There are those whose knowledge of Negro League baseball is limited to the big names and have never heard the name Leon Day, but that seems to be the story of his life. Often overshadowed by names like Satchel Paige and Smokey Joe Williams, Leon Day should always have been mentioned in the same breath; unfortunately it took the HOF Veteran’s Committee 40 years to elect him to the hallowed Hall. Day spent most of his career with the Newark Eagles with his best year coming in 1937, when, backed by the Eagles’ “Million Dollar Infield,” he went 13-0 with a .320 batting average. Possessing a simple, non-windup pitching motion, Day’s dominating fastball and wicked curve not only brought his teams success, but allowed him to make appearances in seven Negro League All-Star games. Never out of the lineup, on days he wasn’t on the mound Day would usually play second base or the outfield. In fact, he played every position except catcher. Leon Day proceeded about his business in his own quiet way, never showing the flamboyance of Paige, but in head-to-head competition he won three out of four decisions. Fellow Hall of Famer Monte Irvin compared Day to Bob Gibson on the mound and Willie Mays in the outfield, comparisons that certainly support his Hall of Fame inclusion.
Leon Day was elected to the Hall of Fame on March 8, 1995. He died six days later, leading one to believe that the 79-year old, who was suffering from diabetes and heart problems, had finally gotten the call he had waited a lifetime for.
July 8, 2011