Thursday, August 14, 2008

Jeffrey Leonard

As I have mentioned before, I really, really liked those pre-Bonds Giants teams of the late 80s. I rooted for them in every game they played that wasn't against the Braves. Why? I liked Roger Craig a lot from his days as Sparky Anderson's pitching coach in Detroit. I simply loved to watch Will Clark play. They had a lot of day games compared to other teams, so their highlights stood out more on SportsCenter. There were a lot of reasons.

Another one of them was Jeffrey Leonard. He seemed to enjoy being the bad guy so much that it was hard for me not to like him. Indeed, I almost felt sorry for him because writers seemed to spend so much time calling guys like Rickey Henderson a hot dog that I was worried that Leonard -- the real deal when it came to attitude and cockiness, as far as I was concerned -- would feel slighted for not being hated as much.

In light of all of that, I was happy to see today's great story from the Sacramento Bee, catching up with Old Penitentiary Face, who is currently managing in the independent leagues. When asked if he thinks he'll ever get a shot at coaching or managing in the big leagues, Leornard says:
"Can I do it? Yes, I know I can," he said. "Will I get that opportunity? Probably not. "Why? I don't have an answer. It could be a number of reasons. It could be my (skin) color, or my controversial career or the drug scandals . . . I don't know if it's because I kicked Will Clark's (behind)," Leonard added with a crooked grin . . .
Until I read that I probably hadn't thought about the Clark-Leonard fight for close to 20 years. For those who had never heard of it, here's the rundown from a 1989 World Series Eve article in the New York Times:

''He was a tumor,'' Clark told reporters. ''We got rid of him, now look where we are. He was a jealous ballplayer. He couldn't understand why a player was called up and got all the attention. So he made my life miserable.''

Leonard, now with the Seattle Mariners, swung back, calling Clark a ''talented hitter, but he's a prejudiced (expletive deleted).'' The black slugger, who was the most valuable player in the 1987 National League Championship Series, which the Giants lost to the Cardinals in seven games, told The San Francisco Chronicle his version of his 1987 fight with Clark in the Giants' clubhouse in Philadelphia.

''My nephew approached him and asked him for his autograph,'' Leonard recalled, adding that Clark had dismissed the youngster with a racial remark. ''The next day they had to pull me off him in the clubhouse. I was about to kill him, but I was afraid to hit him because I knew I would have broken something and we needed the guy to play.''
Kinda puts Bonds-Kent and Fielder-Parra in perspective, no?

1 comment:

Mike said...

The last line in the NYT article you reference is a little creepy now in hindsight.

"But when this Battle by the Bay World Series starts tonight, maybe the game will be the thing. Maybe."