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All Time Lists: 20 Greatest Players of the Negro Leagues

Greatest Negro Leagues team in history? 1932 Pittsburgh Crawfords. Standing: Benny Jones, L.D. Livingston, Satchel Paige*, Josh Gibson*, Ray Williams, Walter Cannady, Cy Perkins, Oscar Charleston*. Kneeling: Sam Streeter, Chester Williams, Harry Williams, Harry Kincannon, Henry Spearman, Jimmie Crutchfield, Bobby Williams, Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe. (*Hall of Fame)
Baseball Hall of Fame plaque honoring the induction of Negro league baseball player Buck Leonard.
(Photo Credit: Eric Enfermero) Baseball Hall of Fame plaque honoring the induction of Negro league baseball player Buck Leonard.

Buck Leonard, First Base

Walter Fenner “Buck” Leonard (September 8, 1907 – November 27, 1997) was born in rocky Mount, North Carolina, He loved baseball, and was once arrested for peeing through a fence at a game of white players. He grew up to get a job on the railroad, but played semi-pro ball when he could, and then decided to pursue a full-time career playing.

He joined the Brooklyn Royal Giants in 1933, and then the Homestead Grays in 1934. He played for them until his retirement in 1950. The Giants were the best team in Negro baseball in the 30s and 40s, winning nine consecutive pennants in a row.  Leonard batted fourth behind Josh Gibson and led the league in 1948 with a .395 average. Leonard either led the league in home runs or finished second to teammate Josh Gibson. Since Gibson had been dubbed the “Black Babe Ruth”, Leonard received the moniker as the “Black Lou Gehrig.” Together, the two were called the “Thunder Twins” and the Dynamite Twins.”

When the team disbanded in 1950, due to the advent of integrated baseball, Leonard moved to the Mexican League and played there part-time for five more years. He eventually became vice president of the Rocky Mount Maple Leafs, wh0 became the Class A minor league team for the Detroit Tigers in the 1970s. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972 along with teammate Gibson. He was also elected to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1994 and died from complications following a stroke.

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