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Lefty O'Doul

Baseball's Forgotten Ambassador

Dennis Snelling

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 05/2017
Pages: 384
Subject: Sports and Recreation
eBook ISBN: 9781496201157


From San Francisco to the Ginza in Tokyo, Lefty O'Doul relates the untold story of one of baseball's greatest hitters, most colorful characters, and the unofficial father of professional baseball in Japan. Lefty O'Doul (1897–1969) began his career on the sandlots of San Francisco and was drafted by the Yankees as a pitcher. Although an arm injury and his refusal to give up the mound clouded his first four years, he converted into an outfielder. After four Minor League seasons he returned to the Major Leagues to become one of the game's most prolific power hitters, retiring with the fourth-highest lifetime batting average in Major League history. A self-taught "scientific" hitter, O'Doul then became the game's preeminent hitting instructor, counting Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams as his top disciples. In 1931 O'Doul traveled to Japan with an All-Star team and later convinced Babe Ruth to headline a 1934 tour. By helping to establish the professional game in Japan, he paved the way for Hideo Nomo, Ichiro Suzuki, and Hideki Matsui to play in the American Major Leagues. O'Doul's finest moment came in 1949, when General Douglas MacArthur asked him to bring a baseball team to Japan, a tour that MacArthur later praised as one of the greatest diplomatic efforts in U.S. history. O'Doul became one of the most successful managers in the Pacific Coast League and was instrumental in spreading baseball's growth and popularity in Japan. He is still beloved in Japan, where in 2002 he was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.  


Dennis Snelling has been a senior writer for Helmar Baseball History and Art magazine and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and the Pacific Coast League Historical Society. He is the author of The Greatest Minor League: A History of the Pacific Coast League, 1903–1957 and Johnny Evers: A Baseball Life.  


"Perhaps the most important twentieth-century figure not enshrined in Cooperstown, Lefty O'Doul influenced the game on both sides of the Pacific. . . . Dennis Snelling brings Lefty to life in this well-written and fascinating biography. Lefty O'Doul should be on the must-read list of all serious baseball fans. A true Sayonara home run!"—Robert K. Fitts, author of Banzai Babe Ruth, winner of the Seymour Medal  

"The life of Lefty O'Doul was filled with joy, enthusiasm, and accomplishment, and no one has told his story better than Dennis Snelling. This wonderful book fully describes the many facets of Lefty's personality."—Dick Beverage, secretary-treasurer for the Association of Professional Ballplayers of America and president of the Pacific Coast League Historical Society