at guzzjoe@yahoo.com

0 thoughts on “For Your Consideration: Lefty O’Doul, Pitcher, Slugger, Manager and Baseball Good Will Ambassador”

  1. Very informative. His career batting average had earned him a spot in my top 50, but his years as a minor league manager and the Japanese connection were new to me. Thanks again.

  2. “Lefty” O’Doul should receive the “Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2011. General Douglas MacArthur wrote, “All the diplomats together would not have been able to do what he did. It was the greatest piece of diplomacy ever.”

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