Tag Archives: Jim O’Toole

Fast Track Through Nashville: Lefty Jim O’Toole

Jim O’Toole was signed by Cincinnati on December 23, 1957 for $50,000, paid over four years, coming off a 4-1 college season for the University of Wisconsin. He struck out 15 batters in three different games for the Badgers.

JO'TooleThat summer he played semi-pro baseball for Mitchell, South Dakota in the Basin League where he had an 8-1 won-lost record and 2.79 ERA[1]. With nine other clubs interested in his services, the large contract was an investment general manager Gabe Paul was willing to make. Averaging 12 strikeouts per game in the summer league might have had something to do with it, furthering the Reds’ intent on signing him.[2]

The son of a Chicago policeman, the 6’1” 195-lb. O’Toole’s high school did not field a baseball team, but he played in area amateur leagues and took up boxing.

His reputation began in his teens as he missed tossing no-hitters on three occasions where he allowed a hit in the final inning and once struck out 19.[3]

Assigned to Nashville after spring training, he immediately showed the Reds that he would be worthy of their confidence. With the letters “T-H-I-N-K” written on the fingers of his glove[4], on April 18, 1958 the 21-year-old shut out the Chattanooga Lookouts 1-0, allowing only four hits.

Four days later he struck out five but walked 10, gaining the win over Chattanooga as Nashville catcher Vic Comoli had a grand-slam home run in the first inning to lead the Vols to a 15-7 win over the Lookouts.

Jim won three of his first four decisions as a professional, but he continued to impress. On May 3, he nearly tossed the first no-hit, no-run game at Sulphur Dell in 42 years in a 14-0 route of Little Rock. With two outs in the ninth inning former St. Louis Cardinal Harry Elliott hits a single, and Ben Downs adds another before Jim retired Lou Heymans to end the game. O’Toole finishes with a two-hitter.

He earned his fifth win in six decisions on May 12. Throwing a five-hitter in an 8-2 win over Mobile, he broke one of manager Dick Sisler’s team rules by walking the opposing pitcher. Jim was fined $1.00 which was collected for the player’s party account.[5]

The warmer weather of June proved to be of Jim’s liking. On June 3 Nashville won over Little Rock 4-2 as the Vols scored three runs without hitting the ball out of the infield. Two walks, three singles and an error help break open a pitching duel between Nashville’s O’Toole and the Travelers’ Al Grunwald, with Jim improving his pitching record to 7-3 with the win.

On June 11 Nashville ends a six-game losing streak at Hartwell Field in Mobile as the left-hander blanked the Bears on six hits, 3-0.  It is O’Toole’s third shutout and ninth win of the season.

Not only did he shut out New Orleans on four hits on June 20, Jim slugged his first home run and was perfect at the plate in three appearances. The Vols beat the Pelicans 16-0 as he registered his fourth shutout of the season and eleventh victory.

He pitched fourteen innings on June 24 in leading the Vols over Memphis 3-2, the Chicks’ ninth loss in the ten games.  O’Toole raises his record to 12-3 with the victory, lowers his league-leading ERA to 2.07, and his twelve complete games, 106 strikeouts, and 152 innings also lead the Southern Association.

O’Toole was a unanimous selection to the leagues’ July 16 All Star game and was named the starter by All Star manager, Nashville’s Dick Sisler. Jim pitched the first two innings, gave up two hits, and was credited with the 4-0 victory over host Atlanta Crackers. Four days earlier he improved his record to 14-4 in a win over Atlanta, giving him a win over each team in the circuit. A six-hit win over Memphis on July 22 gave him victory number 15.

Jim added to his credentials in a mid-season poll of all Southern Association managers compiled by Nashville Banner sports editor, Fred Russell. O’Toole was voted number one major league prospect in the league, picked as one of the fastest pitchers, and surprisingly one of the fastest base runners.[6]

He became the league’s first 17-game winner of the season with a 4-3 win over New Orleans on August 5.

It was the only full season Jim spent in the minors. His totals for Nashville were impressive: 180 innings pitched in 35 games, 21 complete games, a 20-8 record and 2.44 ERA.

Called up to the parent Reds, he appeared in one game in Milwaukee. Starting against the Braves on September 26, O’Toole allowed one unearned run on four hits, striking out four and walking five in the Braves 2-1 win over Cincinnati.

He was selected to the AA and A All Star team by the National Association of Sports Writers, and was named the player in the minors who made the most rapid advancement toward major league status for the season. Jim was also selected to the Southern Association’s All Star team, and a unanimous choice of the loop’s top rookie at season’s end.

He would have a 10-year major league career, nine with the Reds and one with the Chicago White Sox. Never a 20-game winner, he made the National League All Star team in 1963, and had five consecutive seasons of 10 or more wins. Perhaps his best season came in 1964 when he was 17-7 with a 2.66 ERA.

In his first year of eligibility in 1970 O’Toole was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame. Born on January 10, 1937, he passed away on December 26, 2015.

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1]The Sporting News, January 1, 1958 p. 6

[2] Ibid., January 15, 1958, p. 16

[3] Ibid., June 11, 1958, p. 55

[4] Ibid., October 8, 1958, p. 10

[5] Ibid., May 21, 1958, p. 35

[6] Ibid., August 6, 1959, p. 36

Additional Sources

Retrosheet.org

Baseball-Reference.com

 

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Boguskie: Most Popular Nashville Vols Player Ever?

Sulphur Dell played host to many teams, mostly the Nashville Vols but also the Negro League Nashville Elite Giants, Nashville Cubs, and Nashville Stars. With games played there through 1963, fans are bound to have a favorite player or two.

In January of 2014 I wrote a blog entry that asked the hypothetical question, “The Nashville Vols Era: Did You Have a Favorite?” which led me to add an unscientific poll on http://www.sulphurdell.com with no parameters other than listing a few of my own. Buster Boguskie, Buddy Gilbert, Bobby Durnbaugh, Jack Harshman, Jim O’Toole, and Jim Maloney are the players that I receive the most questions about, so they were added to the poll but there was also an option for “write-ins” by clicking on the “Other” selection.

The poll ended at 7 PM tonight, and it’s time to share the results:

poll2

The overwhelming selection is Buster Boguskie. Always a fan favorite, Boguskie played for Nashville from 1947 through 1954 and due to his longevity and popularity was often called “The Mayor of Sulphur Dell”. Read a previous blog entry about Boguskie by clicking here.

A few observations about the poll:

I should have been more specific in asking the question about player popularity. “Who was your favorite player you ever saw play at Sulphur Dell?” would have disqualified some of the entries received. Hall of Famers Waite Hoyt and Kiki Cuyler played for the Vols in the 1920s and it is doubtful that anyone still living would have seen them play. The same goes for Boots Poffenberger (1940, 1941), Frank Duncan (1942), and probably Hal Jeffcoat (1946, 1947), and Butch McCord (Nashville Cubs 1947).

However, legitimate players named included Chico Alvarez, George Schmees, Bob Lennon, and Earl Averill, Jr.

Soon there will be a new poll to select players, owners, managers, coaches and others to a Sulphur Dell Hall of Fame. Be looking for it, and be sure to vote for your favorite. This poll will have selections by decade beginning in the 19th Century and will include a short biography to aid in learning about each nominee.

In the meantime, congratulations to the spirit of Buster Boguskie and his selection as “fan favorite”!

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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Poll Closing: Who was your favorite player at Sulphur Dell?

Last fall a poll was placed on http://www.sulphurdell.com for visitors to vote on their favorite player at Sulphur Dell. It was not meant to be scientific, but simply a poll for folks to choose a player based on whatever criteria they pleased. These choices are made simply by clicking on one of the names or in the “If Other…” option:

Poll

The poll is still there; however, this will close on Sunday, May 17, 2015 at 7 PM. The results will be published that evening.

Until then, vote early and vote often!

© 2015 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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The Nashville Vols Era: Did You Have a Favorite?

Most Nashville Vols memories written to me and posted on the “I remember…” page of sulphurdell.com were from the 1950s and early 1960s. Very few are from the 1940s, as fans from that era have either passed away or had no internet or email access. Those who did write to me usually had a favorite player or two, and the memories of those players are vivid.Vol_Player

Here are a few that I have received over the years. Take a look and see which players you remember:

“I remember players like second baseman Buster Boguskie; shortstop Hal Quick; catchers Smokey Burgess, Carl Sawatski, Rube Walker, and Roy Easterwood; right fielder Charley Workman; center fielders Charley Gilbert and Carmen Mauro; left fielders Elwood “Footsie” Grantham and Johnny Krukman; pitchers Pete Mallory, Ben Wade, Hal Jeffcoat and Bobo Holloman (but for the life of me I can’t remember who played 1st and 3rd during those times).” – Don Duke, Cadiz, Kentucky

“Once shortstop Bobby Durnbaugh turned on an inside pitch and hit a woman sitting behind third base. Bob Lennon had an exaggerated swing to hit pop flies over the right field wall. George Schmees played the right field dump like no one else.” – Glenn H. Griffin, Pelham, Alabama

“I remember Chico Alvarez in left one night, catching a drive while flat on his back on that bank. My memory of the ‘Dell’ is mainly about the Jay Hook-Jim O’Toole-Jim Maloney-Johnny Edwards era, all of whom had fair-to-good major league careers.” – Tony Bosworth, Nashville, Tennessee

“Our favorite players over time were John Mihalic, Buster Boguskie, Les Fleming, Tookie and Charlie Gilbert (along with their father/manager Larry Gilbert) and Carl Sawatski; high on the list was Hal Jeffcoat.” – Bill Dunaway, Huntsville, Alabama

“I remember the night that I believe it was Tookie Gilbert that hit it over the fence almost dead center field. It hit a bus in the street and came back in the park and he only got a triple!” – Richard Ramsey, Winter Haven, Florida

“…George Schmees, Eric Rodin, Buster Boguskie, Hugh Poland, and Larry Munson.” – Larry Neuhoff, San Diego, California

“I remember my parents took me to Sulphur Dell each year in the mid- to late- 50’s and maybe a few times in the early 60’s. The names that come to mind are Tommy Brown at third base, Bobby Durnbuagh at shortstop, Larry Taylor at second base, Haven Schmidt, and of course, the right fielder who roamed the “Dump” and his name was George Schmees. I always enjoyed going to the Dell and listening to Dick Shively and later Larry Munson do the play by play on the radio.” – Teddy Ray, Fayetteville, Tennessee

In those days fans seemed to take a deep personal interest in hometown team heroes. Who was your favorite?

© 2014 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

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