There’s no getting around it. Patsy O’Toole was one supremely obnoxious character, the kind of butthead most people dread sitting next to at a game. But to Detroit sports fans of the 1920s and ‘30s, O’Toole was our obnoxious butthead, which made him a tolerable and even entertaining presence at local sporting events. He was dubbed “The Human Earache” for his unique ability to broadcast insults and war cries at a decibel level that made dogs howl three blocks from the ballpark. The New York Times once described him as a “one-man cheering throng.”
O’Toole’s real name was Samuel Ozadowsky, though other biographical details are kind of sketchy. It’s known that at various times he was a newsboy, liquor salesman, prizefighter, and ticket scalper. He wasn’t too successful at any of those endeavors, and it wasn’t unusual for him to ride the rails when attending a sporting event in another city. During the 1920s, the fun-loving O’Toole somehow became a member of Frank Murphy’s entourage, functioning as an errand boy and court jester for the sober-sided Recorder’s Court judge and future mayor. While this unlikely association certainly raised O’Toole’s profile, his real notoriety centered on his unchallenged claim as being the loudest spectator at Navin Field.
O’Toole typically clambered onto the roof of the Tigers’ dugout to deliver his signature holler: “Boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Keep cool wit’ O’Toole!” Admittedly, that sounds more like the slogan of an air conditioning contractor than a rallying cry, but the consistency of his message and the sheer volume with which it was delivered are what mattered most to O’Toole. Batter after batter, inning after inning, game after game, summer after summer, he dependably issued the same spiel. “Lou Gehrig, you’re a bum! Babe Ruth, you’re a bum!” he’d bellow. “Billy Rogell, you’re a great guy! Charlie Gehringer, you’re a great guy! Boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Keep cool wit’ O’Toole!” Once he went too far with Lefty Gomez, causing the Yankees’ star pitcher to make a beeline for him in the stands. It took several players to keep the livid Gomez from throttling The Human Earache.
In 1933, O’Toole accompanied Frank Murphy to Washington, where they and President Franklin D. Roosevelt took in a World Series game between the Senators and New York Giants as guests of Washington owner Clark Griffith. As O’Toole later described the scene, “I was in the box right next to the President, letting ‘em have my best voice, never giving a minute’s let-up.”
O’Toole’s blasts nearly blew FDR out of his seat. A Secret Service agent hurried to O’Toole’s side. “I’m sure you’d like to do the President a favor,” the agent said. “He’d like you to move to the other side of the field, and Mr. Griffith has already made the arrangements.” Far from being insulted, O’Toole was inspired. “From now on,” he told reporters, “you can look—I mean listen—for my cheering at all the best box fights, football games, and sports shindigs all over the country. I’m in the big time now.”
The big time never came, though the occasional photo of O’Toole mugging with Dizzy Dean or some other player went out over the wires during the Tigers’ World Series appearances in 1934 and 1935. He remained a fixture at local sporting events throughout the decade. Then, sometime around 1940, after more than 25 years of challenging the patience and pain threshold of countless fans, players, and umpires, his bellowing screeched to a halt when he underwent a surgery that affected his voice box.
It’s not clear what happened to The Human Earache after that. Certainly by now he’s passed through that Great Turnstile in the Sky. I’m reminded of columnist Jim Murray’s reaction when Casey Stengel died. “Well,” Murray wrote, “God is certainly getting an earful tonight.”