Jim O’Toole: Reds’ ace of the early ’60s


Jim O’Toole  won 19 games for the 1961 pennant-winning Reds, and 69 from ’61-64 before injuries kept him just below 100 career wins. O’Toole died last  week at 78.

He was one of the aces of the Reds’ only pennant-winner between 1940 and 1970, and he made two starts in the Yankees’ five-game Series triumph, both losses. It was hardly O’Toole’s fault — the Reds didn’t score in either one.

O’Toole lost twice to Whitey Ford: 2-0, in Game 1 (O’Toole threw a six-hitter but two of them were Elston Howard and Moose Skowron homers) and 7-0 in Game 4 (he allowed two runs and was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the fifth).

O’Toole started the ’63 All-Star Game, his only appearance, but he had a stretch of years that were worthy — 19-9 with a 3.10 ERA in 252.2 innings in ’61; 16-13 with a 3.50 ERA in 251.2 innings in ’62; 17-14 with a 2.88 ERA and five shutouts in 234.2 innings in ’63; and 17-7 with a 2.66 ERA in 220 innings in ’64.

In that four-year span, O’Toole was 69-43 with a 3.05 ERA, 14 shutouts, 43 complete games and OPS againsts of .653, .653, .614 and .591.

But he fell to 3-10 with a 5.92 ERA in ’65 and his final big-league season was ’67, his only one of nine (he made a single start in ’58) not with the Reds but with his hometown Chicago White Sox.

O’Toole was still trying to return to the majors in 1969, going to spring training with the Seattle Pilots of Jim Bouton’s Ball Four. Bouton made the team, O’Toole did not.

There’s a scene early in the book where Bouton says they talked of the riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention (Bouton empathizing with the protesters; O’Toole, whose father was a Chicago policeman, not so much) and again at the end, when Bouton reflects on still being a major leaguer.

“Jim O’Toole and I started out even in the spring,” wrote Bouton. “He wound up with the Ross Eversoles and I with a new lease on life. And as I daydreamed of being fireman of the year in 1970 I wondered what the dreams of Jim O’Toole are like these days. Then I thought, would I ever do that? When it’s over for me, would I be hanging on with Ross Eversoles? I went down deep and the answer I came up with was yes. Yes I would. You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around the whole time.”

Two anecdotes from O’Toole’s fine bio at sabr.org should be retold (from the Reds’ season preview blog, where O’Toole’s card was featured):

  • O’Toole had 11 children with wife Betty. “In 1967 and 1970 we did not have a child,” Betty said according to sabr.org. “Jim told people he had pneumonia those years.”
  • The two were married in Chicago in July of 1960, and O’Toole pitched the day after the wedding, if not well. According to sabr.org, O’Toole tried to get ejected from the game in the first inning by arguing with home-plate ump Jocko Conlon.  Said Conlon, according to sabr.org: “I know you got married last night and want to get thrown out. But if we all have to suffer in this heat, you do too. I’m not throwing you out, now get your ass back out there and pitch.” The Cubs did it for Conlon, knocking O’Toole out in the fifth. Said manager Fred Hutchinson, who did far more to sponsor O’Toole’s career than Mayo Smith, the previous Reds manager:  “I didn’t set his wedding date.”

Career numbers: 98-84, 3.57 ERA, 1,615.1 innings, 1,545 hits, 546 walks, 1,039 strikeouts, 58 complete games, 18 shutouts, 4 saves, 106 ERA+, .675 OPS against, 21.4 WAR (19.4 of it accumulated during his four-year peak), a 10th-place finish in the ’61 MVP voting.


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2 Responses to Jim O’Toole: Reds’ ace of the early ’60s

  1. Pingback: Springtime Mariners nametags – Playin' in the Dirt

  2. Pingback: When the bottom drops out – Playin' in the Dirt

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