Ron Leflore Biography

Biography of Ron LeFlore, basebal player who spent time in prison for a series crimes in the early 1970s. A few years later, he was setting records for the Detroit Tigers and inspiring a movie.

It's a story that seems almost impossible some 25 years later. A major league team signs a convicted felon who turns into their starting centerfielder. But it happened.

Ron LeFlore grew up on the mean streets of Detroit in the 1950s. By age 15, he had been convicted of robbing a supermarket. Less than a year later, another burglary resulted in a stay in a reformatory. It was an attempt to turn LeFlore toward the straight and narrow but it didn't work. When he was released, LeFlore admitted his attitude and demeanor hadn't changed. He began selling drugs on the street but in 1970, LeFlore's ability to avoid hard prison time had run out. Convicted of armed robbery in the spring of 1970, he wound up in a Michigan state prison in Jackson. It was a place only hardened criminals went and LeFlore wasn't getting out for awhile.

He didn't play organized baseball until 1971, when he joined a team of fellow inmates and quickly became one of it's best players. Luck would have it that a fellow prisoner had a contact outside who knew Tigers' manager Billy Martin. Incredibly, Martin came to the prison and the team arranged a tryout for LeFlore in the early summer of 1973.

LeFlore's sentence hadn't expired and he was expected back at the jail shortly after the tryout but he made the most of it. Eligible for parole in July of that year, LeFlore signed a contract with the Tigers organization and within a year, was playing in the major leagues.

He became a starting outfielder in 1975 and by '76, he was one of baseball's most exciting players. He stole 58 bases and hit .316, creating a buzz along with Mark "The Bird" Fidrych that helped fill Tiger Stadium on a regular basis.

In '77, LeFlore hit .325 and scored over 100 runs. In '78, he led the league with 68 stolen bases and scored 126 runs.

LeFlore's last season with Detroit was 1979, when at the age of 31, he swiped 78 bases. He was traded to Montreal after the season and stole a career-high 97 bags. He finished his career with the Chicago White Sox in 1982.

His incredible story became just that--a book titled "Breakout: From Prison to the Big Leagues". Later, it became a movie "One in a Million" starring LeVar Burton. Out of baseball for several years, LeFlore later became a coach in the Frontier League, an independent pro league based in the Midwest.

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