Buck Leonard

" The Black Lou Gehrig"

Hailed as the "Black Lou Gehrig" for his excellence and diligence, Buck Leonard was the anchor of the Homestead Grays during their 9-year championship run in the late 1930's and early 40's. Born and raised in North Carolina, Leonard played semi-pro ball for a number of years to compliment his job with the railroad. In 1933, he lost that job and had the skills to play professional black baseball with the Portsmith Fighters, Baltimore Stars, and the Brooklyn Royal Giants, all in the same year. By 1934, Leonard would find a home with the Homestead Grays. If teams could designate "franchise players" like they do now, the Grays would definitely have given that title to Leonard. Leonard's 17 star seasons at first base proved essential for the success of the Grays.

With Buck at first base, the Grays notched 9 consecutive championships from 1937-46 and then again in 1948. Teamed with Josh Gibson during those years, the two became a terror for pitchers. They were called the "Thunder Twins." "If he (Leonard) batted fourth, behind Gibson," Roy Campanella once noted, "we could pitch around him and make him hit an outside offspeed pitch. He had a real quick bat, and you couldn't get a fastball by him. He was strictly a pull hitter with tremendous power." Before Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson integrated baseball, Clark Griffith, the owner of the Washington Senators, approached Gibson and Leonard about playing in the majors. Leonard declined, saying that he did not want to break the status quo. Later, after integration, Bill Veeck approached Leonard about breaking into the majors, but the veteran felt that he was too old.
One of the best players in the game, Leonard could have easily been a major league star. Leonard was often atop statistical categories, such as home runs and batting average. In 1948, Leonard hit .391 to lead the Negro National League. He also led the league in home runs in 1942. He was invited to play in 12 East-West All-Star Games where he batted .273 with three homeruns. After the Grays dissolved in 1950, Leonard spent five seasons in the Mexican Leagues. Leonard and his "Thunder Twin" Gibson were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

For more on Buck go to: http://www.blackbaseball.com/leonardb.html

Walter "Buck" Leonard

Years played:

Positions played:
first base

Brooklyn Royal Giants, Homestead Grays

Comparable Players:
Lou Gehrig, Johnny Mize, Fred McGriff, Mo Vaughn, Frank Thomas