Lefty O'Doul swings a bat while playing with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Bridging the Two-Way Gap

Bridging the Two-Way Gap: Lefty O’Doul

Lefty O’Doul never got a true chance to be a two way player in the major leagues. Or, maybe he did depending on what my research shows about the 1920s Pacific Coast League qualifying as a major league. As of today he never did, instead, he played both ways exclusively in the currently classified as a minor league PCL. O’Doul didn’t develop his hitting chops until a few years into his career and unfortunately by that time his arm had already started barking at him.

1918 represents O’Doul’s first two-way season. He was in the PCL playing for the San Fransico Seals and he pitched in 27 games while playing the outfield in an additional 22 games. That year he hit .200/?/.250 (the PCL didn’t keep track of walks for some time) in 120 at-bats while posting a 2.63 ERA and 1.168 WHIP across 185.0 innings pitched. Certainly some pitching potential, but not much reason to think the bat would come around.

The, you guessed it, lefty would spend the next couple of years barely playing for the New York Yankees. In 1921 he returned to the Seals and his two-way play picked up once again. On the mound, his 47 games and 312.0 innings were both career highs. O’Doul struggled with control, 1.301 WHIP, but his ERA of 2.39 was the best he ever accrued in his career. He played 27 games in the outfield for the Seals and he was tremendous. The left-handed slugger slashed .338/?/.529 with 5 home runs in 136 at-bats. It should be obvious, but in 1921 Lefty O’Doul was one of the best baseball players on the planet.

O’Doul returned to the majors for a couple more seasons but in 1924 he was back in the PCL, this time with the Salt Lake City Bees. He took the ball for 24 games and added another 109 games in the outfield. Over 416 at-bats O’Doul slashed .392/?/.565 while smacking 11 home runs, 4 triples, and 31 doubles. In 128 innings on the mound, O’Doul was, well, atrocious would be too nice. He managed an ERA of 6.54 and a WHIP of 2.039. O’Doul wasn’t walking a ton of guys, only 56, rather he was getting battered around to the tune of 205 hits.

For the rest of his career O’Doul starred as a good outfielder, only pitching a game here or there. Arm injuries were to blame for O’Doul’s poor 1925 mound showing and for his decision to give up pitching altogether. Those injuries are pretty awful because O’Doul was well on his way to being a tremendous two-way player. His 1921 season still stands out as one of the best two-way seasons ever produced. Unfortunately, continued two-way excellence just wasn’t in the cards for Lefty.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Detroit Public Library

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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