% OF 2005 VOTE
The longtime Dodger was an eight-time All-Star with 11 straight 20-home run
seasons and seven World Series appearances.
A five-time Gold Glove winner at third base, the Cubs stalwart ranked in
the NL's top 10 in homers seven times.
A .304 career hitter, three-time AL batting champion and two-time MVP
runner-up, this career Twin led the AL in hits five times.
He won 283 games and a record 16 straight Gold Gloves ('62--77) in his
25-year career, the third longest by a pitcher.
One fateful day
in the mid-1960s Daniel Woodhead III, freshly graduated from Harvard Business
School, wandered into Lefty O'Doul's bar and restaurant in downtown San
Francisco. Woodhead had moved west from his home in Winnetka, Ill., at the
urging of a friend who advised him that the city was abundantly populated with
young women of transcendent beauty and sophistication. But as he stood in the
doorway of O'Doul's, he saw only elderly men, one of whom was undoubtedly
O'Doul himself, gathered at the bar talking baseball. Woodhead departed,
blissfully innocent of a future that would join him to O'Doul in a quest so
dogged as to make the Arthurian search for the Holy Grail seem little more than
an Easter egg hunt.
little then of O'Doul's brief stardom in the big leagues, his popularity in his
home town as manager for 17 years of the Pacific Coast League's Seals or his
notable contributions to Japanese baseball with touring American teams and as a
key organizer of that country's professional leagues. But over the years, as he
learned more about O'Doul, who remained a beloved figure in the Bay Area, it
began to dawn on Woodhead that O'Doul had been slighted by the game he loved.
Here was a player with a .349 career average who in a five-year stretch from
1928 through '32 hit .319, .398, .383, .336 and .368, and won two National
League batting titles. The '29 season alone was a whopper. Besides the .398
average, O'Doul, then with the Philadelphia Phillies, banged out what remains
an NL--record 254 hits, among them 32 homers and 35 doubles.
And yet O'Doul,
who died in 1969 at age 72, had not been elected to the game's Hall of Fame,
and to Woodhead this was a travesty. A self-confessed "loose cannon,"
Woodhead vowed to do something about it. Although his education at Wesleyan and
Harvard had been in economics and his career in banking, Woodhead had always
considered himself a writer. So beginning in the late '80s he took up his pen
and began corresponding with everyone even remotely connected to O'Doul's life,
a group that included Joe DiMaggio, who played for O'Doul as a minor leaguer
with the Seals, and Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, who had welcomed O'Doul to Japan
when Ridgway was Far East commander there in the early '50s.
The responses to
his letters further convinced Woodhead that O'Doul belonged in Cooperstown, and
the crusade widened. Woodhead's final output was enormous: hundreds of letters,
documents and statistical compilations, all dispatched to the Hall's Veterans
Still, O'Doul was
repeatedly passed over, the prevailing view being that his career--970
games--was too short, even though with 11 years of major league service, he met
the Hall's 10-year eligibility requirement. He'd begun as a pitcher whose arm
had become so worn and sore that, as one writer commented, it "hung from
his shoulder like a wet rope." After four miserable seasons in which he
appeared in just 34 games with the Yankees and the Red Sox, O'Doul switched to
the outfield in 1924 and slugged his way back to the bigs with the Giants four
years later, at age 31.
Woodhead was so
appalled by a decade of rejections from Veterans Committees that he nearly
abandoned his own personal motto, Vincit qui patitur (He conquers who
perseveres). The bitterest blow came in 2002 when O'Doul was inducted into the
Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.
gained new inspiration and was once more roused to action when O'Doul was
honored at a local banquet last June. The Veterans Committee had been
restructured and expanded in 2001, so now there was a new group of 84 electors
to deal with. To each member Woodhead quickly mailed an O'Doul information
Lo and behold,
from a starting list of 200 nominees, O'Doul made the cut to the final 27.
Still a long shot, he'll need to be named on 75% of the ballots, which go out
early next month and are tabulated in February.
Woodhead, now 70,
is cautiously optimistic. "This is an injustice that must be
corrected," he says. Even if it isn't, it's unlikely Woodhead will give up
the ghost. O'Doul's, that is.
In Good Company
Since the Veterans Committee expanded in 2001, there have been two votes taken,
with no old-timers gaining induction. These are the top vote-getters from the
last election, in 2005.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]