December 4, 1952 |
|1978, for the Lotte Orions|
|1987, for the Yakult Swallows|
|Runs batted in||884|
Leon Lee (born December 4, 1952 in Sacramento, California) is a former professional baseball player and manager. He played first base, third base and catcher during his career, batting and throwing right-handed.
American baseball career
Leon Lee was selected in the ninth round (198th overall) by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1971 draft. He spent seven years in the Cardinals' minor league system without playing in a Major League Baseball (MLB) game.
Japanese baseball career
With the support of his older brother, former American Major League player Leron Lee, who was playing for the Lotte Orions, a Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) team, Leon was able to make the move to Japan. Lee played five seasons alongside his older brother, hitting 41 home runs, 116 RBIs, with a .340 batting average in 1980. His batting average that year was the second highest in the Pacific League, behind his brother's average.
Scouting and managing
After the 2002 MLB season, Lee left the Cubs and returned to Japan to serve as the Orix BlueWave's hitting coach for the 2003 NPB season. The manager, Hiromichi Ishige, was fired in April, and Lee was promoted to manager, becoming the first African-American manager in Japanese baseball history. On May 17, 2003, the BlueWave faced the Nippon Ham Fighters, managed by Trey Hillman, for a battle between two American managers in Japan for the first time in 28 years. The Blue Waves were a good offensive team, but the pitching staff posted a 5.95 team ERA, and the team finished in last place with a 48-88-4 record. The club hired a Japanese manager for the next season and Lee was offered, but declined, the hitting coach position.
In February 2004, Lee was hired to manage the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Class-A New York Mets minor-league affiliate. On April 8, he was arrested for indecent exposure in a hotel after seeking to quiet a noisy late-night crowd that was disturbing his team. While the charges were still pending, he was forced to resign before managing his first game. Although Lee pressed for a court date to clear his name, the charges were dropped in 2005.
Lee also served as a consultant in the making of the 1992 film Mr. Baseball. The film, starring Tom Selleck, detailed life in the Japanese professional baseball league from the point of view of an American player. The African American sidekick role, played by actor Dennis Haysbert, is believed to be based on the experiences of several African American players in Japan, including Leon and his older brother Leron Lee.
- "1971 Draft -- June Regular Phase". MLB.com. Retrieved December 11, 2009.
- Fitts, Robert K. (March 21, 2005). Remembering Japanese baseball: an oral history of the game. Southern Illinois University Press. p. xxx. ISBN 0-8093-2629-9.
- Greenstein, Teddy (October 11, 2003). "A Marlin with links to Chicago - Lee's dad scouted for Cubs in Asia". Chicago Tribune. Newsbank. Retrieved December 11, 2009.
- "Leon Lee accused of exposing himself". ESPN.com. April 9, 2004. Retrieved December 11, 2009.
- Jenkins, Lee (March 2, 2005). "A Baseball Career Hangs in the Balance". The New York Times. Retrieved December 11, 2009.
- Cabral, Rick (July 1, 2013). "Sidebar: The Saint Lucie Hotel Incident". BaseballSacramento.com. Retrieved July 7, 2013.
- Cabral, Rick A (July 1, 2013). "Leon Lee: Sacramento's MR. BASEBALL". BaseballSacramento.com. Retrieved July 7, 2013.