Top Menu

The sad tale of John Odom

John Odom, the independent-baseball player once traded for 10 bats, passed away last fall after a fatal — and apparently accidental — drug overdose. He was never able to live down the stigma of being involved in a trick trade.It’s safe to say John Odom never fully fit into the baseball world. Described by teammates and managers as more of a musician than a baseball player, Odom possessed enough talent at Tallahassee Community College to be drafted by the San Francisco Giants after not playing high-school baseball. He spent four seasons in the Giants farm system before bouncing to the independent leagues.

And that’s where his problems caught up with him.

Odom was signed by the Calgary Vipers (independent; Golden Baseball League), but a 1999 conviction for aggravated assault kept him from joining the team in Canada. So Vipers President Peter Young forged a trade to the Laredo Broncos (independent; United League Baseball), but he and Broncos GM Jose Melendez couldn’t settle on a price for the contract. Cash was out; the pair finally settled on 10 bats for Odom.

Of course, both sides saw this as a marketing bonanza; part of the game in indy ball is to create headlines whenever possible, and it’s always a good story when a player is traded for equipment. When the Minneapolis Loons’ Kerry Lightenberg was traded to the Atlanta Braves by Greg Olson for equipment, the result was a lot of chuckling in the baseball world, but Lightenberg ended up being a very productive player on the MLB level.

Odom didn’t have the same temperament as Lightenberg. After three weeks, several rough outings and continual heckling from fans, he walked away from pro baseball. By November, he was dead.

On Nov. 5, a coroner ruled Odom’s death accidental, the result of an overdose of heroin, methamphetamine, benzylpiperazine (a stimulant) and alcohol.