Monday, May 4, 2009

1976 Topps #61 - Ron LeFlore

Whoops. I skipped #61. Ron LeFlore and Mark Fidrych came up in the same year. Their stories helped keep Tiger fans interested until the team came up with more good prospects.
Ron was serving 5 1/2 years for armed robbery when he was discovered playing on a prison baseball team. Detroit manager Billy Martin was able to get LeFlore signed (which met one of the conditions for parole) and Ron started his baseball career. After some time in the minors Ron was brought up in late 1974. He became a starting outfielder in 1975 and was successful as a speedy good-hitting outfielder who stole a ton of bases and had a little bit of power.
In 1976 Ron made the All Star team and batted .316 with 58 stolen bases. He led the AL in runs and stolen bases in 1978. Ron was traded to Montreal before the 1980 season for Dan Schatzaeder. He led the NL in stolen bases in 1980 with 97. After the 1980 season LeFlore signed with the Chicago White Sox as a free agent. His production fell off a bit and he argued about playing time with Tony LaRussa. Ron played two seasons with the White Sox and was released in spring training of 1983.
He must really have liked the number 11. He made 11 errors in 1974, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1980.
Ron wrote a book called Breakout: From Prison to the Major Leagues, which was turned into the movie "One in a Million" starring LeVar Burton.
Here is a short April 2009 Sports Illustrated article about Ron and his struggles after his baseball career was over.


  1. Ron "The Con" was one of my favorite players when I was a kid. It was a wonderful story that he overcame so much to become a great player. Sad to hear how his life has turned out, but I am sure there are many, many other players from the 50s, 60s, and 70s living hand to mouth.

    Thanks for the profile and SI link. I look forward to each and every post.

  2. Yeah. One would think that the players have it easy once they reach the majors. It seems like they should be set for life, but sometimes it just doesn't work out that way -- especially if they get taken by shady "consultants."

  3. Man, that LeFlore story is sad. I remember watching the TV movie about him, it left quite an impact on a kid that age.

  4. whenever I see a LeFlore card, I am always amazed by the arms on the guy and wonder how he didnt have more HRs. LefLore, Steve Kemp, Jason Thompson, Whitaker, Trammell, Gibson, Parrish . . . I'll argue that Gates Brown developed more really good hitters as batting coach than anyone in the majors in the late 70s-early 80s. Then the Tigers went 20 years after his leaving (after the 84 title) and only produced one better than average hitter (Travis Fryman)