Tom Dodd (Benson, 1976)

Tom DoddTom Dodd

Tom Dodd (Benson, 1976)

December 2023 ~

It’s not like the claim Tom Dodd (Benson, 1976) is making is so far-fetched it needs to be verified. Seriously, if a guy’s goal is hyperbole and he’s taking credit for this particular achievement, he may need to find a new hobby.

But Dodd’s invitation to fact check what he’s saying is extended so enthusiastically it’s hard to turn him down. So, into the Google machine go the words “Worst trades in New York Yankees history.” And one second later there it is at the very top of “about 3,270,000 results,” a link to “15 worst trades in New York Yankee history.”

And after a quick scroll to the dark depths of that numbered list, there’s the cold, hard fact that was never really in question…

“Worst Trade No. 1. Trading Fred McGriff: First baseman Fred McGriff hit 493 career home runs. Even though he was originally drafted by the Yankees, none came while wearing their uniform. New York traded McGriff along with a few other players to the Toronto Blue Jays in December of 1982 for Tom Dodd and Dale Murray.”

It soon becomes clear that the above is the gentle summary of the Yankees’ most, well, questionable trades. Because directly below the first search result is another link leading to on another list where, again at No. 1, is this headline:

“Dec. 9, 1982: Yankees Trade Future Hall of Famer Fred McGriff to Toronto for 2 People Named (emphasis added) Dale Murray, Tom Dodd.”

This particular list-maker’s summary leads with, “Now that Fred McGriff is officially a Hall of Famer, this trade goes from ‘One of the Worst Ever’ to ‘Definitely the Yankees’ Worst Ever’.”

Umm. Ouch?

Well, as it turns out, not if you’re the one of those “2 people” named Tom Dodd and it’s 40 years later and that trade, infamous as it was/is, represented just another kind of memorable event in a mostly fondly-remembered baseball career that did, after all, include him not only being wanted by the New York Freaking Yankees but also saw him get to spend about a fortnight, and hit a dinger, in “The Show,” thank you very much.

And lest you think Dodd’s future references to this, uh, claim to fame could benefit from a little PR polish -- maybe something more like “I once got traded for a future Hall of Famer. Not bad for a kid from Wilshire Little League” -- save your breath. Because he could not care less.

So, Google your little heart out if you don’t all believe this (but why wouldn’t you?), and while you’re at it, see if you can find the answer to this one: Why’s a guy who grew up in an urban Portland neighborhood now speaking with a Southern drawl?

No, you won’t mistake Dodd for Foghorn Leghorn (Dodd’s better looking. Also…real.), but it’s also unlikely he sounds like anybody else you know who grew up in the Grant Park neighborhood. When confronted with this anomaly, Dodd counters with, “I’ve lived in north central Alabama since 1985.”

That may sound like a decent enough excuse to you, but to paraphrase Mr. Leghorn, it’s a pitch at least one person close to him ain’t catchin’.

“Whenever I get back to Portland, my older sister always puts me in my place,” Dodd says, laughing. “She says, ‘You’re home now, Tom. You don’t need to talk like that’.”

Way back when Dodd didn’t need to be told when to talk like a regular normal Portland person, he was growing up “doing what kids do.” In this case, that was playing a lot of baseball and doing even more skiing.

For several years, Dodd’s father ran the ski school at Timberline, having been hired to revive it after the iconic lodge reopened following its closure during World War II. So, when Tom and his four siblings were old enough, they all would enjoy free rein of Mt Hood.

“We all got to ski for free, so we’d go up to Timberline on Fridays and ski all weekend, then come down the mountain and go back to school Monday,” he remembers.

Spending all that time on the mountain turned Dodd into a formidable skier who, up until his senior year at Benson, would travel from one mountain to another for competitions. At an early age, Dodd had set his sights, and heart, on skiing for the U.S. Olympics team. But competing against skiers who eventually would achieve what he was striving for, including the legendary Maher twins (Phil and Steve), turned out to be an eye opener.

“I didn’t get very close in the grand scheme of things. I just wasn’t very competitive at that level,” he says. “I’m not sure if that was the reason why I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore, but after my junior year I quit.”

The decision left Dodd more time to work on the other sports he’d grown up playing, football and baseball. His efforts to focus on those two sports weren’t hurt by the fact that, until Dodd’s senior year, Benson was still an all-boys school. “Ours was the very last class to graduate without any girls, and believe it or not I didn’t miss them,” he says before adding, “Until I got to be a senior.”

While it’s a Dodd trait to downplay his own athletic achievements, he would excel in both sports at Benson. As the team’s safety, he was twice named to All-PIL and All-State teams, feats he repeated as the slugging centerfielder for Benson’s 1976 state champion baseball team.

“I think I was an average football player,” he says. “I’d stick my nose in there on defense, but I didn’t really like it. I was fortunate to play on really good teams in both football and baseball.” (Dodd’s teammates included fellow PIL Hall of Famer Vern Marshall, profiled in June 2023.)

Well OK, sure. But it takes more than good luck to get Ducks’ baseball coach Mel Krause knocking on your front door. For Dodd, it took a good year at San Mateo Community College, where he landed after graduating from Benson.

“I wanted to go to Stanford, but went to San Mateo to get my grades up, and I guess Mel saw me play there,” Dodd remembers. “I’d never heard of him before he showed up at my front door and offered me the chance to play at Oregon.”

He would earn All-Pac-10 and All-America honors at Oregon and, after his junior year in 1979, travel to and play against Japan and Taiwan as a member a U.S. College All-Star Team (along with another fellow PIL Hall of Famer, Jim Dunn).

In June of the same year, Dodd was drafted in the second round by the Oakland A’s and, shortly thereafter, was surprised to receive a call from Charley Finley, the team’s notoriously frugal owner.

“He also acted as the team’s scouting director and GM,” Dodd says. “He calls and says, ‘I’ve got $25,000 for you.’ I tell him I’ve got to call my agent and he says, ‘No, I don’t talk to agents. I wanna talk to you.’”

But Dodd wanted to talk to others, so started calling around and heard the same thing from every baseball person he spoke with. “They all said, ‘You don’t want to go to that organization’.”

So, Dodd took a chance and waited until the next draft and, in January 1980, was drafted by the Yankees with the seventh pick of the secondary amateur draft. He landed a better offer from Yanks than from Finley and started his career playing Class A ball in Ft. Lauderdale.

“My last year was 1990 playing for Calgary, the Mariners’ Triple A team,” Dodd says. “In between I was traded, released, the player to be named later, you name it. It was pretty exciting.”

There was also one retirement in there that didn’t stick. In 1983, Dodd was playing for the Yankees’ Double A Nashville team (following a semi-notorious trade you may have read about) when he decided he had enjoyed as much of baseball as he could stand. After the season, he returned home to Portland to work with his father selling insurance. It didn’t take.

“I didn’t like it at all,” Dodd says.

Dodd decided to return to baseball and caught on with the Baltimore Orioles, where he spent the next three years and, in 1986, finally got called up to the majors.

“I was having a great year in Charlotte, so they called me up when Eddie Murray got injured,” Dodd recalls. “I’d never cried so much in my life. The older I get the more I’m like, How did that happen? All I did was keep grinding. To be honest, I’d lost the dream. I was a pretty average minor league player (though Dodd’s 200 or so career homeruns indicate he may be underselling himself again). I’d given up and started selling insurance. So, to finally make it to the majors after I’d retired once, and when I was 28 years old, was pretty unreal.”

Kevin Costner-in-Bull-Durham-like, is how Dodd puts it. His total MLB stats: 13 at bats, 3 hits, 1 HR and 2 RBIs. Here are some career highlights you won’t find in Baseball Reference.

  • Dodd played enough positions to be considered a utility player, including, for a while, centerfield. “That’s where I started my career, but there was a guy next to me named Willie McGee. That’s when I realized I might need to play right or left.”
  • While with the Orioles, Dodd got to participate in a good old-fashioned Major League brawl -- sort of. “Boston’s pitcher threw at Cal Ripken, so our pitcher threw at Carlton Fisk. I wasn’t sure what to do so I was sort of standing around. But I had a buddy playing for Boston, so we just kind of grabbed each other and moved around a little…because those things are always caught on video, and if you’re a rookie and are seen not doing anything in a brawl…you kind of follow where I’m going?”
  • In Nashville, Dodd once played in a game against a travelling women’s team. In his last at bat, he struck out. “It was a bad call,” he deadpans.
  • Baseball did not make Dodd rich. “I came out with a paid-for car and not a dime in the bank. That’s what pro ball gave me.”

But he also came out of baseball with a wife, which brings us back to that slight Southern drawl. In 1985, Dodd’s team made a stop in Huntsville, Ala., where he “came across this girl named Kim Harring.” They celebrated their 37th anniversary in the summer of 2023.

After retiring from baseball for good, Dodd served a short stint as general manager of a restaurant before landing a job as a travelling rep for a school supply company. That’s where he finished his working career 30 years later, retiring as the company’s vice president of sales.

He and Kim raised two boys and a girl and now live in a North Alabama lake house “with four acres, a dock and a boat and a pasture and a horse.”

Dodd played softball for several years and still skis, including back on Mt. Hood when he returns to Portland. That happens a couple times a year, including back in 2006 for his induction into the PIL Hall of Fame.

“That was a special moment for me. My whole family flew out from Alabama for it and a sibling or two was there. I was blown away by the honor, then to get there and see a lot of guys I hadn’t seen since high school was just a special, special time,” says Dodd, speaking with a sincerity that also doesn’t need to be fact checked.

Do you know Tom? If you’d like to reconnect, he can be reached at tdodd1709@gmail.com

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