With rare exception, anyone with the dream of playing professional baseball is going to have to work their butts off and hope they get noticed. Even if they are lucky enough to get signed or drafted, that’s just the start of the journey to the major leagues. The vast majority don’t make it but there are some who do, including those who toil year after year to make it to that top rung on the ladder. A great example of that was Paul Doyle, who finally toed a big league rubber after spending a decade in the minor leagues.
Doyle was born in Philadelphia in 1939 but spent most of his youth in Ohio. A left-handed pitcher, he was a high school star but at 5’11” and 170 pounds didn’t garner a lot of attention from the pros. He signed his first contract in 1959 with the Detroit Tigers’ organization but had a 13.09 ERA in five appearances for their New York Penn League team, walking 19 batters in just 11 innings.
The next season he latched on with the New York Yankees and pitched much better, accumulating 10 wins for their Class C team. Unfortunately, he just wasn’t a hot prospect and during the ensuing years he also pitched in the systems of the San Francisco Giants and Houston Astros. He was typically solid but rarely spectacular, making it easier for the big league team to skip over him when searching for help from the farm.
Finally, in the winter of 1969 he received his first big break, as the Astros traded him to the Atlanta Braves for anemic hitting backup outfielder, Sandy Valdespino. Doyle started 1969 in the minors but was called up in late May at the age of 29. He became an important cog in the bullpen of the Braves, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and four saves in 36 relief appearances as their primary lefty.
The team won 93 games that year and played the Amazin’ New York Mets in the NLCS. Although they lost the series, Doyle had a career highlight, striking out the side (Ed Kranepool, Jerry Koosman and Cleon Jones) in his lone inning of work.
Despite his good results, Doyle was sold that offseason to the California Angels. He was never as effective again, posting a 5.33 ERA with California and the San Diego Padres in 1970 and then throwing 2.1 scoreless innings for the 1972 Angels. His struggles coincided with shoulder trouble which ultimately ended his career following a May 2, 1972 appearance against the New York Yankees.
In total, Doyle made 87 career major league appearances—all out of the bullpen. He was a combined 5-3 with a 3.79 ERA and 11 saves. In his 12 minor league seasons he was 83-94 with a 3.82 ERA, 13 shutouts and 12 saves. More information about his career statistics is available at BaseballReference.com.
After baseball, Doyle went into business with a brother and retired to California where he still lives. An excellent biography giving even more detail about his life and career is available here.
Paul Doyle Interview:
How did you come to be signed by the Tigers in 1959?: Jim Campbell was from my home town of Huron, Ohio. He was the farm director at that time for the Tigers. My high school baseball coach grew up with Jim. He went on to be the general manager of the Detroit Tigers later.
What type of pitches did you throw, and which was your best pitch?: Fastball. I was very tough on left-handed hitters.
How were you told you had been traded by the Astros to the Braves?: I was advised by a letter from the Braves that they acquired me.
Who was the toughest hitter you ever faced?: Every hitter is tough when you aren't throwing well. As a relief pitcher, you don't pitch too often to the same hitters as you do as a starter. Pete Rose was an easy out. He'd yell at you if you got him out. *Writer’s note- Rose was hitless in three career at-bats against Doyle.
Who was the best catcher you ever worked with?: 1964 in the Texas League, my catcher was Randy Hundley. He signed for $100,000, and the Giants traded him after that season to the Chicago Cubs. He was their main catcher for 10 plus years.
Do you have a favorite moment from your playing career?: My favorite moment was when I was called up to the big leagues in 1969. I should have gotten the chance six years earlier. My first game I was called in relief. I did my warm up pitches and looked over at the third base dugout. Who was there? "The St. Louis Cardinals." You know then that you reached the top.
Who was your favorite coach or manager?: I liked Del Rice- Angels.
If you could do anything differently about your career, what would that be?: I was a power pitcher. I would have worked on off-speed pitches.
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