"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
With the Sox opening the season in Tokyo, what better time to tip our cap to the Father of Japanese baseball?
Sparkletack, the San Francisco history podcast, recalls Bay Area icon Lefty O'Doul:
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.”
The reporter discloses he wore his San Francisco Seals hat while researching the story.
You can get your own Seals cap from Ebbets Field Flannels.
* Princeton-educated Moe Berg's occupation as a backup catcher for the Red Sox in the 1930s provided cover for his other line of work -- as an intelligence agent:
In 1934, he was inexplicably named to a touring all-star team that visited Japan. While the other players were taking in the sights, Berg was secretly filming Japanese military installations for the United States. His later missions took him all over the world, most often using his incredible command of languages to pose as everything from graduate students to journalists to international businessmen. Among his contributions to U.S. intelligence was his careful tracking of the German’s progress toward nuclear bomb capabilities. Maybe not a hero on the baseball field, but certainly one off the field.
The Moe Berg biography "The Catcher Was A Spy" tells of a visit to a geisha house on that trip. Babe apparently thought that the women were prostitutes, and kept pawing under the very elaborate costume of one of the ladies. Moe saw that the woman was quite perturbed and knew that wasn't how a geisha should be treated, so he took the lady aside and gave her a quick English lesson. The next time Babe grabbed her, she smiled sweetly at him and said, "F U, Babe Ruth!" #