This article was written by Thomas Van Hyning
Paul Doyle toiled in the minor-leagues for a decade before making his major league debut for the Atlanta Braves on May 28, 1969. He helped Atlanta win the 1969 National League West Division. Doyle’s stellar relief pitching for the 1969-70 Ponce Lions was a factor in that team winning the Puerto Rico Winter League title. Doyle also pitched for the California Angels and San Diego Padres, but most of his 14-year professional baseball career was spent in the minors.1 The 5-foot-11 Doyle played at 170 to 175 pounds.
Theodore Patrick Doyle and Agnes Regina McCloskey had been married for 14 years when Agnes gave birth to Paul Sinnott Doyle, their ninth child, on October 2, 1939, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Paul’s older siblings included two brothers — Ted and Mike —and six sisters — Betty, Patricia, Dolly, Gerri, Agnes and Judy. John was the baby. Doyle’s middle name — Sinnott — was the maiden name of his Irish grandmother, Ann. The family moved to Huron, Ohio, after World War II.
Doyle’s three favorite MLB players growing up in Huron were Larry Doby of the 1948 World Series champion Cleveland Indians, Mickey Mantle, and Warren Spahn. He lettered in football, basketball, and baseball at Huron High School, and received all-state honors in baseball 1958. A year later he signed his first pro baseball contract with the Detroit Tigers to pitch for the Erie Sailors in the Class D New York-Penn League. Doyle made $225 a month, or $450 for the two months with Erie, but there was no signing bonus.
Doyle visited a sister in Pasadena, California, in fall 1959, when he joined an amateur baseball team sponsored by the New York Yankees. Tufie Hashem, a Yankee scout, liked his stuff, and signed him for 1960 for a $1,000 bonus and $400 monthly salary.2 Doyle worked out in spring training with the Yankees Class A and AA teams but pitched the 1960 season with the Class C Modesto Reds in the six-team California League. His 10 wins were third-best on the team. Doyle was 10-9 with a 4.84 ERA for the fifth-place Reds. He got $3 per day in meal money. After splitting a $6 per night hotel room with a roommate, he saved $1,100, but that was including his $1,000 bonus.
The 1960 Modesto Reds’ 20 active players traveled to away games in Reno, Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton, and Visalia, in three station wagons. Doyle befriended teammates Ike Futch, a second baseman; Roger Repoz, an outfielder; and pitcher Ralph Scorca. Futch and Repoz became lifelong friends. Scorca was one of many players the Yankees signed from New Jersey and New York. He worked for Marsh & McLennan Companies in Tower 1 of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.”3 “He went to work one day and never came home,” Doyle said. The San Francisco Giants drafted Doyle from the Yankees on November 28, 1960. “A major league team could draft a minor leaguer for $12,500 and return him for half that amount if they didn’t keep him,” Doyle said. “San Francisco didn’t see much turnover on their major league roster from 1962 to 1965. So players didn’t change and they lost interest.”
Doyle pitched in the Giants’ minor league system from 1961 to 65, starting with the Springfield Giants in the Class A Eastern League. Doyle’s 12-4 record was the league’s best winning percentage. He started 21 of his 27 games with a 3.09 ERA for the league champions managed by Andy Gilbert.4 “Andy was the best manager I ever played for,” Doyle said. “Ken Bracey was my roommate and I met up with Coco Laboy and Felix Maldonado eight years later in Puerto Rico.” Ken Bracey pitched in the Giants’ farm system from 1957 to 1964;5 Maldonado made it to AAA; Laboy made it to the majors with the 1969 expansion Montreal Expos.
The El Paso Sun Kings, in the Class AA Texas League, were Doyle’s team from 1962 to 64. His 1962 season was cut short due to a commitment with the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves. He started 14 times and relieved in 10 others but saw his ERA double to 6.40, with more walks (70) than strikeouts (54) in 83 innings, and a 4-5 record. The 1962 Sun Kings won the regular season title (80-60) but lost to the fourth-place Austin Senators in the post-season; the 1963 Sun Kings finished fourth and fell to the first-place San Antonio Bullets, three games to two, in the post-season. Doyle called El Paso’s home stadium “a hitter’s paradise” and the team batted .284 with 207 homers. Doyle struck out 165 batters in 168 innings, compiling an 11-10 mark as a starter and reliever. “It was tough to pitch there,” he said. “The air was light and blew toward left field. The ground was very hard. Very few pitchers had complete games.” Doyle said George Genovese, his manager in 1962 and 1963, was “a good manager and easy to be around.”6 Doyle, married by this time to Sue Doyle, recalled traveling through Houston after the 1963 minor league post-season, and taking in a Houston Colt 45s home game. There he saw Joe Morgan, Sonny Jackson, Rusty Staub and Jim Wynn in uniform, players he had pitched against in 1962 or 1963. He realized, then, how challenging his path to the majors was, versus players in other organizations.
Doyle’s third year with El Paso was his only pro season with over 200 innings pitched (207). He started 27 of his 30 games, fanned 198, walked 110, and finished with an 11-15 mark and a 3.74 ERA. The fourth-place Sun Kings fell to San Antonio — the regular and post-season champs — three games-to-one in the semis. Second baseman Joe Morgan was league MVP. “I pitched to Morgan that year,” Doyle said. “I never had trouble with left-handed hitters.” He said the bus trips were long and exhausting bus trips—“El Paso to Tulsa took 18 hours”—and the hotels were OK. Dave Garcia, the 1964 El Paso manager, was “a very nice man and good manager,” Doyle said. “He spoke Spanish.”7
The Giants sent Doyle back to Springfield in 1965, and he went 9-13 with a 3.52 ERA with 26 starts and one relief appearance. He had 121 strikeouts in 156 innings. “I lost my spirit being sent back to Springfield that year,” Doyle said. “I expected to get released. I was notified by mail.” The Houston Astros picked up Doyle (he had pitched well against Houston farm teams) and kept him at Class AA from 1966 to 68. He pitched at Amarillo the first two seasons, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth. Doyle’s control improved those three seasons, with his walks decreasing from 82 to 59 to 47 while striking out 435 batters in 435 innings. “In those days, they didn’t have speed guns,” Doyle said. “I struck out one batter per inning most of my career and probably threw mid- to upper 90s at times.”
Houston traded Doyle to Atlanta for Sandy Valdespino on December 15, 1968. Paul Richards, Atlanta’s general manager, took a special interest in Doyle during spring training in 1969 and taught the lefty how to throw a slider. “Had I learned that pitch when I first started, I would have been a much better pitcher,” Doyle said. He was optioned to Class AAA Richmond at the end of spring training, and came through with two saves, 28 strikeouts and 14 walks in 30 innings. “(Richmond manager) Mickey Vernon was a very nice man — a great hitter in his playing days,” Doyle said. “He used me as a closer and informed me that I was called up to the big leagues.” Doyle’s Atlanta debut was an auspicious one — May 28, 1969, against the defending National League champion St. Louis Cardinals.
“I came in the game in the eighth and looked in the third base dugout,” Doyle said. “Who was there? The St. Louis Cardinals … a long way from pitching high school in Huron, Ohio.” Doyle retired Julian Javier, Curt Flood and Joe Torre, in order. He got Tim McCarver and Jim Hicks to start the ninth, but Mike Shannon singled before Doyle picked him off first. Jim Fregosi, Doyle’s 1969-70 Winter League manager and teammate the following season, said “Doyle was tough on left-handed hitters and (had) the best move to first base of any left-handed pitcher I have ever seen!”
Doyle — who roomed with Ken Johnson, Gary Neibauer and Phil Niekro, in 1969 — had four saves for Atlanta, significant since the 93-69 Braves won their division by just three games over San Francisco. He finished 2-0 with 25 strikeouts, 16 walks and a 2.08 ERA over 39 innings in 36 games. A Doyle highlight was an NBC Game of the Week, Pittsburgh at Atlanta, when he met Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek. He was a vital cog in the Braves bullpen that could get Willie Stargell, Billy Williams and other tough lefty hitters out. “I was the only lefty in the pen,” Doyle said. “Cecil Upshaw was the closer but he threw sidearm and had trouble with lefties.” Neibauer and Claude Raymond were other members of the pen. George Stone, a lefty, started more times (20) than he relieved (16). Atlanta did acquire Hoyt Wilhelm from the California Angels down the stretch for a player to be named later.”
Atlanta, led by Hank Aaron, lost to the 1969 Miracle Mets in the National League Championship Series. Doyle relieved Ron Reed in the second inning of Game Two with the Mets ahead 4-0. He struck out Ken Boswell to end the frame, then fanned Ed Kranepool in the home third before Jerry Grote reached first on an Orlando Cepeda error. Bud Harrelson doubled to left to score Grote. Jerry Koosman struck out, and Tommie Agee got an intentional walk. Wayne Garrett’s RBI-single ended Doyle’s post-season: 1 inning, 2 hits, 2 unearned runs, 3 strikeouts, 1 walk. “That crowd in New York (50,270) was the biggest I ever pitched in front of,” Doyle said. “The Mets had young pitchers, but in the playoffs, they could do no wrong.”
Doyle received a letter from the California Angels in the off-season informing him that he was their property, the player to be named later in the November 26, 1969 Hoyt Wilhelm trade. The Angels sent Doyle to Ponce, Puerto Rico, to reinforce the Ponce Lions, managed by Jim Fregosi. Doyle pitched six regular season games, plus the post-season, which included the 1970 Caribbean Series between the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and host Venezuela. He struck out Santurce’s Tony Perez to help Ponce win the Puerto Rico league finals. “Doyle did a great job in Ponce,” Fregosi said. Doyle said Ponce needed a lefty, and he made $1,700 a month there — compared to the $10,000 major league minimum salary for six months. Doyle reminisced about the big celebration in Ponce; the trip to Caracas, with limos taking the team to the hotel, and a body guard who looked like singer Tom Jones.8
Doyle’s 1970 pre-season began in Palm Springs, at the Gene Autry Hotel, where “many Hollywood stars visited,” said Doyle. He was in great baseball shape post-Caribbean Series, and got the first of his five Angels saves on April 11, a 6–3 win at Kansas City, preserving Andy Messersmith’s victory. Doyle won on April 20 against Milwaukee, and got a second win May 24 at Minnesota. The 27-14 Angels were in a tight American League West race with the 26-12 Twins but faltered that summer to finish third behind Minnesota and Oakland. Doyle was 3-1 with a 5.14 ERA when the Angels sold him to San Diego on August 25. “I was having arm problems,” Doyle said. Doyle saved two games for the Padres but had a 0-2 mark with a 6.43 ERA. He was returned to the Angels. The 1971 Salt Lake City Angels were Doyle’s final minor-league team. He posted 10 saves, a 4-3 record, a 3.63 ERA, and 54 strikeouts in 57 innings for the Pacific Coast League champs, winners over the Tacoma Cubs, three games to one in the finals. Doyle made the 1972 California Angels despite a left shoulder “that felt like glass.” He hurt the shoulder that spring against San Francisco and relied on cortisone shots and other remedies — including some horse liniment given to him by Nolan Ryan. “He said they use it on horses who have muscle break down(s),” Doyle said. “It didn’t work.” Doyle had confrontations with Tom Morgan, his 1972 pitching coach. He rested during the brief MLB players strike and pitched in two regular season games, the final one at Yankee Stadium on May 2, 1972.9 “They (Angels) sent me home in June 1972,” noted Doyle. “I couldn’t even drive a car or lift my arm, which ended my career.”
Doyle and one of his brothers worked in the truck brake business for many years. Paul and Sue Doyle still reside in Huntington Beach, California. They have three children — sons Scott and Craig and daughter Kelly — and five lovely grandchildren — Jake, Brennan, Joshua, Ella and Liam. “I was fortunate to play 14 years,” Doyle said. “I could have played in the big leagues sooner and lasted longer, but life happens.”
With special thanks to Sue Doyle, Ike Futch, Roger Repoz and Jim Fregosi.
Interviews and correspondence
E-mails, mail correspondence and phone conversations with Paul Doyle, June–August 2013.
E-mails and phone conversations with Ike Futch and Roger Repoz, June-July 2013.
Phone conversations and e-mail correspondence with Ellis “Cot” Deal, 2011 and 2012.
Mail correspondence with Jim Fregosi, July 2013.
Personal interview with Manny Mota before a Los Angeles Dodgers spring training game, Vero Beach, Florida, March 1993.
Personal interview with Tony Perez before a Cincinnati Reds spring training game, Tampa, Florida, March 1993.
Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff (editors), Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Third Edition, Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, 2007.
Paloviejo en los Deportes. Statistical Summary of the 1969-70 Puerto Rico Baseball Season, Camuy, Puerto Rico: Barceló Marques & Co., October 1970.
Rafael Costas, Enciclopedia Beisbol Ponce Leones, 1938-1987. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic: Editora Corripio, 1989.
Thomas E. Van Hyning, Puerto Rico’s Winter League: A History of Major League Baseball’s Launching Pad. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 1995.
Thomas E. Van Hyning, The Santurce Crabbers: Sixty Seasons of Puerto Rican Winter League Baseball. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 1999.
Magazine, newsletter, newspaper and other articles/blogs
Ken Gurnick.Dodgers promote long-time front office personnel, MLB.com, November 27, 2012.
Rory Costello, Jay Johnstone SABR Bio.
SABR Baseball Records Committee Newsletter, “Roger Repoz and Grounding Into Double Plays,” August 2013.
Baseball Almanac.com/box scores
Marsh & McLennan Companies web site.
1 Paul Doyle written responses, July 2013, and phone conversations, June-July 2013. Paul enjoyed the camaraderie with minor league teammates, e.g., Ike Futch and Roger Repoz prior to his May 28, 1969 MLB debut with Atlanta.
2 Tufie Hashem scouted for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees and California Angels. He signed Roy White for the Yankees and Rudy May and Jay Johnstone for the Angels. Rory Costello mentioned Tufie Hashem in his SABR bio of Jay Johnstone.
3Marsh & McLennan Companies lost 295 employees and 63 contractors on floors 93-99 of the World Trade Center, after the first plane hit Tower 1, on September 11, 2001. Paul Doyle mentioned this unfortunate event during a phone conversation with the author on June 15, 2013. Doyle was at a 2002 sports banquet in Los Angeles with Al Downing. They talked about their days in the Yankee farm system. Doyle later discovered that Ralph Scorca perished in the September 11, 2001 attacks.
4 Andy Gilbert finished his managing career in the minors with 2,009 wins, 10th most in minor league history.
5 Ken Bracey was a scout and special assistant with the San Diego Padres (1969 – 2005) and (through 2013) with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
6 George Genovese, fluent in Spanish, became a full-time scout — covering Southern California — for San Francisco, 1964-1995. Genovese signed Bobby Bonds, Garry Maddox, Gary Matthews, Dave Kingman, Randy Moffitt, Chili Davis, George Foster, Matt Williams, Jack Clark and others.
7Dave Garcia managed Hoyt Wilhelm (1948), Bill White (1954) and Orlando Cepeda (1955) in the minors for the Giants. Garcia, per Manny Mota, “Taught me how to speak English — a father figure to me.”
8Paul Doyle won Game Four of the 1970 Caribbean Series (in relief), a 5-4 victory over Venezuela. Wayne Simpson, Clyde Wright, Vern Geishert, and Mike Cuellar were the Ponce starters. Tony Perez reinforced Ponce and played third base. Sandy Alomar Sr., played second base. Pat Corrales caught and Bernie Carbo played the OF. Ponce finished second, at 4-4, behind Venezuela (7-1), and ahead of the Dominican Republic (1-7), in the round robin.
9Doyle’s minor-league totals in 12 seasons: 83 wins, 94 losses, 3.82 ERA, 345 games, 182 games started, 12 saves, 1,144 innings pitched, 1,364 hits, 759 runs, 613 earned runs 105 homers allowed, 1,055 strikeouts, 781 walks, 9 hit batters, 1 balk; major-league totals, three seasons: 5 wins, 3 losses, 3.79 ERA, 87 games, 11 saves, 90.1 innings pitched, 85 hits, 39 runs, 38 earned runs, 11 homers allowed, 65 strikeouts, 46 walks, 1 hit batter, 3 balks, 5 wild pitches; Puerto Rico Winter League and Caribbean Series totals: 3 wins, 0 losses, 3.80 ERA, 14 games, 23.2 innings pitched, 10 runs, 10 earned runs, 21 strikeouts, 16 walks.