Born in San Francisco on March 4, 1897, Lefty O'Doul is one of that city's best loved citizens. He was brought up in the city's Butchertown district and got his start in professional baseball in Des Moines in 1917. He began his Pacific Coast League career with the Seals in 1918. In his first season, he appeared in a total of 49 games, pitching in 27 of them, winning 12, losing 8, and batting .200.
After playing for the Yankees for two years, he returned to San Francisco in 1921, with a record of 25-9, and hitting .338 in 74 games. He then went back to the majors, to play for the Yankees in 1922 and Red Sox in 1923. After a particularly disappointing game in which he gave up 13 runs in one inning, O'Doul was sent back to the PCL in 1924. To the disappoingment of many of his San Francisco fans, however, Lefty was sent to Salt Lake City.
He batted .392 in 1924 and .375 in 1925 for Salt Lake City. He went to spring training with the Cubs the following year, and wound up back in the PCL with the Hollywood Stars. At Lefty's own suggestion, he was sold to San Francisco in 1927. That year, he led the PCL in runs and hits and was voted the league's most valuable player. On "Lefty O'Doul Day," September 11, 1927, he pitched a 2-0 win for the Seals over the Missions. Lefty O'Doul Day became an annual event in San Franciso after that.
He was drafted back to the National League by the New York Giants in 1928, spending the next seven years in New York, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn.
When his major league career playing ended, he returned to San Francisco in 1935 to manage the Seals. After leading the Seals to their third straight playoff championship in 1945, he was named minor league manager of the year by the Sporting News. The following year, he led the Seals to the PCL pennant.
Lefty O'Doul finally left San Francisco in 1951, to manage the San Diego Padres. In 1954, he brought the pennant to San Diego. But the league directors reintroduced the Governor's cup that season, and the Oakland Oaks under manager Charlie Dressen defeated O'Doul's Padres for the cup. At the end of that season, Dressen was hired by the Washington Senators, and O'Doul expressed an interest in replacing him in Oakland.
Lefty was especially popular with the San Diego fans, but Padres owner Bill Starr was willing to let him go. So O'Doul came to Oakland to manage the Oaks in 1955. He hired Seattle coach Eddie Taylor as his coach. Although the Oaks looked good to win the pennant in Spring Training and the early season, the team did not fare well. It turned out to be the Oaks last season in Oakland. They moved to Vancouver the following year.
Copyright © William B. Shubb, 2002.