Lefty O'Doul and the Mounties

Lefty O'Doul and the Mounties

In 1956 big-time baseball arrived in Vancouver. That's not to say the game wasn't being played here prior – there's a few great local stories to be told, like the rise of the Japanese-Canadian Asahi ball club, or Babe Ruth playing at old Athletic Park. But before 1956 baseball in Vancouver was all semi-pro. The Mounties, part of the Pacific Coast League, were a step above.

The PCL brass were actually intent on becoming a "major league" and challenging Major League Baseball itself. That was until the Dodgers and Giants franchises moved west from New York to California, absorbing the market the PCL had previously controlled. Anyway, the left coast league didn't die, instead transforming into a feeder minor league affiliated with MLB. The PCL – and therefore the Mounties – became AAA ball in 1958. 

In the Mounties Vancouverites got a taste of what real ballplayers could do. The lovely Nat Bailey Stadium (then called Capilano Stadium) was the scene – as it still is for pro ball – one of the prettiest minor league parks around. The Mounties also had a former Major Leaguer at the helm, the well-loved Lefty O'Doul, a lifetime .349 hitter. Lefty was an affable, gregarious man that served as an unofficial ambassador for the game wherever he went. He was particularly popular in San Francisco, his home town, and in Japan, where he toured with the aforementioned Ruth.

Unfortunately, Lefty wasn't able to produce any significant results as manager (the team finished in 8th place), but he did have a stand-out moment at the plate. Yes, that's right, Lefty O'Doul made an appearance as player-manager. He stood in for a single at-bat – at age 59 – and hit a triple! It would be his first and only on-field appearance for the Mounties, and also his last professional at-bat. It's a great trivia tidbit. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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