Leo High School didn’t field a baseball team during Jim O’Toole’s tenure as a student, but that didn’t prevent the talented left-handed pitcher from becoming perhaps the most distinguished baseball alum in school history.
O’Toole, a 1955 Leo grad, died in his Cincinnati home surrounded by family on Saturday, Dec. 26. He was 78 and had battled cancer in recent years.
O’Toole, son of a Chicago policeman from Visitation Parish, pitched well enough in a South Side sandlot league to earn a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin. After he’d spent a year in Madison the Cincinnati Reds signed him to a $50,000 bonus contract, in 1957. He was a big-leaguer by 1959, a rotation starter by 1960 and a star in 1961, compiling a 19-9 record with a 3.10 ERA for the pennant-winning Reds.
He lost his two World Series starts despite allowing just three runs in 12 innings as the Yankees beat the Reds in five games.
O’Toole was one of the National League’s top left-handers in the early ‘60s, starting the All-Star Game in 1963 and going 17-7 with a 2.66 ERA in 1964. He spent the final season of his 10-year career with the White Sox before persistent shoulder trouble forced him to retire at age 30 in 1968.
He finished with 98-84 record and a 3.57 ERA, with 58 complete games and 18 shutouts. He settled in Cincinnati after retiring and enjoyed a second career as home builder. He was also an occasional contributor to the Reds’ cable-TV broadcasts and was elected to the Reds’ Hall of Fame in 1970. He and his wife, the former Betty Jean Wall of Chicago, raised 11 children.
The Leo Family extends condolences to the family of this great Leo Man.