Summary

Birth:
08 Sep 1907 1
Death:
27 Nov 1997 1
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Full Name:
Walter F Leonard 1
Birth:
08 Sep 1907 1
Death:
27 Nov 1997 1
Residence:
Last Residence: Rocky Mount, NC 1
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Social Security:
Card Issued: Unknown Code (PE) 1
Social Security Number: ***-**-0705 1

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Bio

Walter Fenner "Buck" Leonard (September 8, 1907 – November 27, 1997) was an American first baseman in Negro league baseball. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 along with his long-time teammate Josh Gibson

Born in Rocky MountNorth Carolina,[1] Leonard left school at the age of 14 because no high school education was available for blacks in his hometown. He worked in a textile mill and as a shoeshine boy at a railroad station, the latter being typical of the economic situation for many African Americans at that time.

He began his Negro league career in 1933 with the Brooklyn Royal Giants, then moved to the legendary Homestead Grays in 1934, the team he played for until his retirement in 1950. The Grays of the late 1930s through the mid-1940s are considered one of the greatest teams of any race ever assembled. Leonard batted fourth in their lineup behind Josh Gibson. Since Gibson was known as the "Black Babe Ruth" and Leonard was a first baseman, Buck Leonard was inevitably called the "Black Lou Gehrig." Together, the pair was colloquially known as the "Thunder Twins" or "Dynamite Twins".[2] From 1937 to 1945 the Grays won 9 consecutive Negro National League championships. Leonard led the Negro leagues in batting average in 1948 with a mark of .395, and usually either led the league in home runs or finished second in homers to teammate Gibson.

In 1952, Leonard was offered a major league contract, but he believed that at age 45 he was too old and might embarrass himself and hurt the cause of integration. He may well have underestimated his own longevity, however, since he batted .333 in 10 games in the Class BPiedmont League the following year, and played in Mexico through 1955, where the level of play was very high.

The first official statistics for the Negro leagues were compiled as part of a statistical study sponsored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and supervised by Larry Lester and Dick Clark; a research team collected statistics from thousands of boxscores of league-sanctioned games.[4] The first results from this study were the statistics for Negro league Hall of Famers elected prior to 2006, which were published in Shades of Glory by Lawrence D. Hogan. These statistics include the official Negro league statistics for Buck Leonard.

Year Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB BA SLG 1934 Homestead 20 79 16 28 4 0 5 14 0 3 .354 .595 1935 Homestead 36 147 26 50 10 1 3 10 3 15 .340 .483 1936 Homestead 17 62 15 15 1 1 2 3 1 12 .242 .387 1937 Homestead p 28 105 39 39 8 1 7 17 1 20 .371 .667 1938 Homestead p 27 99 21 33 0 0 3 8 0 11 .333 .424 1939 Homestead 22 72 23 30 5 0 5 23 2 17 .417 .694 1940 Homestead p 44 152 40 60 12 3 8 44 4 32 .395 .671 1941 Homestead p 36 123 40 36 4 5 8 29 6 30 .293 .602 1942 Homestead p 26 87 10 18 3 0 0 10 1 14 .207 .241 1943 Homestead c 55 200 55 59 11 7 4 41 2 38 .295 .480 1944 Homestead c 34 121 30 34 8 5 5 27 1 18 .281 .554 1945 Homestead p 16 59 7 17 1 2 0 7 0 7 .288 .373 1946 Homestead 30 102 18 27 3 1 3 26 3 24 .265 .402 1947 Homestead 11 30 7 16 0 0 4 8 1 8 .533 .933 1948 Homestead c 10 34 5 9 3 0 3 8 0 8 .265 .618 Total 15 seasons 412 1472 352 471 73 26 60 275 25 257 .320 .527    p = pennant; c = pennant and Negro World Series championship.

Sources:[3][5]

Mexican League[edit] Year Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB BA SLG 1951 Torreón 83 273 64 88 19 1 14 64 5 87 .322 .553 1952 Torreón 86 295 50 96 15 1 8 71 12 90 .325 .464 1953 Torreón 58 190 39 63 20 2 5 38 4 58 .332 .537 Total 3 seasons 227 758 153 247 54 4 27 173 21 235 .326 .515

Source:[6]

After retiring permanently as a player in 1955, Leonard worked as a truant officer, a physical education instructor, and the vice-president of a minor league team in his birthplace of Rocky Mount, a team of which he was also a board member. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 along with Josh Gibson.

In 1994, the Major League All-Star Game was held in Pittsburgh, hometown of the Grays, and the 88-year-old Leonard was named an Honorary Captain. He appeared wearing a model of a Grays uniform. He was one of Negro league baseball's foremost ambassadors until his death at age 90 in Rocky Mount.

In 1999, he ranked Number 47 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, one of five players so honored who played all or most of their careers in the Negro leagues, and was nominated as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

According to Negro league statistics compiled in a project sponsored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Leonard's career batting average was .320 and his slugging percentage was .527. In 1,472 recorded at bats, he had 471 hits, 60 home runs, 73 doubles, and 26 triples, drew 257 walks, and scored 352 runs while driving in 275.[3]

Remembering their game

WALTER (BUCK) LEONARD

Birth date: Sept. 8, 1907 
Current home: Rocky Mount, N.C. 
Occupation: Retired truant officer 
Playing career: Rocky Mount Black Swans, 1925-32; Baltimore Stars, 1932; Brooklyn Royal Giants, 1933; Washington Homestead Grays, 1934-50; Mexican leagues, 1950-55 
Position: First baseman

"I was playing for the Baltimore team, and the owners moved us to New York. We traveled in two cars in those days, a seven-passenger Buick and a Ford with a rumble seat. Twelve men. When it rained, we had to pull all the equipment inside. They moved us into a hotel, and one day one of ours leaned out the window and heard the hotel people selling our cars to pay for the rooms. That was the end of the team.

"Three or four of us stayed in New York, and Smokey Joe Williams, who worked in a bar, called up Cum Posey, who ran the Grays, and got me a job playing for them. What a job! My dad worked in a railroad shop, and I always thought I'd go back there to work. But baseball was good to me. I hit .395 in 1948; we won the title nine years.

"Each team had two good pitchers and two sorry pitchers. I built up my average on the sorry pitchers, but it worked. We got paid $125 a month and 65 cents a day in meal money. Then ham and eggs cost 25 cents and a slice of pie was 10 more cents. We ate pretty good.

"My favorite team was an all-star team we sent to Mexico in 1945. We had Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Felton Snow and me on it, and we won our first seven games. The Mexican league people then made us give three of our players to the other team—Gene Benson, Quincy Trouppe and Marvin Barker. Good players. We still beat them."

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