Most baseball players can’t say that they were drafted within the first two rounds of the Major League Draft, let alone the three times that Eddie Leon can claim! He was drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Twins in 1965 and the first round again in 1966 by the Chicago Cubs. The third time was the charm for Leon, who finally signed with the Indians after being drafted in the second round by the Cleveland Indians in 1967. Leon had declined to sign the previous times in order to complete his All-American career at the University of Arizona.
Leon carved out an eight year in the career between 1968 and 1975, playing for the Indians, White Sox and Yankees. A strong fielder, Leon hit .236 over his 601 game career with 24 home runs and 159 RBI.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Mr. Leon, who shared some of his memories of baseball.
How did you first become interested in baseball?: I was always interested in baseball. When I grew up I started playing baseball with people who were older with me, for instance my uncle, who was a baseball player in the armed services. I was about four years old.
Who was your favorite player growing up?: Mickey Mantle.
You were drafted in first two rounds of the MLB Draft on three separate occasions, why did you not sign first two times?: I was a high draft choice of the Minnesota Twins in ’65, the very first draft. They offered me $6500 for a bonus. I didn’t think that was adequate enough for a number one draft choice. The second year I was very close to signing with the Cubs because I knew that I would lose any negotiation power if I returned to the university as a senior. We were very close, but it turned out it wasn’t close enough so I decided to go back for my senior year because I also wanted to get my degree in civil engineering, which I did.
Did any veteran take you under their wing when you reached the Majors?: Gaylord Perry.
Do you have a favorite moment from your career?: There were a lot… The most memorable was when I first played in Yankee Stadium because I always grew up being a Yankee fan…
You did really well against Denny McClain, 6 for 13, with 2 home runs; what do you think accounts for that?: I really don’t know. I had success against him, but I had success against a lot of great pitchers and I had very poor success against others that weren’t so good. So I really can’t tell. I don’t know. I just seemed to be comfortable facing him.
How was Alvin Dark as manager?: Alvin was a pretty good guy… The best thing I can say about Alvin is that he was a very smart manager and was always on top of what was going on.
Did you have a favorite roommate?: I roomed with Graig Nettles with the Indians and the Yankees. He was my favorite roommates. I also had another very good roommate with the White Sox, Tony Muser.
What have you done since you stopped playing?: Well I used my civil engineering degree and worked in real estate development here in Tucson for about the last 30 years.
What are your thoughts on the current game?: I follow it very closely. I read about it. I watch a lot of games with the satellite package that has all the games. In fact I am watching the Red Sox right now because Terry Francona is a friend of mine. .. But it’s still a great game…. One of the bad things about baseball right now is that the games last so long.
What is your favorite hobby?: Golf.
Approximately how many autograph requests do you get in the mail each week or month?: During the baseball season I probably get about four or five letters in the mail asking for autographs, sending baseball cards of mine. About three, or four, or five a week. I find it interesting to see how many ball players return them. Prior to million dollar contracts baseball players were playing to try to make some money and play in the Big Leagues. It was also fun and about the love of the game. They were as you say very gracious and appreciative and they knew baseball was not the end-all to riches. It was a job and a very good paying job, but it was still a job.