Frank "Lefty" O'Doul is the greatest eligible position player not in the Hall of Fame. Over 970 games (30 shy of the 1,000 used for official records) from 1919 to 1934, Lefty averaged .349, winning two batting championships and setting the NL record for most hits in a season, which still stands. Not in any way a "homer" like Chuck Klein (whose numbers were greatly aided by playing in a small park in Philly), Lefty hit .352 at home and .347 on the road, proving he belongs among the elite hitters in history. After his days in the majors ended, he returned to the Pacific Coast League, where he was the longtime manager of the San Francisco Seals and later the San Diego and Seattle teams. He had a restaurant in San Francisco and was a bon vivant and man about town. Lefty was instrumental in organizing Japanese baseball, whose premiere team, the Giants, was named in his honor. Lefty is one of only 3 Americans in the Japanese baseball hall of fame. There are a number of rather rare Japanese cards of him, one of which is shown below. He is also one of the few players to have played for the Yankees, Dodgers and Giants while all 3 were in New York City. Lefty died on December 7, 1969. His epitaph reads "He was here at a good time and had a good time while he was here."
Date(s): June 18, 2005. Album by Adam Warshaw. 1 - 54 of 54 Total. 7540 Visits.
1 1921 Zeenuts. One of Lefty's earliest cards, from his days in the Minors just after being sent down by the Yankees, where he was a dead-armed pitcher. He was recalled by the Red Sox, cut again, and returned to the minors to hone the obvious hitting skills he possessed.
2 1926 Zeenuts. By this time Lefty was on his way back to the Majors as an outfielder.
3 1927 Zeenuts. Lefty's final year in the PCL before going back to the majors with the New York Giants.
4 Anonymously-issued postcard-sized set called R315, ca. 1928. Sweet swing! For those of you who care about such things, I think this would be considered a rookie card, but given several minor league issues predating it, I don't put much significance in the designation.
5 A card from the PC backed Exhibit set. The photo is from Lefty's 1928 campaign with the Giants, but lists him as a Phillie, pegging the card as issued no earlier than late 1928 or early 1929, and no later than the end of 1930. Lefty was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers after the 1930 season.
6 A very rare 4 on 1 postcard backed arcade card from 1931-32. I can date the card because Lefty is listed as a Dodger, meaning the card was printed after the post-1930 season trade the sent him to Brooklyn. He won another batting title in Brooklyn.
7 From a 1931 strip card set called W517. The card lists Lefty as a Phillie, so the card was either issued before the trade or (more likely) was made using the art from the PC back Exhibit set and not corrected to reflect the trade. Sometimes the obvious smacks you in the face and you still miss it. The legend on the PC Back Exhibits and the W517 is handwritten by the same person.
8 [L-R] 1920s PC backed Exhibit, W517, W517 mini. The interrelationship between these issues is murky but apparent. Note that the PC card and the W517 say Phillies but the mini says Brooklyn. There is also a known Brooklyn card for the W517. We know that these cards were made from photos that were hand-inked with the legend. We also know that the different proportions of the PC and the W517 mean that different croppings of the same images were used to create them (see my Exhibits album for an image of the actual photo used to make the W517 Bill Terry and an image used to make the Sammy Bohne Exhibit and you will see what I mean). The 4 on 1 shown a few cards earlier also uses the Brooklyn image. If anyone has a Phillies mini, I would love to see it.
9 A 4 on 1 Exhibit card of Lefty from his few seasons in Philly (1929-30). He fell 1 hit shy of .400 one year, hitting .398. I think he would be in the HOF had he hit .400 that year.
10 This Kashin Publications card of Lefty comes from a boxed set of baseball cards issued in 1929.
11 ca. 1929 Leader Novelty card. A very rare set with few known examples, most in really cruddy condition. They are thought to have been distributed in candy boxes but that is not established.
12 1929 W553 strip card. A very tough set to find as well.
13 This card is from the 1933 U.S. Caramel set. The biography back states that Lefty won the 1932 bating title and that he is 36 years old. Lefty was born March 4, 1897. To be 36 years old as of the time the bio was written, the card had to be issued no earlier than March 4, 1933.
14 1933 Goudey, the premiere set from the 1930s. Lefty has two cards in the set, as was the norm with major stars of the day. Ruth had four.
15 Lefty's second card in the 1933 Goudey set. I like this one better.
16 This tough little gem is from a 1933 gum card set called Tattoo Orbit. Nice art deco design.
17 Another 1933 gum card, this one from DeLong.
18 1933 Worch Cigars Lefty O'Doul. One of the few post-WWI tobacco issues.
19 1933 PX 3 Lefty O'Doul coin. Not really a coin but rather a tin or aluminum disk with a raised edge. The set is designed so that certain disks fit snugly into one another, forming a hollow "coin".
20 1933 Orbit Pin.
21 September 1933 press photo.
22 1934 Diamond Matchbook of Lefty as a Giant.
23 E285 Rittenhouse. A very tough candy set issued in sheets that kids cut apart.
24 1935 Pebble Beach Clothiers Lefty O'Doul. This is the rarest of all Lefty O'Doul cards. It was issued by a San Francisco clothing store in connection with a public appearance by O'Doul. Every card was personally autographed by Lefty. Only a handful of known specimens. Interesting story on this one. The back has a handwritten name ___ Dempsey. Turns out this card was once owned by Con Dempsey, a SF native who ended up playing in the PCL and in MLB. He has a card in the 1952 Topps set.
25 Here is Lefty as a manager ca. 1934-36. Lefty managed and taught Joe and Dom Dimaggio. Both Joe and Dom DiMaggio credit Lefty with helping them get to the majors. He was especially instrumental in training Dom to hit. For Joe, Lefty said that the best thing he did was to leave him alone and encourage him not to allow anyone to change his already perfect swing.
26 1940 Associated Service Station. A set of stickers issued to be placed in an accompanying album, here is Lefty's sticker and page.
27 1940 Pacific Coast League pocket schedule with Lefty O'Doul back cover panel biography.
28 1948 Sommer & Kaufmann clothing store card
29 Lefty was instrumental in organizing and popularizing Japanese baseball and quite a few cards of him were issued by Japanese makers. Unfortunately, nearly all cards of him are rather crude drawings that you would be hard-pressed to know are him. This card, however, is a silver bromide photographic image issued in conjunction with the Seals' 1949 tour of Japan. The tour was very significant in Japan as it marked one of the very first postwar cultural exchanges between the nations.
30 A rare Japanese card from the 1951 trip. That's Joe DiMaggio with Lefty.
31 This postcard depicting Lefty and Japanese HOF manager Shunichi Amachi has a commemorative postmark dated 11/7/51 from Narumi Stadium, where the Seals played that day.
32 1952 Globe Publishing. Lefty is shown in his first season with the Padres, from a very scarce PCL issue.
33 1952 Mother's Cookies. Another PCL regional.
34 1953 Mother's Cookies card.
35 Lefty's bar in San Francisco had a nice postcard souvenir for the fans.
36 Postcard from Lefty's old location, postmarked 1944
37 This matchbook shows Seals Stadium and Lefty
38 Older matchbook from Lefty's old location--I like the Seals logo hat.
39 A 1950s match book from the restaurant
40 A check signed by Lefty from his restaurant. He died December 7, 1969.
41 1960 Fleer Lefty O'Doul. Lefty appears in both the 1960 and 1961 Fleer all time greats sets. Don't let the cap fool you; Lefty never played for the San Francisco Giants, but he did some coaching and they did pay tribute to him as a New York Giants player and baseball icon.
42 1976 Shakey's Pizza West Coast Greats. Lefty appears in probably as many post-career tribute cards as he does on cards from his playing and managerial days. By the way, Shakey's makes really bad pizza.
43 This is a 1979 promo for a New York City card show promoted by the ASCCA (American Sports Card Collectors Association). Early card shows were run by card clubs, usually on a holiday weekend, and cards were frequently made as promos. Since I used to attend ASCCA shows, this card was a real blast from the past.
44 1979 TCMA/Renata Galasso Lefty O'Doul. TCMA was a card company that made a variety of all time great and tribute sets in the late 70's. Galasso was a major dealer in supplies and reprints at that time.
45 Lefty fielding in his salad days. I think every player was forced to take a shot like this; I've seen so many from the era.
46 Studio publicity photograph showing Lefty instructing Gary Cooper on how to swing a bat left-handed for the movie "Pride of the Yankees". He said Cooper played like an old lady and ultimately they ended up shooting the action sequences with Cooper batting righty and running to third base.
48 This somewhat bizarre image shows Lefty with an Arab visitor to Seals Stadium. By this point, Lefty was manager extraordinaire of the Seals and their batting instructor.
49 OK, this item and the next one are mock-ups of Lefty O'Doul cards that I designed using a picture editing program. Lame fanboy stuff, right? Guilty...
50 If Lefty'd had a second PC back Exhibit it might have looked like this.
51 Me in front of Lefty O'Doul's bar in San Francisco, summer 2004.