Some of my earliest childhood memories of Tigers baseball involve Ron LeFlore. He was stealing bases left and right with reckless abandon and, if I remember correctly, driving Tigers GM Jim Campbell nuts. I liked watching him play.
When the made-for-TV movie about LeFlore’s life, “One in a Million”, first aired on CBS, I remember clearly trying to follow along using the script that the Free Press published that morning.
Two things stood out for me from the film:
First, LeVar Burton didn’t look like LeFlore and he was pathetic baseball player.
Second, the guy who played Ralph Houk looked more like Alan Hale and was far-too tall. (But had quite a prolific acting and stunt career.)
I read about old number 8 in Peter Golenbock‘s book, The Forever Boys, which tracked the former big league players who formed the Senior Baseball League, a competitive league of former professional players over age 35.
At the time Golenbock researched the book, LeFlore was trying to return to the bigs as an umpire.
Flash forward to the final game at Tiger Stadium in 1999. During the parade of Tigers greats streaming in from centerfiled, LeFlore was busted cold by Detroit’s finest for not paying child support.
Or alimony. Or both.
Proving that some habits are hard to break, Ron LeFlore is back in the news:
Today, he went back behind bars at age 58 for $73,000 in unpaid child support.
Acting on a tip from LeFlore’s ex-girlfriend, Wayne County sheriff’s deputies arrested LeFlore, of Clearwater, Fla., Saturday on a civil warrant while he signed $4 autographs at the Gibraltar Trade Center in Mt. Clemens.
Four-dollar autographs? He’d have to sign 18,250 of those to come up with 73 Gs.
Here are some LeFlore tidbits:
- Debuted in 1974
- All Star in 1976
- Played for the Tigers, Expos and White Sox
- Finished his nine-year career with a .288 average
- Finished in the top five in stolen bases from 1976-80
- Led the American League in steals in 1978 (68) and the National League in his only season with the Expos (97)
- Led the A.L. in runs scored in 1978
- Finished at number two in hits for the A.L. in 1977 and ’78
First Uggie, now Ronnie. Who’s next?
Photo: Wayne County Sheriff’s Office