Day, Leon


Position: Pitcher, 1934 - 1950
Height: 5' 9"
Weight: 170 lbs. B/T: Right, Right
Born: 1916 in Alexandria, VA
Died: 1995 in Baltimore, MD
Hall of Fame Induction: 1995

The hard-throwing, no-windup, right hander mesmerized batters with his arsenal of assorted pitches. Day had a blazing fastball and snapping curve. A calm technician with a bulldog attitude toward winning ball games, Day was equally feared as a hitter. He could butcher you with his bat or slay you with his pitches. Consistency was a Day trademark.

His professional career began in 1934 with the Baltimore Black Sox under player-manager Herbert "Rap" Dixon, earning $60 a month. The following season, when Dixon jumped to the Brooklyn Eagles of the Negro National League, he took Day with him. Eagles manager Ben Taylor named Day as his top pitcher. He led the Eagles' staff in wins with a 9-2 record, which included a one-hitter, earning him his first of many selections to the coveted East-West All-Star Game in Chicago.

In 1936, the Eagles were sold to Abe Manley and relocated to Newark, New Jersey. The next season, he enjoyed one of his finest campaigns, compiling a perfect 13-0 record and batting .320 with eight home runs. In the 1942 East-West All-Star Game played in Chicago, Day struck out five of the first seven batters he faced, en route to a win. Overall, in his nine All-Star pitching appearances, Day recorded 16 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings. Earlier in the season he established a league record with 18 strikeouts in a game against the Baltimore Elite Giants, fanning future Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella three times.

After returning from the service in 1946, he pitched the only Opening Day no-hitter in Negro League history, against the Philadelphia Stars. He finished the season with a 13-4 record, and led the league in strikeouts, innings pitched, and shutouts, while batting a lofty .353.

The stocky athlete played many winters in the Puerto Rican, Venezuela and Mexican Leagues. During the 1941-42 Puerto Rico winter season, with the Aquadilla Sharks, he struck out a record 19 batters in an 18-inning marathon game. Day played in the Mexican Leagues for Mexico City Reds in 1947-48 and 1948-49, before returning to the Negro National League in 1949 to help the Baltimore Elite Giants win the pennant.

Eagle teammate Monte Irvin once said, "People don't know what a great pitcher Leon Day was. He was as good or better than Bob Gibson. He was a better fielder, a better hitter, could run like a deer. When he pitched against Satchel, Satchel didn't have an edge. You thought Don Newcombe could pitch. You should have seen Day! One of the best complete athletes I've ever seen."

Leon Day was selected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995. His winning percentage of .708, is higher than any pitcher currently in the Hall of Fame. Quiet, unassuming and never boastful were personal characteristics of this baseball legend. Day possessed a balmy fireside manner with pretentious talents. Personal characteristics that are almost unheard of in today's game.