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Baseball’s Buck Leonard Eulogized

December 3, 1997

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (AP) _ Psalms, poems and tributes rang throughout St. James Baptist Church at the funeral of Baseball Hall of Fame member Buck Leonard.

Leonard, who died Thanksgiving day at age 90, was remembered for his batting and fielding skills and as man of great dignity who returned to his roots in Rocky Mount after his baseball days.

Among the mourners that filled the church Tuesday were Leonard’s former teammates in the Negro Baseball Leagues.

``Buck’s song was not sung for a long time, until they put him in the Hall,″ said Buck O’Neil, the former Kansas City Monarchs first baseman who is a founding member of the Negro Baseball Museum in Kansas City. Leonard was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

``I’ll cry tonight,″ he said. ``But not because of Buck’s passing. I’ll cry for the people who didn’t get to see him and know of his great things. He was one of the greatest who ever lived.″

Leonard, whose career with the Homestead Grays stretched from 1932 to 1950, averaged more than 30 home runs a year and retired with an unofficial .324 lifetime batting average.

Rocky Mount Mayor Frederick Turnage, a friend of Leonard’s for more than 20 years, said Leonard was not bitter about never playing in the major leagues.

``He was grateful for what he was able to accomplish,″ said Turnage.

Leonard was remembered as a masterful storyteller who regaled listeners with tales of the Negro Leagues before he suffered a crippling stroke in the 1980s.

``I’m sure there’s a great ball club in Heaven,″ a smiling O’Neil said. ``Saint Peter probably asked God, `What about Lou Gehrig at first base?′ But God said, `Lou Gehrig’s on the other team.‴

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