Must-read: The twilight of Ron LeFlore
Former major-league outfielder Ron LeFlore always did things the hard way. As former Tigers beat writer Jim Hawkins writes for the 'Toronto Sun,' that's never changed.
His life has always seemed the stuff of myth.
Ron LeFlore went to prison for robbery. While incarcerated, he played baseball for the first time. He was good at it. Very good. So good he earned a nickname for his speed and daring ("Twinkle Toes Bosco," of all things). One of his fellow prisoners knew a guy who owned a bar in Detroit. Because that guy owned a bar in Detroit, he knew Billy Martin. Once, while LeFlore was on a 48-hour furlough from his max-security facility, Martin gave him a tryout. A year later, LeFlore was the starting center fielder for the Detroit Tigers.
Twice, he led his league in stolen bases and, in 1976 he was an All-Star. But his career ended with an unfortunate nod to LeFlore's baseball origins: He was arrested in Chicago on charges of drug and gun possession. He was acquitted but exiled from baseball.
His life was the subject of a book and then a movie. LeFlore then had his leg amputated after he developed arterial vascular disease, which he says was brought on by smoking. Hard-won good to go with hard-wired bad.
Now, Jim Hawkins, writing for the Toronto Sun, checks in on the 64-year-old LeFlore:
Unable to land a job as a coach in the big leagues, LeFlore worked as an airport baggage handler, went to umpire school, worked as an instructor at a baseball school, played in the now-defunct professional Senior League, and coached or managed in three independent leagues, including at Saskatoon in the Canadian League.
Along the way, he admitted to being four years older than he had originally claimed, lost a 49-day-old child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, faced felony charges of possession of a controlled substance, and was arrested twice for non-payment of child support.
Please do read the whole thing. It's a necessary revisitation of a player the likes of whom baseball will probably never see again.
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