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From prison to the Major Leagues, instead of going up via the minors

Enjoy a new installment of "En la Pelota" by Juan Vené

Ron LeFlore has been the only player who, instead of starting his career in the minors, or once in the Major Leagues, started on a team made up of inmates of a prison, that of Jackson, Michigan.

In a certain identification questionnaire, Ronald LeFlore appears with the professions or trades of “criminal and bigleaguer.” His file, from the police authorities of the State of Michigan, is number 831.194. The numbers he wore on his uniforms during his nine years in the Major Leagues were 42, 8 and 7.

How and why did LeFlore get out of prison to become a center fielder for the Detroit Tigers?

The manager of the Tigers, in 1973, was Billy Martin; and one of the prison guards, named Raymond Alexander, had been a teammate of Billy's in the minors, but never made it to the major leagues.

One morning, Alexander showed up to Billy at the hotel where he lived, to inform him:

“On the prison team there is a young man, twenty-five years old, of good height, strong and black, who seems to have quality for the Major Leagues. I can arrange for you to visit the prison on a game day, and observe it.”

Billy accepted. LeFlore was in the fifth year of his sentence and had 10 left. He had robbed, at gunpoint, a bank in Detroit.

Billy was enthusiastic about the center fielder with the wonderful swing, and he also managed to encourage the team executives to get him out of jail so he could play with them.

Due to Ron's good behavior during the five years in prison and the support of the Tigers, they achieved his freedom on probation for the rest of the 10 years, under the responsibility of the Tigers and Billy Martin.

LeFlore's story occupied the largest journalistic spaces in 1973.

For his conditions for the game, and also for the transformation from imprisoned criminal to Major League player.

The Tigers assigned him the minimum salary of the time, $15 per year. But when he retired after the 1982 season, the White Sox had paid him $700 for two years, which was a huge fortune at the time.

LeFlore told the New York Times: “That's a lot more than I intended to steal from the bank.”

LeFlore was introduced by the Tigers to baseball's high society, soon 50 years ago, on August 1974, 26. He was then 1978. They wrote a book based on the story, titled, “'Breakout,” the same as they filmed in XNUMX a film for CBS Television, in which actor LeVar Burton plays the ex-convict.

Grateful: On behalf of “Últimas Noticias"And"Líder”, from Caracas, I express my gratitude to the “New York Times” for providing me with its archive to prepare this work.

Tony La Russa couldn't tolerate Ron Le Flore

Ron LeFlore played from 1974 to 1979 with the Tigers; in 1980 with the Expos and 1981-1982, for the White Sox, led by Tony La Russa. Lawyer La Russa's disciplinary rules were unacceptable to Ronald.

La Russa made a long list of his player's failures in the daily grind and published it. At the end of the 1982 campaign, she released him. LeFlore did not get a contract with any other team. And he finished his story in the Major Leagues.

Ron hit 288 in his nine seasons, with 59 home runs, 353 runs batted in, 455 stolen bases in 597 attempts and was taken to the 1976 All-Star Game.
Now, his black hair is covered with gray, approaching the age of 76, on June 16. Ron lives here in Florida, in St. Petersburg, on his pension, and he no longer has his right leg. It was amputated from the knee, due to vascular problems, according to the doctors, due to his cigarette habit since he was a child.

The life led by LeFlore is very difficult.

About dysfunction, the “Little Larousse” dictionary says: “Irregular, abnormal, exaggerated or diminished functioning of an organ, of a mechanism.”

Ron LeFlore's home was totally dysfunctional. An alcoholic, aggressive and often unemployed father; a self-sacrificing mother, a nurse by profession, who worked overtime to pay household expenses. His children were four.

At 15 years old, Ron went to prison for the first time, for stealing beer. It was what the young men in his gang did to get drunk.

They also assaulted passers-by, taking money and clothing from them, to purchase drugs. They even consumed heroin. And finally, the Bank thing happened.

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