Lefty O’Doul Chapter History
SABR member Gene Sunnen founded the Lefty O’Doul Chapter in 1983. The first chapter meeting was held that year at the Oakland Coliseum before the Oakland A’s faced the San Francisco Giants in the preseason Bay Bridge Series. Speakers included Jules Tygiel, who had just published “Baseball’s Great Experiment”; Curt Flood, who spoke about his pending lawsuit on Major League Baseball’s reserve clause; and Richard Zitrin, who talked about the origins of fantasy baseball.
The chapter grew rapidly and in 1985, it hosted the SABR National Convention in Oakland. This was the first time the convention was held at a hotel instead of at a college campus. More than 300 people attended.
The chapter hosted a second national convention in 1998 in San Mateo. Planners for that event included Barry Mednick, Paul Hirsch, Jim Freeman, Dick Dobbins, Bernie Esser, Doug McWilliams, Pat O’Connell, Mike Hazen, Darryl Brock and Pete McPhail.
Sunnen continued to serve as chapter president from 1983 to 1988 until he left to become general manager of the minor league Watertown Pirates in upstate New York.
Barry Mednick became the second chapter president. In addition to chairing the 1998 convention effort, he is also remembered for bringing sportswriter Leonard Koppett into the chapter. Koppett was a frequent guest and speaker.
From 1995-1999, Chris Rogers was the Lefty O’Doul Chapter president. As the chapter continued to grow, Chris organized an average of four meetings a year. Events included a 100th birthday party for Babe Ruth, with speakers including Leonard Koppett, Dino Restelli and Gino Cimoli. The chapter hosted a Jackie Robinson symposium, and partnered with the NorCal chapter of the MLB Alumni Association to host four PCL Hall of Fame events. The chapter also cohosted MLB Alumni Golf tournaments in Millbrae with over 30 players including Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Gaylord Perry, Will Mays, Willie McCovey and Charlie Silvera.
Chris instituted the Lefy O’Doul and Joltin Joe Awards given for Chapter and Bay Area baseball service. Awardees included Gene Sunnen, Bill Weiss, Barry Mednick, Dick Dobbins, and Doug McWilliams, The award has also been given to Paul Hirsch, Mark Macrae , Doug McWilliams and Pete MacPhail .
Paul Hirsch served as the chapter’s fourth president from 2001 to 2007. Under his leadership, the chapter held winter and summer meetings every year. A highlight was the Pacific Coast League heritage meeting held at the Double Play Restaurant in San Francisco. More than 100 members met and heard from former players about life in the PCL before the Dodgers and Giants moved west. Hirsch stepped down upon election to the national organization’s board of directors in 2007.
Marlene Vogelsang took on chapter leadership responsibilities in 2007.
The Lefty O’Doul Chapter currently has approximately 300 members. The chapter continues to host a variety of activities, including baseball games, ballpark tours and baseball author talks. The chapter celebrated the 2007 All-Star Game in San Francisco with a meeting at Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant, where raffle prizes included a pair of tickets to the Home Run Derby.
The chapter frequently partners with the Pacific Coast League Historical Society and has made the PCL reunion an annual tradition. A visit to “The Art of Baseball” exhibit at the George Krevsky Art Gallery has also become an annual outing. The chapter looks forward to working with the Hispanic Heritage Baseball Museum in the near future. Our annual SABR Day events have included AT&T Ballpark tours, videoconferenes with the Baseball Hall of Fame; chapter research reports, guest speakers including local broadcasters, and in 2016, the showing of the documentary “ Hano”, with filmmaker Jon Leonoudakis in attendance to talk about making the film.
You can join the chapter by joining SABR, or get more involved by coming to an event or contacting Marlene Vogelsang.