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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Holmes: Lefty O’Doul’s exclusion from Hall of Fame ballot is a mistake

This might make me pull out my darted Elias Baseball Analyst...which is properly buried under my Slug and Lettuce zines.

I must relate a troubling story from my time at the Hall of Fame because it may shed light on how a figure like Lefty can be ignored so many years after his playing career. This was in 2005 or 2006, and Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau was in Cooperstown to chair a committee that was putting together the candidates for the Veterans Committee ballot. I asked him about O’Doul, and Hirdt responded, “I don’t think he’s eligible.” The head of a significant sports statistical bureau and chair of the Hall of Fame’s committee on veterans was under the mistaken impression that O’Doul had not played the minimum 10 seasons required to be eligible under the rules. Of course I pointed out that he was and also that his batting average trailed only Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsbsy, and Joe Jackson. I received a blank stare and a nod from Mr. Hirdt.

Hirdt is still a part of the Hall of Fame process, whether that’s a good thing, I’m not sure. But it’s quite embarrassing, in my opinion, that the ballot includes a player like Marion, who spent 13 years in the majors and was known only for his defensive prowess while hitting a paltry .263 with no power, while Lefty put in 11 seasons, won multiple batting honors, and also contributed so much off the field. The very same ballot includes Al Reach, a man apparently being considered for induction because he published a baseball magazine. O’Doul planted, seeded, and watered the roots of baseball in Japan, which resulted in an explosion of popularity for the game worldwide. Indeed, if O’Doul were ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame it would be appropriate if Ichiro Suzuki accepted the honor for Lefty, who passed in 1969. If not for Lefty, Ichiro would never have had the chance to show off his remarkable skills stateside.

Next time around, I urge the Historical Overview Committee to add O’Douls’ deserving name to their ballot, and to delve into the remarkable qualifications of this man.

Repoz Posted: November 15, 2012 at 06:17 AM | 38 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, hof

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   1. buddaley Posted: November 15, 2012 at 07:50 AM (#4303191)
I think O'Doul merits consideration, but saying he played for 11 seasons is a bit misleading. His first 4 seasons, which were in two segments interrupted by a 2 year period when he did not play, were as a pitcher. As such, he was rather poor. So he really was a regular for just 7 seasons, the last of which for only 83 games.

In the other 6 seasons, he was excellent, but that was the sum total of his contributions as a player. He does have other qualifications, particularly his work in bringing the game to Japan. But as a player, his entire case rests on a 6 year period, and while Koufax and Dean got in with a similar career length, the issue would be whether O'Doul dominated the game the way those two did in their heyday-and whether either or both should be in anyway. Did he outshine the greatest hitters of his generation the way Koufax did the greatest pitchers in his?
   2. buddaley Posted: November 15, 2012 at 07:52 AM (#4303194)
1. buddaley Posted: November 15, 2012 at 07:50 AM (#4303191)
I think O'Doul merits consideration, but saying he played for 11 seasons is a bit misleading. His first 4 seasons, which were in two segments interrupted by a 2 year period when he did not play, were as a pitcher. As such, he was rather poor. So he really was a regular for just 7 seasons, the last of which for only 83 games.

In the other 6 seasons, he was excellent, but that was the sum total of his contributions as a player. He does have other qualifications, particularly his work in bringing the game to Japan. But as a player, his entire case rests on a 6 year period, and while Koufax and Dean got in with a similar career length, the issue would be whether O'Doul dominated the game the way those two did in their heyday-and whether either or both should be in anyway. Did he outshine the greatest hitters of his generation the way Koufax did the greatest pitchers in his?
Edit
   3. BDC Posted: November 15, 2012 at 10:09 AM (#4303228)
bringing the game to Japan

To clarify, baseball was widely played in Japan before O'Doul was born. His special role was as a link between pro ball in the States and pro ball in Japan, during a period that spanned the Second World War, and therefore was an important element of maintaining, and later reestablishing cultural contact between the two nations.
   4. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 15, 2012 at 10:19 AM (#4303229)
O'Doul was a nice guy and all, and he had some good seasons, but in the end I just don't think there's enough career there.

Complaining about Reach being on the ballot seems kind of churlish. It's not like they'd be electing him for his playing career...
   5. bachslunch Posted: November 15, 2012 at 10:20 AM (#4303230)
Of course I pointed out that he was and also that his batting average trailed only Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsbsy [sic], and Joe Jackson.

Problems:

--this assumes BA is a highly meaningful statistic.

--even if we assume it is a meaningful stat, this ignores the number of PAs lifetime. Cobb hit .366 in 13078 PAs, Hornsby hit .359 in 9481 PAs, Jackson hit .356 in 5692 PAs, and O'Doul hit .349 in 3658 PAs. And John Paciorek hit 1.000 in 5 PAs. Does Paciorek belong in the HoF too?

But it’s quite embarrassing, in my opinion, that the ballot includes a player like Marion,

Agreed, but that doesn't necessarily mean O'Doul should be there instead.
   6. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: November 15, 2012 at 10:21 AM (#4303231)
3658 PA. No position player elected to the HOF for his playing career, had a career anywhere near as short. The lowest PA total is Roy Campanella at over 4800. OK, George Wright, but he played in an era of 60 game seasons, and his career pre-dates MLB.
   7. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: November 15, 2012 at 10:32 AM (#4303239)
The lowest PA total is Roy Campanella at over 4800.


And even Campanella spent what, ten years playing in the Negro Leagues and Mexico before intergration?

What's the lowest PA total for a Hall of Famer who didn't miss time as a result of segregation or war, and played in an era of 100+ game seasons? The lowest I can find is Chick Hafey at 5115... it's a pretty bad sign when a guy like Hafey is almost three full seasons' worth of PT ahead of you.
   8. dlf Posted: November 15, 2012 at 11:16 AM (#4303273)
3658 PA. No position player elected to the HOF for his playing career ...


If O'Doul is ever elected, it will be for his role in Japan and the independent PCL with his MLB performance being the cherry on top of the sundae rather than the key ingredient. In this, he is much like Buck O'Neill, someone who could be rewarded postumously for his larger role in baseball rather than the fairly limited impact as a player.
   9. SoSH U at work Posted: November 15, 2012 at 11:34 AM (#4303285)
If O'Doul is ever elected, it will be for his role in Japan and the independent PCL with his MLB performance being the cherry on top of the sundae rather than the key ingredient. In this, he is much like Buck O'Neill, someone who could be rewarded postumously for his larger role in baseball rather than the fairly limited impact as a player.


I've been beating the drum for a contributor place in the Hall for several years. Actual induction for those individuals, whether its Bill James or Sean Forman or Max Patkin, whose total contributions have significantly enhanced our appreciation/understanding/love of the game. Lefty and Buck would be the first two inductees under this category.

   10. Flynn Posted: November 15, 2012 at 11:35 AM (#4303287)
He's not a Hall of Fame player. No doubt about that in my mind and I'm from San Francisco and enjoy Lefty O'Doul's bar quite a lot.

I think his contributions to the game of baseball in Japan deserve a much closer look. Nurturing the seed of Japanese baseball, especially after a brutal world war, is certainly a concept could be worthy of enshrinement.
   11. GEB4000 Posted: November 15, 2012 at 12:00 PM (#4303314)
It took 4 years of .370 PCL hitting for O'Doul to get back in the majors. interesting career, but he is no hall of famer.
   12. peewee Posted: November 15, 2012 at 12:05 PM (#4303321)
O'Doul deserves some minor league credit (if you're into that). After giving up pitching, he probably should have been playing in the majors 3 or 4 years earlier but was stuck in the PCL. Even with minor league credit he has a short career. He has an interesting case based on his playing career and other contributions though.

Also, the Steve Hirdt anecdote seems pretty silly. In 2005, O'Doul was on the list of 1400 eligible players that the committee compiled. And he made their cut down to 200. He didn't make it past the BBWAA committee vote to trim the ballot to 25. There was no VC voting in 2006.
   13. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: November 15, 2012 at 12:17 PM (#4303334)
It took 4 years of .370 PCL hitting for O'Doul to get back in the majors. interesting career, but he is no hall of famer.

he had 309 hits (!!!) for Salt Lake in 1925. 198 games, 825 AB's.

(when men were men)
   14. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: November 15, 2012 at 01:14 PM (#4303368)
he had 309 hits (!!!) for Salt Lake in 1925. 198 games, 825 AB's.

(when men were men)


Tony Lazzeri hit 60 home runs for Salt Lake that year. He played in 197 games but had 115 fewer at bats than O'Doul, so they were pitching around him. Or pooshing around him, I guess.
   15. Steve Treder Posted: November 15, 2012 at 01:39 PM (#4303388)
I've been beating the drum for a contributor place in the Hall for several years. Actual induction for those individuals, whether its Bill James or Sean Forman or Max Patkin, whose total contributions have significantly enhanced our appreciation/understanding/love of the game. Lefty and Buck would be the first two inductees under this category.

Hear, hear!

Lefty O'Doul's imprint on the development and prosperity of pro baseball on the West coast of the US and in Japan was deep and positive. He's an important figure in the history of the game. His MLB playing career, while good and interesting in its own right, is just a subset of his total body of work, and far short of HOF enshrinement-worthy on its own.
   16. jingoist Posted: November 15, 2012 at 04:14 PM (#4303517)
And, as Flynn already noted, his bar is a great place for a beer and sandwich while watching an away Giants game.
   17. Rennie's Tenet Posted: November 15, 2012 at 04:24 PM (#4303533)
O'Doul's career is wonderful fodder for tying knots into those whose sole interest in baseball is to pontificate as to how it cheated Joe Jackson. They've never heard of O'Doul, who hit nearly as high as Jackson AND won two batting titles!!!
   18. Moeball Posted: November 15, 2012 at 06:10 PM (#4303681)
his bar is a great place for a beer and sandwich while watching an away Giants game.


Confirmed, even by a San Diegan!

I also like the idea of an overall "contributor" category. Speaking of Buck - I thought I read somewhere that, as a scout for the Cubs, he had a hand in their signing Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Lou Brock and, years later, Lee Smith. Is this the stuff of legend or did this really happen? If true - scouts are thrilled if they sign one future HOFer in their career (wasn't Tom Greenwade forever associated with signing Mickey Mantle?). If Buck was responsible for signing 3 future HOFers that would be quite a group of feathers in the cap...
   19. Der-K: Hipster doofus Posted: November 15, 2012 at 06:25 PM (#4303696)
I also like the idea of an overall "contributor" category.

I do as well.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: November 15, 2012 at 06:26 PM (#4303698)
--this assumes BA is a highly meaningful statistic.

BA always has been and always will be a meaningful statistic. It is the single most important component of a batter's line.

And, regardless of your feelings about my seemingly heretical statement, a BA of 350 (O'Doul's career) is always meaningful.
   21. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: November 15, 2012 at 06:35 PM (#4303705)
And, regardless of your feelings about my seemingly heretical statement, a BA of 350 (O'Doul's career) is always meaningful.

and his .413 OBP and .532 SLG aren't too shabby neither
   22. dlf Posted: November 15, 2012 at 06:36 PM (#4303706)
Speaking of Buck - I thought I read somewhere that, as a scout for the Cubs, he had a hand in their signing Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Lou Brock and, years later, Lee Smith.


Not to diminish Buck's legacy, but I think you've conflated his various roles. For example, he was Banks' manager for the KC Monarchs, but the "scout" who initially signed Ernie in the NeL was Cool Papa Bell and Banks was playing for the Cubs by '53 before the end of O'Neill's time in the Negro Leagues a couple of years later.
   23. tshipman Posted: November 15, 2012 at 11:23 PM (#4303964)
He's not a Hall of Fame player. No doubt about that in my mind and I'm from San Francisco and enjoy Lefty O'Doul's bar quite a lot.


And, as Flynn already noted, his bar is a great place for a beer and sandwich while watching an away Giants game.


You guys are nuts. Lefty's is a landmark, but it's a ########. Their food is gross and the drinks are overpriced.
   24. Der-K: Hipster doofus Posted: November 15, 2012 at 11:27 PM (#4303966)
Tshipman is, of course, correct.
   25. Sunday silence Posted: November 15, 2012 at 11:56 PM (#4303982)
How about Moe Berg? He had quite an interesting life.
   26. Der-K: Hipster doofus Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:41 AM (#4304012)
leave him to the reliquary.
   27. Steve Treder Posted: November 16, 2012 at 12:57 AM (#4304020)
Tshipman is, of course, correct.

For having his head completely up his a$$, sure.

No hipster bullsh@t regarding Lefty's deserves to be tolerated.
   28. Der-K: Hipster doofus Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:20 AM (#4304029)
we've gone through this before.
all i can say is that i've had corned beef, pastrami and the like more times than i should admit in my life - and this wasn't good. i get that it's your ###### provincial thing - that's fine, i have some too - but it's still ######. (not the menu, the execution)
   29. Sunday silence Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:33 AM (#4304045)
Prosciutto in the HoF fro sure.
   30. Flynn Posted: November 16, 2012 at 05:43 AM (#4304050)
You guys are nuts. Lefty's is a landmark, but it's a ########. Their food is gross and the drinks are overpriced.


Rubbish. It's become chic in SF circles to claim Tommy's Joynt is better but other than being very slightly cheaper (which is explainable given Lefty's well documented struggles with local landlords - screw you, Ray Handlery) there's nothing in it. Well except one has a nice 50s-60s pop culture ambiance and one has a fantastic 50s-60s baseball ambiance.

Like I said the last time Lefty's came up, it's giant hunks of brisket. It's hard to screw that up and they don't.
   31. AROM Posted: November 16, 2012 at 10:35 AM (#4304122)
Lefty is in the Hall of Fame. Japan's HOF.

Strictly on playing accomplishments, I'd take Marion over him. The above comparison of their hitting ignores that 1) O'Doul played in the best seasons ever for batting averages 2) he was at best an average defensive LF and 3) Marion was a great defensive shortstop.

   32. PreservedFish Posted: November 16, 2012 at 11:36 AM (#4304178)
Autocorrect turns O'Doul's into odious. I've never eaten there although my impression was always that the food was probably ghastly.
   33. BDC Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:00 PM (#4304261)
I had a Reuben or equivalent in Lefty O'Doul's, >20 years ago: it was pretty bad. Which shouldn't turn me against it for life, I know.
   34. bachslunch Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:01 PM (#4304264)
Re #20:

BA always has been and always will be a meaningful statistic. It is the single most important component of a batter's line.

I did say "highly meaningful" above. My thinking in part is along the lines of AROM's in #31 -- that he played during a very hitter-friendly era.

I'm also interested to know why BA is the "most important component of a batter's line." In other words, why it's more meaningful than things like (for example) on-base percentage, slugging percentage, or OPS+.
   35. SoSH U at work Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:12 PM (#4304278)
I'm also interested to know why BA is the "most important component of a batter's line." In other words, why it's more meaningful than things like (for example) on-base percentage, slugging percentage, or OPS+.


Walt didn't say it was more important than them. He said BA is the most important component of them. BA isn't a good gauge of offensive value by itself, but it remains the largest part of OBA and SLG, which can get forgotten in the rush to demonize BA.

   36. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: November 16, 2012 at 01:13 PM (#4304280)
BA is a big fraction of all of those things. You could look at it as follows: every hitter gets more hits than walks (except Barry Bonds and Mickey Lolich), and every hitter gets more singles than home runs (except Barry Bonds and Wily Mo Pena). If you can't hit a sufficient number of everyday ordinary singles and doubles in the gap, it doesn't matter what else you can do (except Barry Bonds and Mark Belanger).

But in terms of the Hall of Fame, you can't get in nowadays with just batting average (except Tony Gwynn). Would Lefty O'Doul have been Tony Gwynn if he had a long career?
   37. Tippecanoe Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:31 PM (#4304365)
I haven't been to O'Doul's in 15 years; on my last visitI watched game 7 of the '97 World Series there. A great game viewed in the right atmosphere, so my memories of the place are fond.

At that time the food was

a) terrible, and
b) priced accordingly
   38. BDC Posted: November 16, 2012 at 02:41 PM (#4304381)
on my last visitI watched game 7 of the '97 World Series there

Oddly, I remember the game that was on when I was in O'Doul's: an NFL playoff game in which the Cowboys beat the Bears, and PF-Ref tells me it was 29 December 1991. If that date ever comes up again, avoid the Reuben at Left O'Doul's.

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