Ron LeFlore

Ronald LeFlore (born June 16, 1948) is an American former Major League Baseball center fielder. He played six seasons with the Detroit Tigers before being traded to the Montreal Expos. He retired with the Chicago White Sox in 1982. He stole 455 bases in his career and was an American League All-Star selection in 1976.

A movie and book were made about his rise to the major leagues after being an inmate at the Jackson State Penitentiary. One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story was a made-for-television movie starring LeVar Burton that aired on CBS in 1978. LeFlore is the cousin of former MLB outfielder Todd Steverson.

Ron LeFlore
Ron LeFlore 1975
Center fielder
Born: June 16, 1948 (age 71)
Detroit, Michigan
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
August 1, 1974, for the Detroit Tigers
Last MLB appearance
September 3, 1982, for the Chicago White Sox
MLB statistics
Batting average.288
Home runs59
Run batted in353
Stolen bases455
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Early life

LeFlore was born in Detroit, Michigan, and was involved in the criminal justice system at an early age. In the book Breakout: From Prison to the Big Leagues, LeFlore relates growing up in a crime-ridden section of Detroit's east side. Although his parents John and Georgia LeFlore were married, his father was an unemployed alcoholic who rarely took part in family life. His mother was a hard-working nurses' aide who held the family together financially and physically, even feeding Ron while he was a heroin addict and small-time drug dealer. He credits his mother's compassion for his survival during this period. He attended Detroit's Eastern High School.[1]

He was introduced to shooting heroin in a neighborhood 'shooting gallery'. He dropped out of school and spent many nights breaking into the Stroh's Brewery on Gratiot Avenue, stealing beer and getting drunk with friends. After dropping out of school, he did not play any organized sports and rarely followed the Tigers, although he had been to Tiger Stadium at least once in childhood, sitting in the upper bleachers with his father. First arrested at 15, he was ultimately sentenced to 5–15 years in state prison at the State Prison of Southern Michigan (usually called Jackson State Penitentiary) for armed robbery of a local bar in January 1970 in which he carried a rifle.[2]

Prison discovery

Incarcerated on April 28, 1970, the first organized baseball league LeFlore played in was for inmates. Jimmy Karalla, a fellow inmate who was imprisoned for extortion, convinced his longtime friend Jimmy Butsicaris who co-owned a Detroit bar frequented by Detroit sports celebrities, to speak to his good friend Billy Martin, then manager of the Detroit Tigers, to ask him to observe LeFlore.[2] Martin visited Jackson State Prison on May 23, 1973.[2] Martin then helped LeFlore get permission for day-parole and a tryout at Tiger Stadium in June.

In July 1973 the Tigers signed LeFlore to a contract which enabled him to meet the conditions for parole. He was paid a $5,000 bonus and $500 per month for the rest of the 1973 season.[2] Assigned to the Clinton Pilots in the Class A Midwest League, and managed by Jim Leyland, LeFlore hit .277.[3]

The next year he played for the Lakeland Tigers in the Class A Florida State League, and after hitting .331 with 45 steals in 102 games was promoted to the Evansville Triplets of the Class AAA American Association, where he played nine games.

The following season, he made the major league club out of spring training.

Playing career

LeFlore split time in center field in 1974 with veteran Tiger Mickey Stanley before taking over as the starter in 1975. Largely known as a base stealer, in his prime he also hit for average and moderate power. He, along with Mark Fidrych, were the primary reasons that the Tigers' attendance rose in 1976 by close to 5,000 per game over the previous year. Both players made the 1976 American League All-Star team, yet the team never finished higher than fourth in the American League East standings during LeFlore's tenure. In 1977, he hit 16 home runs and batted .325 – both career highs. But 1978 may have been his career year, when he led the league in singles (153), runs scored (126) and stolen bases (68), and finished second in hits (198), plate appearances (741) and at bats (666).[4] He also set career highs in games played, plate appearances, at bats, RBIs, and walks.

Tigers77LeFlore
LeFlore playing in the outfield of Tiger Stadium, 1977

After the 1979 season, in which he hit .300 and stole 78 bases, LeFlore was traded in December to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Dan Schatzeder. In 1980, he came closest to playoff action as he stole a career-high 97 bases (becoming the first player to lead both leagues in steals in his career) to help the Expos finish the season in second place, only a game behind the eventual World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies.

In 1981 he signed with the Chicago White Sox as a free agent, but he played in only a combined 173 games in his two years there.[2] After failing to make the Chisox roster in the spring of 1983, he was released by the team on April 2 and he announced his retirement. Soon afterward, he revealed that he was actually four years older than he had previously admitted, thus raising his age at retirement from 30 to 34 and giving some explanation for his rapid decline with the White Sox.

As of the end of the 2011 season, LeFlore's 1976, 1978 and 1979 seasons were 10th, 6th and 3rd respectively on the Tigers' all-time single-season stolen base list and his 294 steals are 4th on the Tigers' career list.[5] His 97 stolen bases for the Expos in 1980 are still a record for the Expos/Washington Nationals franchise.[6] He also finished in the top ten in his league in triples, finishing as high as 3rd in 1980 with 11. Despite his speed and in contrast to his above-average hitting, he was never adept in the field. In his career, he finished in the top five outfielders in errors every year except 1979, leading the league in outfield errors in 1974, 1976, 1980 and 1982 (despite playing in only 91 games in '82).[4] His worst moment in the field was when he misplayed a ball into a four-base error. Notoriously, on August 1, 1982 in a game against the Boston Red Sox, LeFlore was in center field when the 6th inning Boston leadoff hitter, catcher Gary Allenson, hit a soft liner off Sox starter Jerry Koosman. As he drifted back for the catch, the ball struck him on the forehead near the bill of his cap, took a wild bounce and rolled away. By the time anyone got to it, Allenson had crossed the plate with an unearned run.[7] LeFlore also struck out frequently, finishing in the top ten in his league in strikeouts five times (and second in the American League in 1975 with 139).

After playing career

In 1988 while working as a baggage handler for Eastern Airlines, LeFlore saw an ad for an umpire school run by MLB umpire Joe Brinkman.[2] He attended the five-week course after which top graduates are assigned to whatever openings exist on the minor league level, hoping to make it back to the majors eventually as an umpire, but failed to finish high enough in his class to qualify for even a minor league job.[2]

In 1989, LeFlore played for the St. Petersburg Pelicans and Bradenton Explorers of the Senior Professional Baseball Association, hitting .328 in 44 games overall (11 with St. Petersburg and 33 with Bradenton). In 1990, he played for the Florida Tropics of the SPBA.[2] He played in 18 games, hit two home runs and drove in nine runs. He also had the second-highest batting average with .403 when the league folded.

On September 27, 1999, ceremonies celebrating the final game played at Tiger Stadium brought LeFlore back to Michigan after many years of living in Florida. Before the game, he was notified of an open warrant for his arrest on charges of unpaid child support. The police agreed to let him participate in the on-field activities before arresting him. The case involved back support orders for his estranged adult daughter and her mother, who had informed police LeFlore was planning to attend the festivities. He was quickly released from custody after agreeing to comply with the court order.

In 2000, LeFlore was hired as the manager of the now-defunct Cook County Cheetahs of the Frontier League.[2] He also worked as a manager and coach in the Midwest and Northeastern leagues. In the spring of 2003, he was hired as manager for the Saskatoon Legends franchise in the fledgling Canadian Baseball League, a league that folded midway through its inaugural season.[2]

On May 5, 2007, during an autograph signing, LeFlore was again arrested for failure to pay child support.[8]

In the summer of 2011 LeFlore had his right leg amputated from the knee down due to complications caused by arterial vascular disease, a result of his having smoked cigarettes since he was a teenager, and lost 100 pounds as a result of three surgeries.[9][2][10] He now limps with a prosthetic leg.[11] He lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.[11]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ron LeFlore | Society for American Baseball Research
  3. ^ Ron LeFlore Minor Leagues Statistics & History | Baseball-Reference.com
  4. ^ a b Ron LeFlore Stats | Baseball-Reference.com
  5. ^ Detroit Tigers Top 10 Career Batting Leaders | Baseball-Reference.com
  6. ^ Washington Nationals Top 10 Career Batting Leaders | Baseball-Reference.com
  7. ^ Boston Red Sox at Chicago White Sox Box Score, August 1, 1982 | Baseball-Reference.com
  8. ^ Ron LeFlore busted for failing to pay child support. The Macomb Daily. Article by Mitch Hotts. May 7, 2007.
  9. ^ Former Montreal Expos star Ron LeFlore down but not out. Toronto Sun. Article by Jim Hawkins. February 26, 2013.
  10. ^ Big 50: Detroit Tigers: The Men and Moments that Made the Detroit Tigers - Tom Gage, Alan Trammell - Google Books
  11. ^ a b Former Montreal Expos star Ron LeFlore down but not out | Expos | Baseball | Spo

External links

1948 in Michigan

Events from the year 1948 in Michigan.

1974 Detroit Tigers season

The 1974 Detroit Tigers compiled a record of 72–90. They finished in last place in the American League East, 19 games behind the Baltimore Orioles. They were outscored by their opponents 768 to 620.

1975 Detroit Tigers season

The 1975 Detroit Tigers compiled a record of 57–102, the fifth worst season in Detroit Tigers history. They finished in last place in the American League East, 37½ games behind the Boston Red Sox. Their team batting average of .249 and team ERA of 4.27 were the second worst in the American League. They were outscored by their opponents 786 to 570.

1976 Detroit Tigers season

The 1976 Detroit Tigers season was a season in American baseball. The team finished in fifth place in the American League East with a record of 74–87, 24 games behind the New York Yankees. They were outscored by their opponents 709 to 609. The Tigers drew 1,467,020 fans to Tiger Stadium in 1976, ranking 4th of the 14 teams in the American League.

1977 Detroit Tigers season

The 1977 Detroit Tigers finished in fourth place in the American League East with a record of 74–88, 26 games behind the New York Yankees. They were outscored by their opponents 751 to 714. The Tigers drew 1,359,856 fans to Tiger Stadium in 1977, ranking 7th of the 14 teams in the American League.

1977 in Michigan

Events from the year 1977 in Michigan.

The Associated Press (AP) selected Michigan's top stories of 1977 as follows:

The emergence of the Michigan PBB contamination scandal as a political issue and related medical investigation and legislative actions (the PBB scandal was one of the state's top stories for the fourth consecutive year dating back to 1974);

Cold weather through the winter of 1977 with many cities recording the coldest temperatures of the century, Lake Michigan frozen solid, several deaths due to exposure, closure of automobile plants due to natural gas shortages, and snow closing U.S. Route 131 between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo for a week;

The Oakland County Child Killings involving the unsolved murders of at least four Oakland County youths reportedly tied to the driver of a blue Gremlin;

The 13-week trial, conviction, and subsequent new trial order in the prosecution of two Filipina nurses, Filipina Narciso and Leonora Perez, in the Ann Arbor Hospital Murders in which 10 patients at the Veterans Hospital in Ann Arbor died mysteriously from respiratory failure (the Ann Arbor Hospital Murders were one of the state's top stories for the third consecutive year dating back to 1975);

The case of Francine Hughes (subsequently the topic of The Burning Bed), a 29-year-old woman from Danville who killed her husband by setting his bed on fire in March after years of domestic abuse and was found not guilty in November by reason of temporary insanity;

Gov. William Milliken's veto of Project Seafarer, a proposed underground military extremely low frequency (ELF) network in the Upper Peninsula;

A civil lawsuit by farmers Roy and Marilyn Tacoma against several parties for the loss of cattle in connection with the Michigan PBB contamination scandal (See #1 above) and resulting in the longest court case in Michigan history;

The August 25 abduction of Evelyn Van Tassel from her Upper Peninsula home and the subsequent trial and conviction of her abductor, Douglas Henry, for kidnapping and rape;

The closure of Kincheloe Air Force Base in the eastern Upper Peninsula; and

The April announcement by U.S. Senator Robert P. Griffin that he would not run for reelection in 1978.The AP and the United Press International (UPI) each selected the state's top sports stories of 1977 as follows:

The second season of Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark Fidrych (2.89 ERA in 11 games) which was shortened by injuries (AP-1, UPI-1);

The 1977 Michigan Wolverines football team led by quarterback Rick Leach and running back Russell Davis compiling a 10–1 record in the regular season, including a victory over Ohio State (AP-3, UPI-3 [tie]);

The Detroit Red Wings' firing of Alex Delvecchio after the 1976–77 team compiled a 16–55–9 record, the hiring of Ted Lindsay as the team's general manager, and Lindsay's rebuilding program and promise to bring back aggressive hockey (AP-5, UPI-2);

The 1976–77 Detroit Titans men's basketball team led by John Long and Terry Tyler compiling a 25–4 record followed by Dick Vitale's resignation as head coach (AP-4 [season], AP-6 [resignation], UPI-5 [season]);

Magic Johnson's decision to attend Michigan State University after leading Lansing's Everett High School to the Michigan Class A high school basketball championship (AP-2, UPI-9);

The 1976–77 Michigan Wolverines men's basketball team led by Phil Hubbard and Rickey Green compiling a 26–4 record, receiving the No. 1 ranking at the end of the regular season, and advancing to the Elite Eight round in the NCAA tournament (AP-8, UPI-3 [tie])

The 1976 Michigan Wolverines football team's 14–6 loss to USC in the 1977 Rose Bowl (AP-7, UPI-7);

The performances of Detroit Tigers players Dave Rozema (15-7 record, 3.09 ERA), Ron LeFlore (.325 batting average, 212 hits), and Steve Kemp (18 home runs, 88 RBIs) (AP-9 [Rozema and LeFlore], UPI-8 [Rozema and Kemp]);

The trade of highly touted 1976 draft pick Marvin Barnes on November 23 after appearing in only 65 games for the Detroit Pistons to the Buffalo Braves in exchange for Gus Gerard, John Shumate and a 1979 first round draft pick (Roy Hamilton was selected) (UPI-6); and

The April 12 trade of designated hitter Willie Horton, who had played for the Detroit Tigers since 1963, to the Texas Rangers in exchange for pitcher Steve Foucault (UPI-10).

1978 Detroit Tigers season

The 1978 Detroit Tigers finished in fifth place in the American League East with a record of 86-76, 13½ games behind the Yankees. They outscored their opponents 714 to 653.

1979 Detroit Tigers season

The 1979 Detroit Tigers finished in fifth place in the American League East with a record of 85-76, 18 games behind the Orioles. They outscored their opponents 770 to 738. The Tigers drew 1,630,929 fans to Tiger Stadium in 1979, ranking 7th of the 14 teams in the American League. This season is most notable for both the Tigers' involvement in the infamous Disco Demolition Night, of which they were the visiting team to the Chicago White Sox and declared winners by forfeit, as well as for their mid-season hiring of Sparky Anderson as manager. Anderson would manage the Tigers through the end of the 1995 season.

1980 Montreal Expos season

The 1980 Montreal Expos season was the 12th season in franchise history.

1981 Chicago White Sox season

The 1981 Chicago White Sox season was the White Sox's 81st season in the major leagues, and their 82nd season overall. They finished with a record 54-52, good enough for 3rd place in the American League West, 8.5 games behind the 1st place Oakland Athletics. However, due to a player's strike, the Athletics would play the 50-53 Kansas City Royals, who had finished behind the White Sox.

Owner Bill Veeck attempted to sell the club to Ed DeBartolo, but the offer was turned down by the other owners. Veeck was then forced to sell to a different investment group headed by Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn.

1982 Chicago White Sox season

The 1982 Chicago White Sox season was the White Sox's 82nd season in the major leagues, and their 83rd season overall. They finished with a record 87-75, good enough for 3rd place in the American League West, 6 games behind the 1st place California Angels.

Bobby Higginson

Robert Leigh Higginson (born August 18, 1970) is a former outfielder in Major League Baseball who played his entire career for the Detroit Tigers where he wore the number 4. He attended Frankford High School and Temple University.

Higginson was drafted by the Tigers in the 12th round of the 1992 MLB Draft. His rookie year was 1995 when he played 130 games for the Tigers. Higginson batted .320 in 1996 and .300 in 2000, scored over 100 runs in 2000 and drove in over 100 runs in 1997 and 2000. His career high of 30 home-runs came also in 2000. He twice led the Majors in outfield assists, and also led all American League left fielders in putouts in 2000 (305) and 2001 (321), although he never won a Gold Glove for his fielding. He was never named to an All-Star team.

On June 30 and July 1, 1997, Higginson tied a major league record by hitting four home runs in four consecutive at bats (note, there were some walks interspersed) -- three on the first day, and then another in the first inning of the second day.Higginson was named "Tiger of the Year" by the Detroit chapter of the BBWAA in 1997 and 2000. Since the award's inception in 1965, ten players have been named "Tiger of the Year" on multiple occasions: Higginson, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Travis Fryman, Cecil Fielder, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson, Ron LeFlore, and Denny McLain.An elbow injury limited Higginson to 10 games in 2005, which ended up being his final season. He was granted free agency on October 31, and he retired at the age of 35. He ended his career never having played on a team that had a winning season.

Higginson is also known for breaking up a no-hitter in the ninth inning and two out on a game in Toronto on September 27, 1998, with a pinch-hit home run. The pitcher, future All-Star Roy Halladay, was making his second ever appearance, and ended up winning his first career game, 2–1.

Dominican Summer League Tigers

The Dominican Summer Tigers are a minor league baseball team in the Dominican Summer League. The team plays in the San Pedro de Macoris division and is affiliated with the Detroit Tigers.

John Stone (baseball)

John Thomas Stone (October 10, 1905 – November 30, 1955), nicknamed "Rocky," was an outfielder in Major League Baseball who played eleven seasons with the Detroit Tigers (1928–1933) and Washington Senators (1934–1938). Stone hit over .300 seven times in his career and had a career batting average of .310.

Stone played baseball for the Maryville College Fighting Scots in his home state of Tennessee from 1925–1928. The Fighting Scots were 15-2 in Stone's senior year. Stone signed with the Detroit Tigers and after a short stint in the minor leagues at Evansville, he appeared in his first Major League game on August 31, 1928, just a few months after leaving college. In his first partial season, Stone hit an impressive .354 in 26 games with 15 extra base hits and a .549 slugging percentage.

In his second season (1929), Stone's batting average dropped 94 points to .260, but he returned to solid hitting in 1930 with a .311 batting average and a .452 slugging percentage. During July and August 1930, Stone had a 27-game hitting streak. Only five Detroit Tigers (Ty Cobb, Goose Goslin, Ron LeFlore, Dale Alexander, and Pete Fox) have had longer hitting streaks.Stone's fourth big league season in 1931 was his best. His .327 batting average was 10th best in the American League. He led the league in singles (142) and was also among the league leaders in hits (191), triples (11), and stolen bases (13). Stone was also 16th in the American League's Most Valuable Player voting for 1931.

In 1932, Stone continued as one of the top batters in the league, with 64 extra base hits, 108 RBIs and a .486 slugging percentage. He was 9th in the AL in total bases with 283 and among the Top 10 in triples, home runs and RBIs.

On April 30, 1933, Stone became the first major leaguer to collect six extra base hits in a regulation length doubleheader‚ as he collected four doubles and two home runs against the St. Louis Browns.After a 1933 season with 55 extra base hits and a .434 slugging percentage, Stone was traded to the Washington Senators. Stone was so highly regarded that the Senators sent Hall of Fame outfielder Goose Goslin to the Tigers in an even trade for Stone. Goslin went on to help the Tigers win back-to-back pennants in 1934 and 1935, while the Senators dropped from first place to seventh place in 1934.

Stone died in 1955 at age 50 in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He was buried at the Odd Fellows-Masonic Cemetery in Lynchburg, Tennessee.

LeVar Burton

Levardis Robert Martyn Burton Jr. (born February 16, 1957) is an American actor, presenter, director and author. He is best known for his role as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation, being the host of the long-running PBS children's series Reading Rainbow and the young Kunta Kinte in the 1977 award-winning ABC television miniseries Roots. He has also directed a number of television episodes for various iterations of Star Trek, among other programs.

List of Major League Baseball annual stolen base leaders

Major League Baseball recognizes stolen base leaders in the American League and National League each season.

Nate Oliver

Nathaniel Oliver (born December 13, 1940 in St. Petersburg, Florida) had a seven-year major league career in the 1960s, mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Nate is the son of Jim Oliver, Sr., who had played in the Negro leagues. James Oliver Field in St. Petersburg, named after Nate's father, was the first field to be refurbished under the Tampa Bay Devil Rays Field Renovation Programs. Nate's brother, Jim, also played professional baseball.

Nate was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959. He hit just .224 for the Green Bay Blue Jays and Fox Cities Foxes that year. In 1960, he hit .329 for the Great Falls Electrics and appeared ever so briefly for the St. Paul Saints. He played in the minors for the Spokane Indians in 1961-65 and in 1967, topping .300 in '62-'63. He came up to the majors for the first time in 1963, a year the Dodgers won the World Series. He appeared in 65 games, playing primarily second base, and hitting .239. He did not play in the World Series.

The next year, in 1964 at age 23, Nate had his most at-bats in the major leagues, getting 321 at-bats in 99 games. He hit .243 with 9 doubles and stole 7 bases.

In 1965 he appeared in only 8 games with the Dodgers, but in 1966 he played in 80 games with a .193 average. He appeared in game 4 of the World Series as a pinch-runner.

In 1967, his batting average improved to .237 in 77 games.

In the off-season, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants in the deal involving Ron Hunt and Tom Haller. He appeared in only 36 games in 1968, hitting .178/.189/.205.

In the off-season before 1969, he was traded to the Yankees, and played one game with them before they traded him to the Cubs, where he finished out his career in 44 games hitting .159. It was the Cubs team that everyone expected to win the division, but finished second instead. Glenn Beckert was the regular second baseman and played amongst infielders Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Don Kessinger.

In 1989, Oliver managed the Arizona League Angels, and in 1990-91 he was at the helm of the Palm Springs Angels. In 1998, Oliver managed the Arizona League Cubs and in 1999 managed the Daytona Cubs, and in 2000 was a roving infield instructor in the Cubs organization. In 2003, he took over the managerial reins of the Saskatoon Legends of the Canadian Baseball League in mid-season from Ron LeFlore.

In 2006, Nate was the bunting instructor for the Chicago White Sox organization.

Walter Woolf King

Walter Woolf King (2 November 1899 – 24 October 1984) was an American film, television and stage actor and singer.

Born in San Francisco, California in 1899, King started singing for a living at a young age and performed mostly in churches. He made his Broadway debut in 1919, and became a well-known baritone in operettas and musical comedies. King billed himself as Walter Woolf and Walter King early in his career, eventually settling on a combination of all three names, Walter Woolf King, in the mid-1930s.

In 1936, King was host of the Flying Red Horse Tavern on CBS radio.King began his film career in musicals but quickly moved into supporting roles. He is probably best remembered today for his villainous roles in two films starring the Marx Brothers: A Night at the Opera (1935) and Go West (1940). He also appeared with Laurel & Hardy in Swiss Miss (1938). King made several appearances on radio and later became an actors agent. During the 1950s and 1960s, he acted in many bit parts and supporting roles in television and films. His final appearance was in the 1977 TV movie One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story.

King died in Beverly Hills, California in 1984.

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