Ashburn, Schmidt, Day, Hulbert, Willis inducted as Class of 1995
“Anybody who’s faster than Ashburn isn’t running. He’s flying.”
One of the most dominant and versatile pitchers in the Negro Leagues, Leon Day commanded both his fastball and curveball with grandeur that was often compared to that of Hall of Famer Satchel Paige. He pitched for the Newark Eagles in the 1930s and ‘40s, also playing international ball in Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Canada, as well as on Army teams during World War II. He set the Negro League single-game strikeout record with 18 against the Baltimore Elite Giants in 1942.
Also an adept hitter, Day would play second base or in the outfield when he wasn’t pitching. In 1937, he hit .320 with eight home runs in 20 games. During that season, he posted a 3.05 ERA as a starting pitcher for the Eagles.
“If Satchel Paige is the Negro League icon, Leon Day is the warrior,” former teammate Max Manning said. “He’s the guy that goes out there and does his thing and does it completely.”
The other pitcher inducted in 1995 was Victor Gazaway Willis, whose overhand delivery resulted in powerful fastballs and fleeting curves. Willis played eight of his 13 seasons in the majors with the Boston Beaneaters, then spent time with the Pittsburgh Pirates before ending his career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1910.
Willis compiled a 249-205 overall record with a 2.63 lifetime ERA.
“His ‘drop’ is so wonderful that, if anyone hits it, it is generally considered a fluke,” reported the Boston Sunday Journal, quoted in “Deadball Stars of the National League.”
William Hulbert was president of the Chicago White Stockings club and one of the founders of the National League. In his career, which was cut short when he passed away from a heart attack in 1882, he implemented many new additions to the game that remain commonplace today, including a ban on gambling in the ballpark, set ticket prices and player contracts.
“In all the history of Base Ball no man has yet appeared who possessed in combination more of the essential attributes of a leader than [Hulbert],” Albert G. Spalding wrote in his book “America’s National Game.” “He stood like a stone wall, protecting the game of Base Ball in it integrity and turning back the assaults of every foe who sought to introduce elements of dishonesty, discord or degeneration.”
Kristen Gowdy was the 2014 public relations intern in the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum