Glancing Back, and Remembering Billy O’Dell
Billy O’Dell was a talented left-handed pitcher who was an integral part of the superb pitching staff that helped propel the San Francisco Giants to the 1962 National League pennant.
Billy O’Dell was 19-14 for the National League champion San Francisco Giants in 1962.
O’Dell was a star at Clemson University when he was signed as a bonus baby by the Baltimore Orioles in 1954. He pitched in seven games for the Orioles that season, going 1-1 with a 2.76 ERA.
O’Dell’s career was temporarily derailed by two years of military service, and resumed in 1957 when he went 4-10 for the Orioles, primarily as a reliever, despite an excellent 2.69 earned run average. The next season he was 14-11 with a 2.97 ERA, and led all major league pitchers with a 2.69 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In 1959, his won-lost record slipped under .500 despite an ERA again under 3.00. Following that season, the Orioles traded O’Dell to the Giants for (along with pitcher Billy Loes) for Jackie Brandt, Gordon Jones and Roger McCardell.
With the Giants, O’Dell worked both as a starter and as a reliever, and was successful in both roles. He had a combined record of 13-18 in his first two seasons with the Giants, and in 1962 pitched primarily out of the Giants’ starting rotation that included Jack Sanford, Juan Marichal and Billy Pierce. As a starter, O’Dell had his best season in 1962, going 19-14 in 39 starts and achieving career highs by pitching 280.2 innings and striking out 195 batters. He followed up in 1964 with a 14-10 record, and then 8-7 in 1964, used primarily in short relief.
From 1964-1967, Billy O’Dell was used almost exclusively as a relief pitcher. His best season out of the bullpen came in 1965 with the Milwaukee Braves, when he went 10-6 with a 2.18 ERA and 18 saves.
Following the 1964 season, O’Dell was traded to the Milwaukee Braves for catcher Ed Bailey. As the Braves’ closer in 1965, he appeared in 62 games, finishing 42 games with 18 saves. He won 10 games and lost six, with a 2.18 ERA. In 1966, he pitched for both the Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates (traded for pitcher Don Schwall in June) and had a combined record of 5-5 with 10 saves and a 2.64 ERA. He was 5-6 for the Pirates in 1967 and retired after that season.
Twice an All-Star, O’Dell ended his 13-season career with a record of 105-100 and a 3.29 career ERA.
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