February 7, 1936|
|Died: May 3, 1991
|May 1, 1954, for the New York Yankees|
|Last MLB appearance|
|April 29, 1962, for the Los Angeles Angels|
|Runs batted in||0|
Frank John Leja, Jr. (February 7, 1936 – May 3, 1991) was an American professional baseball player. The first baseman appeared in 26 games for the New York Yankees (1954–55) and Los Angeles Angels (1962) of Major League Baseball. He threw and batted left-handed, stood 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) tall and weighed 205 pounds (93 kg).
A native of Holyoke, Massachusetts, who starred at Holyoke High School, Leja was signed to a $45,000 bonus contract by legendary Yankee scout Paul Krichell. As a "bonus baby", the 18-year-old Leja was forced by the regulations of the day to spend the first two seasons of his professional baseball career on a Major League roster. He appeared in only 19 total games during the 1954 and 1955 seasons, with seven plate appearances and seven at bats. Leja had one hit, a single off Al Sima of the Athletics on September 19, 1954, at Connie Mack Stadium—the last home game the Athletics would ever play in their original home city of Philadelphia.
After finally being allowed to play regularly in minor league baseball, Leja showed his ability as a power hitter, exceeding the 20-home run mark from 1957 to 1959 and in 1961. But the Yankees never recalled him, and traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals after the 1961 season. The Angels, then in their second season as an American League expansion team, purchased Leja's contract during spring training in 1962. He made the team's early-season 28-man roster and appeared in seven more games, including four starts at first base, but went hitless (with one base on balls) in 16 at bats. He was traded to the Milwaukee Braves in May 1962 and finished his career in the minors in 1964.
Leja's single off Al Sima in Philadelphia was his only MLB hit in 23 official at bats; he scored three runs. He died from a heart attack in Boston at age 55 and was interred in Greenlawn Cemetery in suburban Nahant, Massachusetts.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference