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March 4, 1948 |
|MLB: September 5, 1969, for the St. Louis Cardinals|
|NPB: April 2, 1977, for the Lotte Orions|
|MLB: October 3, 1976, for the Los Angeles Dodgers|
|NPB: October 20, 1987, for the Lotte Orions|
|Runs batted in||152|
|Runs batted in||912|
|Career highlights and awards|
Leron Lee (born March 4, 1948 in Bakersfield, California) is a former left fielder in Major League Baseball who played 8 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians and San Diego Padres. He was the inspiration for the 1992 film Mr. Baseball, as Leron was the first Major League player to move to Japan at the height of his career and to wed a Japanese woman.
Early life and United States baseball career
Lee, the oldest of six children, graduated from Grant High School in Sacramento with 36 football scholarship offers from major four-year universities. Instead, he began his professional career at 18 as the number one draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in September 1969 after an excellent season at Tulsa where he batted .303. His first major league hit was off Jerry Robertson of the Montreal Expos. In 1970 he had ten multi-hit games, including two games with three hits, a tie breaking home run against the Dodgers and his first major league home run off future Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins.
In June 1971, after three seasons with the Cardinals, Leron was traded to the San Diego Padres where he had nineteen multi-hit games, including one memorable game against Cincinnati where he had three hits, including two doubles. A home run off Cito Gaston led to a 1972 2-1 win against Pittsburgh, the same year Leron batted .300 with an amazing thirty four multi- hit games, including six three-hit games.
Once again, after three seasons with the Padres, Leron was purchased by the Cleveland Indians where he had thirteen multi-hit games. In a game against the Royals he hit a home run then a grand slam to drive in all five runs for a 5-2 victory.
After signing with the Dodgers as a free agent, he remained for two seasons before ending his major league career to pursue a baseball career in Japan.
Japanese baseball career
Following his major league career, he played for the Lotte Orions in Japan from 1977–1987. He currently holds the Japanese record for career batting average (players with more than 4,000 at bats). He led the league in home runs and runs batted in in his first season, and won the batting title in 1980. In 1978, he invited younger brother Leon Lee (the father of former Major League Baseball player Derrek Lee) to play in Japan, and the brothers formed a feared cleanup for the Orions.
Before the arrival of Lee, foreign players mostly played in Japan when their careers were winding down. Lee revolutionized the Japanese view of foreign players by playing in Japan during his prime, raising the standard for all foreign players thereafter.
After retiring from Japanese baseball, he went on to become the batting coach for the Oakland Athletics in 1989 when they won the World Series. Currently, he works with the Cincinnati Reds as an advising batting coach to scouted players.
- Hand, Jack (6 June 1966). "Catcher No. 1 baseball selection". The Free Lance–Star. p. 17. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
- July 4, 1972 San Diego Padres at New York Mets Play by Play and Box Score – Baseball-Reference