This article was written by Bill Nowlin
Before Pedro Martinez arrived, scout Danny Doyle could laugh that he had signed every Red Sox Cy Young winner: Jim Lonborg and Roger Clemens. In 1988, Danny Doyle was named Midwest Scout of the Year by the Scout of the Year Foundation.
Danny Doyle was a catcher, called up to the major leagues right at the end of the 1943 season. He appeared in 13 games for the Red Sox, but then got a call-up of another sort and served in the United States Army Air Force in 1944 and 1945. With the onset of diabetes, and all the veteran Sox servicemen returning in 1946, he never saw duty again as a major-league ballplayer — though he signed a number of players as one of the most effective Red Sox scouts.
His given name was Howard James Doyle, the seventh of nine children born into a farming family. His father, Samuel A. Doyle, and mother, Agnes Mae (Ewell) Doyle, welcomed him to the family on January 24, 1917 in McLoud, Oklahoma. Danny went to the McLoud schools, then Dale High School in Dale, Oklahoma, and eventually to Oklahoma A&M; the institution changed its name to Oklahoma State in 1957. Doyle graduated in 1940 with a B.S. in Agronomy. He’d married before graduation, to Leora V. Hardeman, in 1938. And he’d signed with Red Sox scout Billy Evans while in college.1 Evans had seen him play against the University of Texas. “I hadn’t really given much thought to professional baseball,” Doyle said a few years later. “I had taken a course in scientific agriculture and intended to follow the plow.”2 Doyle admitted that Evans’s “financial inducements” convinced him.
He played basketball as well as baseball, for four years in high school and three at the university. The Oklahoma A&M basketball team was a powerful one and Doyle traveled with the team to Madison Square Garden for three consecutive seasons to play for the national championship. The closest they came was runner-up in 1938.3
He played semipro baseball for several years and, despite having started his professional career with the Centreville (Maryland) Red Sox in the Class-D Eastern Shore League in 1940 (he hit .294 in 81 games, with nine home runs), kept playing semipro ball after the season. In September 1940 he was on the Enid, Oklahoma, team that traveled to Wichita and won the 1940 National Semipro Baseball Congress championship, beating the Mount Pleasant, Texas, team by a score of 5-1. Enid had also won the 1937 title. The 1940 team traveled on to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and won the international title, too, beating Guayama in a seven-game series.
On the diamond, Doyle was a switch-hitter who threw right-handed. He grew to 195-200 pounds and one inch over six feet tall.
In 1941 he started the season in Class B with the Greensboro Red Sox (Piedmont League). He was the backup catcher there, but got into 34 games, hitting .256. On June 11 he was optioned to the Canton Terriers and left by train to join the Class-C Middle Atlantic League team. At the lower level, Doyle was able to hit for a better average – much better, hitting .336 in 71 games. After the season (Canton finished third), they sold three of their players to the Louisville Colonels. One of the three was Danny Doyle.
Doyle was sent to play in the Texas League in 1942, catching for the Oklahoma City Indians, hitting .259 in 111 games for a seventh-place team. In 1943 he caught for Louisville, where he hit .276 with nine homers in 76 games and earned a call-up to the big-league club in September. One of those home runs was hit on the day his son was born – August 24, 1943.
Doyle joined the Boston Red Sox and debuted in Washington on September 14. Manager Joe Cronin was glad to see him. After Doyle had been up for a week, Cronin said, “I really like the looks of Doyle…He’s the best catching prospect that’s come out of our farm system. He’s not a finished performer by any means, but he has the physical equipment and the savvy to assimilate the tricks of the trade. I think he’ll be okay.” He remarked on the way Doyle carried himself like Moe Berg, adding, “I wouldn”t be a bit surprised if he had a book.”4
Doyle’s first game saw him single (beating out a hit in front of the plate) in three at-bats and also draw a base on balls. His first run batted in was actually a pair. The Sox were down, 4-2, against the Athletics in Philadelphia in the top of the ninth. Two walks and a sacrifice put Red Sox runners on second and third, and Doyle singled to center to drive them both in. Boston lost the game, 5-4, in 11. He struck out in five of his seven at-bats in the next couple of games, but later had another two-RBI game on the 27th in a 6-3 loss to the Tigers. Not that many saw the game; attendance was 714, the smallest turnout since Tom Yawkey had bought the ball club in 1933. The team wasn’t inspiring fans late in a seventh-place season.
In all, Doyle appeared in 13 games; the Red Sox only won two of them (there was also a 3-3 tie). He played both halves of the October 3 doubleheader and drove in one run in each game, but Boston dropped them both, 4-2 and 3-1. He finished the season with a batting average of .209, with six RBIs and two runs scored to his credit. He walked seven times but struck out nine. He committed two errors in 56 chances (.964).
Oddly, Doyle played basketball again in December at Madison Square Garden as a guard for the Oklahoma Aggies. He was “the same Doyle who caught for Louisville and was with the Boston Red Sox. He’s a post-grad student,” explained the Associated Press.5
Doyle didn’t really have a chance to make the team in 1944, and as it happened he never returned to the majors. He was ticketed for military service and enlisted on April 7, 1944, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He served in the Army Air Force, becoming a buck sergeant. In part because of allergies, he never served overseas. As a late enlistee, Doyle wasn’t discharged as early as a lot of other players but he did get to spring training in time to have made the 1946 club. The Red Sox kept him in their system, but he spent his 1946 season with Louisville and Nashville, playing in 80 games with a combined .218 batting average.
In January 1947, he was named varsity basketball coach at Auburn University. He worked there for two seasons, but resigned in March 1949 to become a scout for the Boston Red Sox.6 He scouted for the Sox for almost 50 years, through 1992, except for a brief stretch in 1964-66, when he scouted for the Yankees.
Signing is far from the only work done by scouts, but Doyle’s signing credits as a scout are impressive. For the Yankees, he signed Alan Closter, but for the Red Sox he signed:
1952 – Duane Wilson
1955 – Lu Clinton
1957 – Merlin Nippert
1963 – Jim Lonborg
1963 – Allan Montreuil
1969 – Harold Hunter
1973 – Ted Cox
1977 – Roger LaFrancois
1978 – Steve Crawford
1983 – Ellis Burks
1983 – Mike Brumley
1983 – Roger Clemens
1987 – Jim Byrd
1987 – Bob Zupcic
1989 – Eric Wedge
He was helped in signing by the budgets made available by the Red Sox. Jim Lonborg went to Stanford and was planning to become a surgeon. Sports were secondary to him, but in the summer of 1963 he was pitching for a Baltimore Orioles-sponsored team in Wimmer, South Dakota. The Orioles had the inside track if he unexpectedly decided to turn pro. Doyle turned up in town and talked to Lonborg. “He spoke to me bluntly. He asked me what I was driving at – and what I wanted. I said I wanted to finish my education and become a surgeon. He offered me enough money – right there on the spot – to make me change my mind.”7
Scouts do make mistakes, too. In 1973, the Red Sox selected third baseman Lloyd Thompson with their #1 choice in the draft. But, unbeknownst to Doyle, Thompson had enrolled at the University of New Mexico, rendering him ineligible for the draft. There was no recourse or do-over, no appeal to give the Red Sox another choice. “We just lose out on the choice,” lamented scouting director Neil Mahoney. “We thought Danny Doyle knew the situation.”8
When the Sox drafted Roger Clemens, the player they ranked higher (taken by the Montreal Expos before it was Boston’s turn to pick) was right-hander Rich Stoll. Clemens had impressed Doyle with his focus: “Usually with arms that good [they] can’t throw strikes because they don’t concentrate hard enough.”9
There is a gap in Doyle’s tenure with the Sox between 1992 and 1999, but then he was brought on board again as a scout through 2002, and was on the books as “scouting consultant” in 2003 and 2004.
Danny lost his sight in his final years, and passed away on December 14, 2004, at Stillwater, Oklahoma. He is buried at Sunset Memorial Gardens, Stillwater.
Out of curiosity at one point, this author wondered if Danny Doyle was related to Denny Doyle, who had joined the Red Sox partway into the 1975 pennant-winning season, and hit a solid .310 in 310 at-bats. During the 1975 World Series, the two Doyles met for the first time, though Denny had already learned about Danny in an unusual fashion — receiving shipments of bats from Hillerich & Bradsby with “Danny Doyle” inscribed on them. “At the very beginning of my career with the Phillies, they would order my bats from the Louisville Slugger bat company and every so often I would get a shipment of his signature bats. They pulled the wrong guy. I thought it was a joke at first, then I started thinking…ah, no way, so I asked them and they said, ‘There’s a scout in the Red Sox organization.’ I was with the Phillies then. When I came to the Red Sox, I got a few chuckles out of it from a few people.”10
In fact, there was a strong physical resemblance between the two Doyles. Danny’s son, Tom, is only a few months older than Denny, and Tom said, “Denny and my dad look quite a lot alike — their complexions. When Denny got traded from the Angels back to Boston, the trainer insisted on calling him Danny. He’d say, ‘My name is Denny” “Yeah, right, Danny.” Tom’s sister, Dana Nelson, added, “I can’t tell you how much they look alike. There is a great similarity there. Denny Doyle could be my uncle Bill’s son; they look so much alike it’s uncanny.”11
Knowing that both families come out of Kentucky, Dana had done some genealogical research back to 1803 but hadn’t determined any connection. Denny Doyle was born in Glasgow, and Danny’s father was born in Mt. Sterling — but the two communities are 169 miles apart. At their first meeting back in 1975, Dana laughs, “Denny Doyle used to call my mom ‘Mom’ when they met in Boston.” Denny and Danny talked more when they met in 2001 at the celebrations held in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Red Sox. Danny himself added, “We are related, I’m sure. At that last meeting, we rode to the park and back on the bus. It turns out in the conversation, we’re pretty sure that we are related. We come from Ireland; he has some relatives that come from about the same places ours did, but I don’t have any definite information. He thinks we are related and I do, too. I went back to Ireland and visited some of the places that my people come from, and kissed the Blarney stone and all that stuff.”12
Denny, for his part, understood that they may never know what relationship there might be. “It’s a stretch at this point, a dead end. It’s the type of story you want, but I don’t like to throw anything out there unless it’s for sure.” Dana Nelson said, “I think athletic ability runs in the genes. I think there’s great potential there for some distant relationship.”
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Doyle’s player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, Rod Nelson of SABR’s Scouts Committee, and the SABR Minor Leagues Database, accessed online at Baseball-Reference.com.
1 American League questionnaire in Doyle’s file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
2 John Drohan, “Doyle Reminds Cronin of Berg,” Boston Traveler, September 22, 1943: 23.
5 H. Fullerton Jr., Associated Press, “Sports Roundup,” Lexington (Kentucky) Leader, December 14, 1943: 5. Not surprisingly, eligibility rules were later adjusted.
6 Associated Press, “Danny Doyle Resigns Auburn Post,” Atlanta Constitution, March 10, 1949: 21.
7 Roger Birtwell, “Wanted To Become Surgeon,” Boston Globe, July 30, 1967: 43.
8 “Scouting Goof Costly to Bosox in Draft,” Hartford Courant, January 12, 1973: 51.
9 Bob Duffy,” Roger Clemens, He Gets His Message…Across Home Plate,” Boston Globe, September 9, 1983: 39.
10 Author interview with Denny Doyle, October 9, 2002.
11 Author interviews with Tom Doyle and Dana Nelson, October 2002 (date not recorded).
12 Author interview with Danny Doyle, also on October 9, 2002.