May 27, 2007
You’ve seen the green and white signs in front of the “Lefty O’Doul Restaurant and Piano Bar” down on Geary Street, but who is Lefty O’Doul? Just another phony Irish name invented to sell beer?
Absolutely not! The silhouette of that left-handed slugger on the sign is a clue. Lefty O’Doul was a baseball player, and despite the fact that other boys from San Francisco went on to enjoy a brighter national spotlight, Lefty was our boy — our very own real hometown baseball hero. We cheered his ups and downs back east, watched from afar as he palled around with Babe Ruth, and when he came back from the big leagues to manage the hometown San Francisco Seals he was the most popular man in town.
That in itself would make a pretty good story, but it’s the international angle that will really surprise you. You see, “Lefty” and “the Man in the Green Suit” were only two of the nicknames O’Doul answered to in his checkered career. The most interesting one is this one: “the Father of Japanese Baseball”. It turns out that the Irish kid from Butchertown was as much a citizen of the Pacific Rim as of the baseball world — and he’s now enshrined in Japan’s Baseball Hall of Fame.
His tombstone down in Colma reads “He was here at a good time, and had a good time while he was here”. Need I say more? Even if you don’t know a thing about our “national pastime”, you’re going to love Lefty O’Doul.
Full disclosure: I wore my San Francisco Seals hat as I researched this story. So much for objective journalism!
For further edification:
» O’Doul’s lifetime statistics — Baseball Almanac
» “Lefty O’Doul Kids Day” 1938 — Virtual Museum of San Francisco
Interview for “The Glory of Their Times” — Baseball Hall of Fame
» San Francisco Court of Historical Review — San Francisco Chronicle June 1997
» “Hall of Fame Hopes” — San Francisco Chronicle June 2006
» O’Doul Essay — The Diamond Angle
» Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame
» Lefty O’Doul’s Restaurant — official site
» Lefty O’Doul’s Restaurant — GoogleMap
- #28: Birth of San Francisco #1
- #11: Straight Razor Morning
- SFist: “A Jitney Elopement” — Charlie Chaplin’s San Francisco film
- #52.5: The Trolls of San Francisco
- #46: San Francisco Fortune Cookie
Thanks to Recipe for Sunblock for “the Classifieds”, Devin Anderson for “Monster Symphony”, and The Season of Us for “The Season of Us”. This week’s music courtesy of PodSafeAudio.com.
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