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The freeman's journal. (Cooperstown, N.Y.) 1924-1996, July 30, 1995, Image 15

Image and text provided by New York State Historical Association

Persistent link: http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83031249/1995-07-30/ed-1/seq-15/


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^-■v- -T ' 4 \ 1 j, FREBMAWS JOURNAL - RASEBALl. July 30, 1995 - 15 i Arent • that LGmiMY: g e ^ his 6m lnseb)ll He was considered one of the best pitchers of his generation. He has been compared to tikes of Halt of Famer Rob Qthson. And as far as Satchei Faige, probabty the most wetl-known Hegro League ptayer, he owned him, beating Falge three of the four times their match-ups were recorded. He is Leon Day, and he is arguably one the best all-around ballplayers to never have made it into the Majors. It wasn’t that he wasn’t good enough, he was a victim of “Whites only” b ase­ ball. And that is why Day, who played for 21 years, set a multi­ ple of records in the Negro League, easily defeated white major leaguers in World War II exhibition games, had to wait so What he ieaves behind is a legacy professional milestones, some of which have been lost to time from the not-so-well-docu- mented Negro Leagues, that leave baseball fans wondering “what If.” Luckily, there are still a few that remember Day, remember him real well. “I just can’t get over Leon Day,\ Hall of Fame shortstop Monte Irvin told reporter Rick Hines in a March 1992 article for Sports Collectors Digest. “People don’t know what a great pitcher he was.” Irvin said. “In my opinion, h e was a s good or better Cian Bob Gibson ... one of the most complete ath­ letes I’ve ever seen.\ Day was a shrimp by modem- By BILL WOLC0T Reporter long to p ass through the doors of the Hall of Fame. Longer, It turned out, then even he could In March, six days after learn­ ing h e had been elected into the Hall by the Veteran’s CommlHee. he passed away. TOP RIGHT: Leon Day. who passed away Just days following his election into the Hall of Fame, was one of the beat all-around baseball players never to have made it to the Big Show. RIGHT; Day p t s ^ for 21 years in Uto Negro Leagues, firing a fastball ootiraated at 911-85 miles {»r hour. day standards, 5-8,170 pounds soaking wet, but he could play his position (and many others). Using a deceptive no-windup fastball, estimated by some as 90-95 mph, a biting curve and excellent control, he was able to fool opposing batters. According to a 1993 article by W.G. Truitt. Day was bom in Alexandria. VA Oct. 30,1916. Growing up. Day would sneak into Maryland Park in nearby Westport, MD to watch his favorite team, the Baltimore Black Sox of the Eastern Colored League, and his favorite player, the hard-throw­ ing Lamon Yokeley. Dropping out of high school In 1934, Day hooked up with a local semi-pro team called the Silver Moons, where he played second base and occasionally pitched. And that was where Rap Dixon, Black Sox outfielder/manager, hist noticed Day. Wasting no time, Dixon recruited Day and put him under the wing of Yokeley. But the mentoring didn’t last long, for when Dixon jumped ship the next season to join the Brooklyn Eagles, the 18-year- old Day went with him. It was probably the best move Day would make in his life. Realizing Day’s potential. Brooklyn manager Ben Taylor converted file infielder/piteher into a starting pitcher before the season started, and it paid oil. Day ended tip leading the Eagles staff lr» wins (9-2). including tossing a one-hitter, and made his first of a record seven appeaiances in the Negro League All- Star Game. This time it was the team that moved, with the Brooklyn Eagles jumping to Newark, NJ for the next season, and Day went with them. Pitching In front of the Eagles’ famous “Million- Oolfar Infield,” Day enjoyed his great­ est success a play­ er, compiling a .734 winning per­ centage in his eight-year career with Newark, lead­ ing the league in strikeouts and shutouts three times and wins According to an August 1993 article by James A. Riley for The Diamond, Day enjoyed both his most successful and worst seasons in 1937. After finishing with a perfect 13-0 record and a .320 batting average, he injured his arm in the Cuban Winter League and had to sit out most of the of 1938. But he came back with a vengeance in 1939, compiling a 16-4 mark. Day, who told b m m h Hines he never made more than $5,000 In a season, then decided to leave the Eagles for the higher salaries in Latin America. joined the Army and fought in the European Theater. After coming home from the war. Day rejoined the Eagles He compiled a com b ing le-t record, and the league champi­ onships in the Venezuelan and Mexican leagues. Day returned to the Eagles the next season and continued successful season Starting with an Opening Day no-hitter against the Philadelphia Stars. Day finished the season with a 13-4 mark. to be sterling for the next three seasons, including a game where he fanned a record 18 battera against ttie Baltimore Efite Giante. After the 1943 season, Day lead the league in strikeouts, mgs pitc J batted league litched and shutouts, and batted .353. But h!s arm was starting to tire. After sfints tn the M exico League and semi-pro ball, he broke info o r g a n i c white baseball with the then Triple-A Toronto Blue Jays in 1951. He would never get any closer and finally gave up baseball for good in 1955. But that isn't the end of the Leon Day story. In 1993, after upsurge m nsrtional populanty over the Negro Leagues, Day was nearly elected by the Veteran’s Committee into the Hall of Fame, but fell one vote shy. Too bad. maybe Dayysoutd have enjoyed walking M o the peace where h e £»fen|iiL H . 0 . 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