OTD: Ron LeFlore Goes From Jackson State Prison To Detroit Tigers
Even now, it's still a remarkable story. Ron LeFlore, who was doing hard time for armed robbery at the Jackson State Prison, got a chance at redemption and made the most of it, and on this date in 1974, made his debut with the Detroit Tigers.
LeFlore grew up in a tough neighborhood on the east side of Detroit. Drugs and alcohol were involved and ultimately committed an armed robbery with a shotgun. If the LeFlore story sounds like some TV movie, well it was, in 1978, with Levar Burton playing LeFlore.
Where LeFlore's story turned around was while he was in Jackson, he was able to play some baseball, and a fellow inmate, Jimmy Karalla, saw him play and knew Jimmy Butsicaris, who with his brother John opened what might be the country's first sports bar, the Lindell AC near Tiger Stadium. Butsicaris in turn knew the Tiger manager, Billy Martin.
This remembrance of Butsicaris is perfect.
"Six years after the Karras-Bruiser donnybrook, Twins manager Billy Martin KO’d his own pitcher, Dave Boswell with 20 stitches in the alley behind the Lindell after the drunken hurler “sucker punched” teammate Bob Allison. A decade later, Martin and Jimmy B played themselves in the TV movie, “One In A Million: The Ron Leflore Story” which described how Butsicaris convinced then Tiger manager Martin to give Jackson Prison inmate and future All-Star Ron Leflore a tryout." - Vintage Detroit
LeFlore ended up playing nine seasons in the bigs. His first manager out of prison was Jim Leyland in Clinton, Iowa. After his big league debut in 1974, he was named an All-Star in 1976. LeFlore had speed. He led the major leagues in steals in 1978 and 1989 and stole 455 bases in his career. And humorously he was the victim of the "hidden ball trick", captured on video, too.
After his playing days, he tried out to be an umpire but didn't make it, and from all the years of smoking, he ended up losing a leg. He's retired now, in Florida.
(Courtside Tweets via YouTube)
(h/t to Ken Coleman)