Those who knew Billy O’Dell called him “Digger,” after Digger O’Dell, a character on the 1940s radio show “The Life of Riley.” But his son believes the nickname really served his father, a savvy left-hander who pitched for the Orioles.
“He was determined, a fighter all his life,” Steve O’Dell said. “Dad fought to the very end.”
Billy O’Dell died Wednesday, of complications from Parkinson’s disease, at a hospital in his hometown of Newberry, S.C. He was 85.
Baltimore’s first bonus baby, O’Dell signed out of Clemson in 1954, the team’s first season back in the American League after a 51-year absence. In five years with the struggling Orioles, he went 29-34 with a 2.86...