Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dutch Leonard died a wealthy man -- updated

1917 Boston Store.
 Uncommon commons. Contemporary accounts of tidbits that as a collector of baseball and football cards I found interesting because they helped bring to life the faces on the cards I collected. I figure that if I found these items of interest, so would other vintage card collectors.

 "Many fans and others in baseball, who noted the extent of the estate of the late H.B. (Dutch) Leonard, wondered how a former ball player could accumulate so much money."

So began an article in a 1953 edition of The Sporting News detailing the estate left by Hubert Benjamin Leonard when he died in 1952 (on my first birthday, July 1). The newspaper account concerned Dutch the Elder, who pitched in the majors from 1913-1925. Dutch the Younger (Emil John) was active from 1933-53.

H.B. Leonard had been born in Ohio in 1892, but made his way to California where he pitched for two seasons (1910-11) for St. Mary's College,  near Oakland. (Among the two dozen or so major leaguers who played for St. Mary's since the 19th Century were Harry Hooper, Duffy Lewis, Frank Kelleher, Andy Carey, Tom Candiotti and, in this century, Mark Teahen. Hal Chase coached the team circa 1907.)

Connie Mack gave Leonard a look-see in 1911, but he never actually played for the Athletics. He entered Organized Baseball at the age of 20 in 1912, pitching for Denver in the Western League (Class A). It was his only year in the minor leagues. He won 22 games, lost nine and had a 2.50 ERA.

1922 E220 National Caramel.
 The Boston Red Sox signed Leonard for 1913, and he spent six seasons there. With the young Babe Ruth, Leonard formed the left-handed heart of the Red Sox staff. Dutch won 90 games, losing 64 for Boston. In 1914 he led the major leagues with an ERA of 0.96, a modern-era record that still stands.

When World War I curtailed the 1918 season, Leonard went to work in the shipyards. In December, 1918, he was traded to the Yankees in a multi-player deal, but never pitched for New York.

Embroiled in salary negotiations, Leonard went back to California to pitch for Fresno in the outlaw San Joaquin League. The Tigers purchased his contract in mid-May, 1919. 

Leonard pitched only moderately well for Detroit from 1919-21, winning 35 and losing 43. During that period he wrangled frequently and bitterly with Tigers' manager Ty Cobb. When Tigers' owner Frank Navin tried to make Leonard swallow a salary cut from the $9,000 he made in 1921, Leonard again bolted for the Coast, pitching the next two seasons for Fresno.

Returning to OB and the Tigers in mid-August, 1924, Leonard picked up his feud with Cobb while working to a 3-2 record. The feud reached a peak in 1925, when Cobb hung Leonard out to dry in a July 14 game against the A's. Cobb left Leonard on the mound for the entire game while the A's racked up a dozen runs.

Five days later, against the Yankees, Leonard was ahead 12-4 in the fifth inning when Cobb yanked him off the mound. Leonard got the win, 18-12, bringing his record for the year to 11-4, but was released, ending his pro career . . . but not his hatred of Ty Cobb.

A year later, Leonard approached American League president Ban Johnson about what he claimed was a conspiracy by Cobb and Cleveland Indians manager Tris Speaker to throw a game on Sept. 24, 1919, so that Cobb's Tigers could win third-place money. Leonard presented letters from some of the parties containing references to bets having been placed on the game. 

Johnson took the allegations seriously, and his investigation forced Cobb and Speaker to resign their managers' positions, though they remained in the league as players for the 1927 season, Cobb with the A's and Speaker with the Senators. When baseball ccommissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis began his own investigation, but when Leonard refused to leave his California home to travel to Landis' office in Chicago to back up his allegations, the commissioner's inquiry died.

1916 M101-5 blank back.
All of this has been reported in baseball journals and books, but I found, in the 1953 Sporting News account, a tidbit I had not seen before.

In the article headlined "Dutch Leonard Good Businessman Back in 1910," the sporting weekly said, "It was not generally known, but Ban Johnson, when president of the American League, paid Leonard $25,000 for a special service, presumably in assisting him in checking on reported gambling."

The article continued to detail how prosperous the pitcher had become in his post-baseball days around Fresno. "It may be that Dutch parlayed that 25 grand with other money he had accumulated as a star pitcher, to develop his fortune, appraised by the executors of his estate at $2,169,143.33.He operated a large ranch under the name of Leonard Bros., and owned one of the largest grape-growing, packing, shipping and storage businesses in San Joaquin Valley. His property holdings totaled 2,500 acres.

Leonard died at the age of 60, of complications from a stroke suffered in 1944.

The Sporting News continued its report, "The appraisal showed the estate included $133,385 worth of packing house materials, $96,329 in revolving funds of wineries, about $65,000 in savings accounts, $55,000 in life insurance, $40,000 in accounts receivable and other farm equipment."

1979 Topps

When not accumulating his fortune, Leonard was, according to TSN, "a collector of musical records . . . the estate also including more than $5,000 in records (reportedly as many as 15,000 discs), recorders, phonographs and other electronic equipment. There also was included 100 reels of educational film, three projection screens, and a 16 mm projector."

In his leisure time, when not listening to his records or watching his (ahem) educational films, Leonard was an avid golfer. Before a heart attack in 1942, he was rated as among the best left-handed golfers in California.

According to an inflation calculator, the $2.17 million estate Leonard left in 1952 had a value equivalent to $18.3 million in today's dollars.

At the time of his death, Leonard was single. In 1917 he had married vaudeville performer Muriel Worth, who divorced him five years later. The couple apparently had no children. 

The terms of Leonard's will left his estate to his housekeeper, a sister-in-law and three nephews. It appears that a sister, another nephew and a niece were not among his heirs.

His cards are generally priced among the "commons," but for the length of his major league service, he appears on surprisingly few contemporary cards. He is shown on a 1979 Topps Record Holder card and has a similar card in one of the 1985 Topps "boxed" retail sets.  He appears on several cards in the 1990s Conlon Collection series and a few other collectors' issues.

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