It’s All Right with Lefty O’Doul

Had a turkey sandwich at Lefty O’Douls Restaurant near Union Square in San Francisco today. Had to check out his career stats. T

he San Francisco native broke in as a pitcher with the Yankees and later Red Sox, developed a sore arm, finished 1-1 for his career, and was essentially done by the age of 26.

Then, five years later, he launched one of the most amazing comebacks in baseball history, returning to the New York Giants in 1928 to hit .319 at the age of 31. The next year with the Phillies O’Doul batted .398 to lead the league, along with 32 home runs, 122 RBIs, 152 runs scored and 254 hits, still the National League record.

Lefty later played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Giants again, finishing his career with a .349 lifetime batting average, the fourth best ever behind only Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby and Shoeless Joe Jackson. O’Doul led the National League in batting in both 1929 and 1932, and was a member of the World Series champion Giants in 1933.

And that’s just part of the Lefty O’Doul saga. He returned to the Pacific Coast League as manager of the San Francisco Seals from 1935 to 1951, later managing several other teams in the circuit and becoming the most successful manager in PCL history.

Lefty developed another great San Francisco ballplayer, Joe DiMaggio, who of course went on to a Hall of Fame career with the New York Yankees. O’Doul refused to take credit for DiMaggio’s success, saying “I was just smart enough to leave him alone.”

O’Doul was also instrumental in spreading baseball’s popularity in Japan, serving as the sport’s goodwill ambassador before and after World War II. The Tokyo Giants, sometimes considered “Japan’s Baseball Team,” were named by him in 1935 in honor of his longtime association with the New York Giants.

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