Walter (Buck) Leonard was a star first baseman in the Negro League. In reality, though, the Rocky Mount, N.C., native was one of the greatest baseball players of his generation – black or white.
Leonard, who was born in 1907 and lived to be 90, spent the bulk of his career with Pittsburgh’s Homestead Grays, signing with the team in 1934. In his 16 seasons, the Grays won nine league titles and Leonard played in the East-West All-Star Classic 12 times.
Often referred to as the “black Lou Gehrig,” Leonard had a lifetime batting average of .320 and led the league in hitting in 1948 with a .395 average. From 1935-43, he averaged 34 home runs per year.
In 1952, Leonard turned down a contract to play for the St. Louis Browns in the major leagues. He was 45 at the time, and he felt he was past his prime.
Leonard spent many winters playing in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. He retired from baseball in 1955 after hitting 13 home runs in 62 games for Durango of the Central Mexico League.
With Major League Baseball’s postseason under way and the World Series coming up, Leonard is the NCSHOF’s October Member of the Month. He was inducted in 1973, a year after he took his place in Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Click here to read more about Leonard, who is one of 31 who have been inducted in the Baseball category. http://www.ncshof.org/walterleonard