Buck Leonard

Walter Fenner Leonard
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1972
Primary team: Homestead Grays
Primary position: 1st Baseman

Walter “Buck” Leonard was one of the best pure hitters to play in the Negro Leagues. He was also a key part of the Homestead Grays dynasty of the 1930s and 1940s.

The first baseman spent his entire 17-year career with the Grays, the longest term of service for a player with one team in Negro league history. He played in a league-record 11 East-West All-Star games and from 1937 to 1945.

Beginning in 1942, the Grays found themselves in four consecutive Negro World Series, winning in 1943 and 1944.

At the age of 45, with the color barrier broken, he was offered a major league contract, but turned it down. “In 1952, I knew I was over the hill,” Leonard said. “I didn't try to fool myself.”

League statistics have Leonard batting .320 for his career with a .527 slugging percentage. The number of recorded home runs, runs scored and runs driven in are varied, but there is agreement that Leonard was at the top of his class.

“Buck Leonard was as smooth a first baseman as I ever saw,” said booking agent Eddie Gottlieb. “In those days the first baseman on a team in the Negro Leagues often played the clown. They had a funny way of catching the ball so the fans would laugh, but Leonard was strictly baseball – a great glove, a (heck) of a hitter, and drove in runs.”

Leonard wasn't able to get a high school diploma until the age of 52, because his hometown didn't have a high school that allowed education for African-Americans. Always an advocate for civil rights, he was an ambassador for Negro League baseball until his death at age 90.

In 1999, the Sporting News ranked the slugger No. 47 on its list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players. He was one of only five men on the list who played most of, or their entire career in the Negro leagues. Leonard was also honored as a finalist for the Major League Baseball All-Century team.

Statistics are incomplete and from official league games only. More information

"Trying to sneak a fastball past him was like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster. "
Monte Irvin

Career stats

ESSENTIAL STATS
Year Inducted: 1972
Primary Team: Homestead Grays
Position Played: 1st Baseman
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Birth place: Rocky Mount, North Carolina
Birth year: 1907
Died: 1997, Rocky Mount, North Carolina
Played for:
Brooklyn Royal Giants (1933)
Homestead Grays (1934-1950)
CAREER AT A GLANCE
GamesG
NA
At BatsAB
1489
RunsR
352
HitsH
476
Doubles2B
74
Triples3B
26
Home RunsHR
57
RBIRBI
- -
Stolen BasesSB
27
WalksBB
162
Batting AverageBA
.320
OPSOPS
- -
On Base %OBP
- -
Slugging %SLG
- -