Originally Posted by MartyFan
For those of us who are not so familiar with the sins of these two would be superstars can you tell us what they did, what held them back and what they would have projected to be had they stayed out of their trouble?
I remember Ron LeFlore but only because I would get a ton of his cards in TOPPS when I was a kid.
Leflore was born in Detroit and was involved in the criminal justice system at an early age. In the book Breakout: From Prison to the Big Leagues Leflore relates growing up in a crime ridden section of Detroit. Although his parents were married, his father was an unemployed alcoholic who rarely took part in family life. His mother was a hard working nurses aide that held the family together financially and physically, even feeding Ron while a heroin addict and small-time drug dealer. He credits his motherís compassion for his survival during this period. At twelve, he began to have sex with local prostitutes and soon after he was introduced to shooting heroin in a neighbourhood shooting gallery. He dropped out of school and spent many nights breaking into the Stroh's Brewery on Gratiot Avenue, stealing beer and getting drunk with friends. After dropping out of school he played no organized sports and rarely followed the Tigers, although he had been to Tiger Stadium, sitting in the upper bleachers with his father, on one occasion as a kid. First arrested at fifteen, he was ultimately sentenced to 5-15 years in state prison at Jackson for armed robbery.
Incarcerated, the first organized baseball league LeFlore played in was for inmates. Billy Martin, the legendary New York Yankee player and manager, then manager of the Detroit Tigers, was lured to Michigan State Prison by another inmate who knew Martin. The unorthodox Martin witnessed LeFlore's speed and strength, something that bloomed after LeFlore had given up drugs and drinking inside prison. Incredibly, Martin helped LeFlore get permission for day-parole and a try out at Tiger Stadium. In the summer of 1973, the convict impressed Tigers' management and the team signed him to contract in July, which enabled him to meet the conditions for parole. Martin, the man who gave LeFlore his break, was fired in August of that same year for telling Tiger pitchers to throw at opposing hitters; he was replaced by Joe Schultz. Ralph Houk was LeFlore's manager subsequently. Originally, LeFlore, a twenty-six year old rookie, was assigned to the Tigers' AA affiliate, but by the end of the 1973 season he was playing for the Triple A Toledo Mudhens. The following season he made the Major League club and by 1975 was a starting outfielder.