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Ron LeFlore
Center fielder
Born: June 16, 1948 (1948-06-16) (age 61)
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
Career statistics
Batting average     .288
Hits     1,283
Stolen bases     455
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Ronald LeFlore (born June 16, 1948) is a former Major League Baseball outfielder. He played six seasons with the Detroit Tigers before being traded to the Montreal Expos, retiring as a 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 Television in 1978. LeFlore is the cousin of former MLB outfielder Todd Steverson.

Contents

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. Although his parents 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 a heroin addict and small-time drug dealer. He credits his mother’s compassion for his survival during this period.

At twelve, he began to have sex with local prostitutes and soon after he was introduced to shooting heroin in a neighbourhood '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 played no organized sports and rarely followed the Tigers, although he had been to Tiger Stadium, sitting in the upper bleachers with his father, on one occasion as a child. First arrested at fifteen, 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.

Prison discovery

Incarcerated, the first organized baseball league LeFlore played in was for inmates. Billy Martin, the legendary New York Yankee player and manager, then manager of the Detroit Tigers, was lured to Michigan State Prison by another inmate who knew Martin. The unorthodox Martin witnessed LeFlore's speed and strength, something that bloomed after LeFlore had given up drugs and drinking inside prison. Incredibly, Martin helped LeFlore get permission for day-parole and a try out at Tiger Stadium. In the summer of 1973, the convict impressed Tigers' management and the team signed him to a contract in July, which enabled him to meet the conditions for parole. Martin, the man who gave LeFlore his break, was fired in August of that same year for telling Tiger pitchers to throw at opposing hitters; he was replaced by Joe Schultz. Ralph Houk was LeFlore's manager subsequently. Originally, LeFlore, a 26 year old rookie, was assigned to the Tigers' AA affiliate, but by the end of the 1973 season he was playing for the Triple A Evansville Triplets. The following season he made the major league club and by 1975 was a starting outfielder.

Playing career

Almost a great catch at Tiger Stadium, 1977

Primarily known as a base stealer, LeFlore led the American League with 68 steals in 1978, but in his prime he also hit for average and moderate power, hammering 16 home runs in 1977. He, along with Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, were the primary reasons that the Tigers' attendance rose in 1976 by close to 5,000 per game over the previous year, yet the team never finished higher than fourth in the American League East standings and in 1979 LeFlore was traded to the Montreal Expos. In 1980 he came closest to encountering play-off action as he stole a career high 97 bases and the Expos ended the season in second place, only a game behind the eventual World Series winner Philadelphia Phillies. After playing two seasons for the Chicago White Sox, he retired in 1982.

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. He attended the five week course in which top graduates are assigned to whatever openings exist on the minor league level, hoping to eventually make it as a major league umpire. He failed to finish high enough in his class to qualify for a job at the minor league level.

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 LeFlore participate in the on-field activities and then subsequently arrested him.

The case involved back orders of support for his estranged adult daughter and her mother, the person 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. He also worked as a manager and coach in the Midwest and Northeastern leagues. In the spring of 2003, LeFlore was hired as manager for the Saskatoon Legends franchise in the fledgling Canadian Baseball League, a league that folded midway through their inaugural season.

On May 5, 2007, during an autograph signing, LeFlore was again arrested for failure to pay child support.[1]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Hotts, Mitch. "Ron LeFlore busted for failing to pay child support", The Macomb Daily, 7 May 2007.

External links

Preceded by
Freddie Patek
American League Stolen Base Champion
1978
Succeeded by
Willie Wilson
Preceded by
Omar Moreno
National League Stolen Base Champion
1980
Succeeded by
Tim Raines







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