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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Toronto Sun: Ron LeFlore: Went from convict to MLB player to losing his leg

Eek:

It had never occurred to LeFlore that his heavy smoking might cause him to lose his leg.

“I started having problems walking on my right leg and it started swelling up and my toes started turning dark,” LeFlore recalled.

“I had trouble getting my shoe on, so I started soaking my foot in warm water and wearing sandals all the time. Being an athlete, I had built up a high tolerance for pain ... I just let it go.

“When my toe turned black, I started picking at it — and a piece of my toe came off in my hand. When I saw that, I said, ‘Oh, my God!’ ”

That was when LeFlore decided he had better see a doctor.

Hat-tip to Tango’s blog.

puck Posted: March 05, 2013 at 02:13 AM | 38 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: detroit tigers, holy crap, montreal expos, white sox

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   1. Ulysses S. Fairsmith Posted: March 05, 2013 at 05:59 AM (#4380854)
Sad. LeFlore was my first favorite player.
   2. Eugene Freedman Posted: March 05, 2013 at 07:18 AM (#4380870)
Speed kills.
   3. Bug Selig Posted: March 05, 2013 at 07:19 AM (#4380871)
I remember him stealing a couple bases in the first ML game I ever attended. My 2 lasting impressions were that if somebody was fast enough to just run without the ball being hit, why wouldn't they do it all the time? - and that Glenn Adams could catch fly balls that were hit REALLY high. (This is impressive to an 8-year old.)

Ron is one of the few baseball cards that I remember being legitimately excited to open.
   4. Bug Selig Posted: March 05, 2013 at 07:21 AM (#4380873)
I was also sad that they arrested him for back child support - immediately following the closing ceremonies at Tiger Stadium.
   5. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 05, 2013 at 08:03 AM (#4380894)
Quite a change for a man who once ran around the bases — and through life — with reckless abandon, using heroin when he was 15 and ending up in prison, faced with a sentence of five-to-15 years for armed robbery when he was 21.

At that point in his life, it is worth noting, LeFlore had never played one inning of organized baseball at any level — not Little League or high school or sandlot ball.

......
“Just think if I had played baseball as a kid instead of running the streets. Just think if I had improved my baseball skills instead of going to prison. How good could I have been?

“Who knows, if I had gotten that guidance that I needed, if I had known what was going on in society, I could have had some Hall of Fame stats.”


Its pretty hard to argue with that. He didn't play any organized baseball until he got to prison, and didn't make his MiLB debut until age 25, appearing in 32 games at Class A Clinton in 1973. The next year, over two levels he hit .331/.391/.443 with a 41/79 BB/K ratio and went 45/5 on the bases, then got called up to finish the season in Detroit.

He then went on to receive MVP votes in four of five years beginning in 1976, hitting .300/.359/.416 and averaging 105 runs and 68 SB. Hard to imagine what kind of Cobb-esque numbers he'd have put up with a remotely typical childhood.
   6. zonk Posted: March 05, 2013 at 08:31 AM (#4380905)
LeFlore's bio was one of the very first baseball books I ever read -- wasn't seeking it out, I just stumbled across it in the school library... I looked him up in the Baseball Encyclopedia (yes, kids - that's what we did before baseball-reference!) and was fascinated by his numbers and seemingly late start.

I distinctly remember it being a bit racy (for an elementary school library), but pointedly not telling anyone so as to avoid seeing it removed from the library.
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: March 05, 2013 at 08:47 AM (#4380914)
LeFlore's bio was one of the very first baseball books I ever read -- wasn't seeking it out, I just stumbled across it in the school library... I looked him up in the Baseball Encyclopedia (yes, kids - that's what we did before baseball-reference!) and was fascinated by his numbers and seemingly late start.


And I remember watching the Ron LeFlore Story, a CBS movie of the week, back in 1978. My favorite part was during a prison ballgame, when LeFlore launched a drive over the prison wall, and a fellow inmate screeched, "I'll go get it."

My 11-year-old self thought that was the funniest thing ever, and, to this day, I routinely repeat that phrase in my best bit actor playing a Michigan inmate voice whenever I volunteer to retrieve an object. I doubt anyone has ever known why the hell I do it.
   8. Howie Menckel Posted: March 05, 2013 at 08:48 AM (#4380917)

They made a TV movie about LeFlore, iirc.

He is in a sweet spot of not being good enough for people under 40 to know who he is - but good enough, and with a sufficient backstory - to be worth finding out about it. Just oh so crappy that thiis is the way it happens...
   9. Ulysses S. Fairsmith Posted: March 05, 2013 at 08:59 AM (#4380934)
The TV movie was called "One in a Million"--that's what they re-titled "Breakout" when it came out in paperback. The Detroit Free Press published the script of the movie as a special section.

There was a picture in the book of LeFlore watering a plant at Tiger Stadium. A tomato plant sprouted up on the warning track in center field, so LeFlore took care of it. I always got a kick out of that.
   10. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: March 05, 2013 at 09:10 AM (#4380940)
Ron Leflore was also one of my first favorite players. I was a big Reading Rainbow fan when I was very young and when I was just getting into baseball, I saw the TV movie starring Levar Burton, so I've had an attachment to LeFlore ever since.
   11. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 05, 2013 at 10:58 AM (#4381039)
“When my toe turned black, I started picking at it — and a piece of my toe came off in my hand.”

Not a sentence one wants to read around mealtime.

Or anytime else, really.

   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 05, 2013 at 12:33 PM (#4381141)
I guess he really has lost a step.
   13. tfbg9 Posted: March 05, 2013 at 12:44 PM (#4381160)
Not a sentence one wants to read around mealtime.


Well, there's an awful lot of fat bastard5 in this country, so making it a point to read the sentence before every meal might
actually extend some lives?
   14. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: March 05, 2013 at 12:45 PM (#4381163)
And I remember watching the Ron LeFlore Story, a CBS movie of the week, back in 1978. My favorite part was during a prison ballgame, when LeFlore launched a drive over the prison wall, and a fellow inmate screeched, "I'll go get it."

My 11-year-old self thought that was the funniest thing ever, and, to this day, I routinely repeat that phrase in my best bit actor playing a Michigan inmate voice whenever I volunteer to retrieve an object. I doubt anyone has ever known why the hell I do it.



Great big ditto to this entire post, except I was 12 in 1978. "I'll go get it." Still cracks me up.
   15. tfbg9 Posted: March 05, 2013 at 12:46 PM (#4381165)
If Leflore was playing in a Senior League baseball game, and was fitted with an artificial leg, could he leave the leg on 1st
and take a really, really big lead?

Why not? Is it in the rulebook? Where?
   16. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 05, 2013 at 12:56 PM (#4381178)
The TV movie was called "One in a Million"--that's what they re-titled "Breakout" when it came out in paperback

the actor that played Billy Martin was turrible
   17. What's the realistic upside, RMc? Posted: March 05, 2013 at 01:06 PM (#4381189)
Geez, first the Bird dies, now this. The '76 Tigers are falling apart quick, ain't they?

LeFlore basically missed the first quarter and the last quarter of his career. He only played nine years, and was really a regular in just seven of them (1975-81). If he had played, say, 16 years like Larry Bowa did (Bowa is just behind LeFlore in the Elo ratings), LeFlore would be in the neighborhood of 2,400 hits and maybe 800 stolen bases. Toss in a ring or two, and that's a genuine HOF candidate.
   18. bunyon Posted: March 05, 2013 at 01:31 PM (#4381223)

Its pretty hard to argue with that. He didn't play any organized baseball until he got to prison, and didn't make his MiLB debut until age 25, appearing in 32 games at Class A Clinton in 1973. The next year, over two levels he hit .331/.391/.443 with a 41/79 BB/K ratio and went 45/5 on the bases, then got called up to finish the season in Detroit.


Wow. I didn't know this. I was 7 in 1978 and so I saw him play. And I remember the movie, though don't remember seeing it but can't imagine I would have skipped it. In any case, I always assumed he'd grown up playing ball and was on a MLB track when he got arrested and that it was admirable he was able to comeback after prison.

But, geez, to not have been on that track at all and still have the career he had? Amazing.

I think I'll start telling kids who ask how to be ballplayers to commit crime.
   19. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: March 05, 2013 at 02:40 PM (#4381302)
Geez, first the Bird dies, now this. The '76 Tigers are falling apart quick, ain't they?

Fully one-third of the AL starters in the bicentennial year All-Star Game at the Vet were Tigers -- Leflore, The Bird, and Rusty Staub.

Leflore had a nice quick opposite-field stroke and, obviously, blazing speed.
   20. Ulysses S. Fairsmith Posted: March 05, 2013 at 02:51 PM (#4381314)
I think LeFlore and Staub getting voted in had something to do with the drawing power of Fidrych. The voting was all done on punchcards back then, mostly at the ballpark. I lived a long way from Detroit, so I'd have my mom bring home a ballot from the Gillette display at the grocery store so that I could mail it in.
   21. Carlo Paz Posted: March 05, 2013 at 03:13 PM (#4381332)
The TV movie was called "One in a Million"

I'm actually in that movie. When Levar Burton looks up into the stands at Comiskey and sees the poster that says "drop dead Leflore" it's me and my drunken pals holding up the sign. Almost as memorable as my appearance in Code of Silence as "man on bench".
   22. Morty Causa Posted: March 05, 2013 at 03:32 PM (#4381346)
If Leflore was playing in a Senior League baseball game, and was fitted with an artificial leg, could he leave the leg on 1st
and take a really, really big lead?

Why not? Is it in the rulebook? Where?


He wouldn't have a leg to stand on, anymore than if he left his shoe on first base.

   23. What's the realistic upside, RMc? Posted: March 05, 2013 at 03:37 PM (#4381353)
When Levar Burton looks up into the stands at Comiskey and sees the poster that says "drop dead Leflore" it's me and my drunken pals holding up the sign.

I'll see you and raise you: my wife and I are in a crowd scene shot at Tiger Stadium for the movie "61*". (I was also an extra in the upcoming "The Wolf of Wall Street". Got to shake Martin Scorsese's hand. Bliss!)
   24. Steve Treder Posted: March 05, 2013 at 03:42 PM (#4381358)
“When my toe turned black, I started picking at it — and a piece of my toe came off in my hand. When I saw that, I said, ‘Oh, my God!’ ”

That was when LeFlore decided he had better see a doctor.


What a hypochondriatic wimp.
   25. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 05, 2013 at 03:45 PM (#4381360)
When Levar Burton looks up into the stands at Comiskey and sees the poster that says "drop dead Leflore" it's me and my drunken pals holding up the sign.

I'll see you and raise you: my wife and I are in a crowd scene shot at Tiger Stadium for the movie "61*". (I was also an extra in the upcoming "The Wolf of Wall Street". Got to shake Martin Scorsese's hand. Bliss!)


As I've noted before, the backy of my house & yard appear in Big Fish as part of the scenery during a ballgame scene filmed at the junior high field next to me. Can't remember offhand whether it was baseball or football.
   26. jack the seal clubber (on the sidelines of life) Posted: March 05, 2013 at 03:47 PM (#4381363)
“When my toe turned black, I started picking at it — and a piece of my toe came off in my hand. When I saw that, I said, ‘Oh, my God!’ ”

That was when LeFlore decided he had better see a doctor.


What a hypochondriatic wimp.


Outlines the continuing wussification of the modern player. Pete Gray had his arm eaten by wolves and went on to not only finish the game, but to play the second half of the doubleheader. Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown was actually known as Mordecai "Five Finger" Brown until a badger attack in the clubhouse prior to one of his starts, and he went on to shut down the Beaneaters 1-0 that day.
   27. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 05, 2013 at 03:48 PM (#4381364)
I caught the Ron LeFlore Story on TV once as a kid and I had no idea it was an even remotely true story. I thought they had to have made it all up.
   28. Steve Treder Posted: March 05, 2013 at 04:10 PM (#4381403)
I thought they had to have made it all up.

Well, they did make up the part in which LeVar Burton is in any way believable as an athlete.

Man, I had thought Anthony Perkins was bad.
   29. Morty Causa Posted: March 05, 2013 at 04:14 PM (#4381409)
I think it was John Ford who said it was easier to have an actor play a cowboy than letting a cowboy to act.
   30. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: March 05, 2013 at 04:26 PM (#4381424)
Pete Gray had his arm eaten by wolves and went on to not only finish the game, but to play the second half of the doubleheader. Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown was actually known as Mordecai "Five Finger" Brown until a badger attack in the clubhouse prior to one of his starts, and he went on to shut down the Beaneaters 1-0 that day.

In the first game of a doubleheader, Babe Ruth ran into an outfield wall & was unconscious for five minutes.
He stayed in the game, doubled and walked, and played the full second game.
   31. Steve Treder Posted: March 05, 2013 at 04:27 PM (#4381426)
Perhaps, but it was Gavin O'Connor, the director of Miracle, who decided that it would be easier to teach hockey players to act than to teach actors to play hockey.
   32. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: March 05, 2013 at 04:40 PM (#4381442)
I guess he really has lost a step.

As Linda Loman said, attention must be paid. This joke is not to be allowed to fall into a grave like an old dog.
   33. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: March 05, 2013 at 04:52 PM (#4381462)
I'll see you and raise you: my wife and I are in a crowd scene shot at Tiger Stadium for the movie "61*". (I was also an extra in the upcoming "The Wolf of Wall Street". Got to shake Martin Scorsese's hand. Bliss!)


I'm on screen for about three seconds during the stadium scene of The Dark Knight Rises. Look for the surprised fat guy with shades in the second row.
   34. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 05, 2013 at 05:03 PM (#4381480)
If Leflore was playing in a Senior League baseball game, and was fitted with an artificial leg, could he leave the leg on 1st
and take a really, really big lead?

Why not? Is it in the rulebook? Where?


I dunno, it seems like it would cause a no-win situation for the umps. If they call him safe, they never hear the end of it from the opposing manager. And if they call him out, LeFlore is hopping mad.
   35. Steve Treder Posted: March 05, 2013 at 05:08 PM (#4381482)
#34 I see what you did there.
   36. asinwreck Posted: March 05, 2013 at 05:53 PM (#4381524)
Ron LeFlore has an amazing story. He also turned in some of the most astoundingly terrible defensive plays I have ever seen an outfielder make, including having a fly hit him on the cap as he camped under it back in '82.
   37. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 05, 2013 at 06:00 PM (#4381526)
"I see my big toe and I see that it is black/My ankle and my leg both never to come back..."
   38. Justin T steals bases with his bat Posted: March 05, 2013 at 06:06 PM (#4381531)
In Soviet Russia, cap swats fly!

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