March 17th – Douglas O’Malley
Douglas O’Malley (1945-2011) was an exceptionally rare creature: a professional sportsman in three North American sports who failed spectacularly at the highest level. His death, at the age of 66, brings to an end the era of the elite level multi-sportsman. We will not see the likes of Douglas O’Malley again.
Born in Toronto to a fairly affluent middle-class parents (His father, Donal, was a civil servant who had been invalided out of the war after seeing action at Dunkirk, his mother Sheila was a schoolteacher), the O’Malleys moved to New York state when Douglas was four, after his father accepted a position with one of the newly-created State Department offices. This was unusual for a Canadian citizen, but it is believed that Donal pulled a few strings among the Irish-American community on the strength of his name alone, having no direct Irish lineage that anyone was aware of.
Douglas quickly became recognised for his sporting prowess. He held several All-State track records, and was the star receiver on his high school team. It was no surprise when he was awarded a scholarship to New York University, where he became the standout receiver for the Collegiate team. It was during this time that he was persuaded to try baseball for the first time, quickly becoming the leading hitter for the NYU team in what was recognised as a lean period for the Violets. His talent was such that he was selected for the draft in both sports, the first NYU athlete to claim this distinction.
Football was his first love, though, and Douglas was drafted in the 17th round of the 1972 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. Injury delayed his start, and it wasn’t until the start of the 1973-4 season that Douglas O’Malley was to make his first start, coming on in the 2nd period to replace Mike Hoskins.
That game, against the Steelers, was to be Douglas O’Malley’s first and last experience of the NFL. On his first play he fumbled a looping throw from Chuck Woodrow, resulting in a touchdown from the turnover. He managed another four incomplete passes before being withdrawn from the game with a total of zero yards. He never played another game.
Released by the Bengals at the end of the season, Douglas O’Malley was picked up as a free agent by the Oakland A’s, who were having a poor hitting season. Unfortunately for O’Malley, however, his baseball debut was as inauspicious as his football one, and a consecutive streak of strikeouts, along with a change of ownership of the A’s at the end of the week of his debut meant that Douglas O’Malley’s contract was cancelled and he was obliged to seek alternative employment.
Disillusioned with his sporting career, Douglas O’Malley returned to Toronto, and found sporting enjoyment in amateur hockey, where his passion and drive for competitive sports was reignited. An injury crisis at the Toronto Maple Leafs, coupled with O’Malley’s blistering form in the amateur leagues led to him becoming the Leafs oldest debutant at the age of thirty-three.
Two goals in the second period of his debut, against the Edmonton Oilers, made it appear as if the Leafs had unearthed a diamond, but in the third period O’Malley deflected two Oilers’ shots into his own net before a collision with his own netminder resulted in a dislocated knee and the end of another career.
O’Malley was never to play professional sport again. He moved into advertising, and became successful, first as a with Schuster and Lorimer, and then in his own right, founding the O’Malley agency, who, ironically, were responsible for the highly successful Maple Leafs campaign of the late eighties that turned around falling ticket sales and built the platform for the modern success of the club.
Douglas O’Malley is survived by his wife and three children.
Inspired by a prompt from here