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Dec 26 2010

Leon Day


Leon Day

Leon Day

 

(1916-1995)

The most consistently outstanding pitcher in the Negro National League during the late 1930’s and 1940’s, Leon Day was a heady pitcher whose money pitch was his fastball. The 5′ 9″ 170 lb. Newark Eagle ace righthander had a good curve and change-of-pace to complement his speed.

Not only was Leon a great pitcher , but he was also a good baserunner and a good hitter, with averages of .320, .274 and .469 to show for the seasons of 1937, 1942 and 1946. With the exception of catcher, the versatile athlete played every position well and, when not on the mound, often started at second base, in the outfield or pinch-hit.

His best season came in 1937 when, backed by the Eagles’ “million dollar infield,” he finished league play with a perfect 13-0 record. Appearing in a record seven East-West All-Star games from 1935-46 won his only All-Star decision and set an All-Star record by striking out a total of 14 batters. In the 1942 game, he struck out five of the seven batters that he faced without giving up a hit.

At the end of that season the Homestead Grays, after dropping the first three games, added Leon to their World Series roster to face Satchel Paige. The tough little competitor responded with a five-hit victory over his more illustrious opponent.

Available records show a 5-1 ledger for Leon in league play for that season, and following another good season in 1943, Leon missed two prime years when he was drafted into the Army during World War II. After two-and-a-half years in an amphibian unit that landed on Utah Beach during the Allied invasion of France, he was discharged in February, 1946.

Returning to the Eagles, he picked up where he had left off, pitching an opening day no-hitter against the Philadelphia Stars and not allowing a runner past first base. This surpasses an effort earlier in his career (1942) when he struck out 18 Elite Giants, allowing only a bloop single over the shortstop. After the opening day no-hitter, Leon continued his pitching heroics, topping the league in strikeouts, innings pitched, and complete games; and finishing with a 9-4 record as the Eagles captured the pennant. Even though his arm was hurt, the veteran moundsman started two games in the World Series as the Eagles defeated the Kansas City Monarchs for the championship.

The hardworking competitor played six winters in Puerto Rico and in 1948 he played his second winter season in Cuba, finishing with a composite 8-4 record. The 1949 season, spent with the pennant-winning Baltimore Elite Giants, was his last season in the Negro Leagues. In 1951, he entered organized baseball at the age of 35, pitching for Toronto in the AAA International League.

On March 7, 1995, The Veteran’s Committee elected Leon Day to the Hall of Fame. Six days after learning of this great honor, Leon Day passed away.

Years played:
1934-1949

Positions played:
Pitcher, secondbase, outfield

Teams:
Brooklyn Eagles, Newark Eagles, Baltimore Elite Giants

Comparable Players:
Bob Gibson, Dwight Gooden

For Additional Information
Dandy, Day, and the Devil, James A. Riley


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