6 baseball books for midseason reading

Dig into a great read about baseball this summer! Here are some choices.

4. ’Lefty O’Doul: Baseball’s Forgotten Ambassador,’ by Dennis Snelling

Here is a biography of a definite difference-maker in baseball history, but one whose achievements landed him in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame but not in Cooperstown – this despite retiring with the the fourth-highest lifetime batting average (.349) in major-league history.

Lefty O’Doul, who began his career as a pitcher before converting to the outfield, went on to become the most successful manager in the old Pacific Coast League. There he promoted a “scientific” approach to hitting that influenced Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. His connection with baseball in Japan began in 1931 when he traveled there with an American all-star team. What really led to recognition as the unofficial father of professional baseball in Japan was when General Douglas MacArthur recruited him to mount a postwar baseball tour in 1949 designed to win friends for the US. 

Here’s an excerpt from Lefty O’Doul:

“Lefty O’Doul remained incredibly popular in his hometown despite three nondescript Major League seasons, and the fact that he had spent three of the past four years on the East Coast. One measure of that popularity was revealed in the recognition he received on Thanksgiving Day in 1922, during a visit to San Quentin Prison for the prisoners’ Annual Field Day, an event always featured prominently in the San Francisco newspapers. O’Doul joined other local Major Leaguers and members of the prestigious Olympic Club to officiate the proceedings, as inmates competed in events ranging from running various distances to a tug of war. Every inmate, save for the seven on death row, was allowed to compete in a series of contests judged by the professional athletes....

“One of the death row seven, who would soon be hanged for the murder of a Los Angeles policeman, recognized O’Doul and pleaded for the chance to play catch with him. Guards relayed the request to the warden, who granted it. So it came to be that as the fifty-yard dash was being contested in the center of the prison yard amid a chorus of shouts and whistles, in a far corner Lefty O’Doul quietly played catch with a man condemned to the gallows.”

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