When Chris Berman started assigning nicknames to players while doing SportsCenter highlights in the 1980’s, some really stood out. Riders of the Storm Davis, Bert Be Home Blyleven and Chuck my bags please Porter were three of my favorites.
In my opinion, the greatest was Oddibe Young Again McDowell.
He had the perfect baseball name. And I think it is safe to say he was the greatest player ever named Oddibe.
I always wished he was a bigger star. He was a fine player who looked like he was going to burst into stardom at any moment. Instead he was a player who had some nice years and was a fan favorite and symbol of mid 1980’s baseball.
McDowell was born in Florida and went to college at the baseball powerhouse of Arizona State University. He also played on the 1984 Olympic Baseball team in Los Angeles and won the Golden Spikes Award as the best amateur player in America.
The Rangers used the 12th pick in the 1984 draft to snag McDowell. That was a strange draft that saw some players who had good if not spectacular careers, like Billy Swift, Jay Bell, Shane Mack and Terry Mulholland, and some major disappointments like Shawn Abner, Pat Pacillo and Drew Hall. Mark McGwire was the lone superstar from that first round. (FYI, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were picked in the second round.)
McDowell only played 31 games in the minors before he found his way onto the Rangers roster in 1985. The 22 year old had power (18 homers in 111 games) speed (25 stolen bases) and a flair for the dramatic. That July he became the first Rangers player ever to hit for the cycle.
In 1986, he kept hitting for power and stealing bases and saw his average and OPS go up. That team looked like a terrific squad was forming in Texas, and one with no shortage of fun players to root for. The 87 win team fell short of the Angels but had lots of hope for the future.
McDowell was the spark plug of a lineup that featured 20 year old Ruben Sierra, 22 year old slugger Pete Incaviglia, 24 year old Steve Buechele at third, poor man’s Mattingly Pete O’Brien at first, veteran slugger Larry Parrish at DH, young arms in Bobby Witt, Jose Guzman and Ed Correa in the rotation, reliable Greg Harris leading Mitch Williams and Jeff Russell in the pen and veteran Charlie Hough eating the innings.
With the Angels and the Royals having age catch up with them, the Rangers looked like the kind of squad that would be poised to take the 1987 AL West.
The Twins won the 1987 West with fewer wins than the Rangers had in 1986. And of course Minnesota went on to take advantage of the strange home field rules to win the World Series.
The Rangers disappointed with an 87 loss season. McDowell’s production was down in virtually every offensive category. Things did not look better in 1988 as injuries limited him to 120 games and he was in single digit homers for the first time in his career and his OPS fell to the unfortunate number of .666.
That off season, he was dealt to Cleveland in the trade that sent Julio Franco to Texas. He lasted only 69 games with the Indians before being traded to Atlanta.
As a Brave, he had a revival. He batted .304 in 76 games and posted a solid .836 OPS for the rest of 1989 and the 27 year old looked like he found a home in Atlanta. But another disappointing season in 1990 ended his time in Atlanta. By the time the Braves were winning the 1991 pennant, McDowell was in the Orioles system.
Injuries and slumps kept him out of the majors as he tried comebacks with the Angels and the Rangers between 1992 and 1994. Finally, after a solid stint in AAA, McDowell was back in Arlington as a member of the Rangers.
On May 13, 1994, he reached base 4 times, scoring twice in the Rangers 11-7 win over the White Sox. He wound up having 10 multihit games for the Rangers that year and seemed to relish being back with the team that first signed him.
He was on the club through August when the strike wiped out the season with the Rangers in first place of a weak AL West.
After another comeback attempt failed with the Yankees, he retired.
A member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, McDowell turned to high school coaching where his players can look up to him as a man who achieved success on the University level, in the Olympics and in the majors.
And thanks to Chris Berman, some of us will never forget that name.