Leroy Matlock


"Matlock was a power pitcher with excellent control. Like Bob Gibson, he was absolutely fearless. Nobody could intimidate him."
--"The Pittsburgh Crawfords" by James Bankes
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Negro Leaguer of the Month
July, 2006

Leroy Matlock

Born: March 12, 1907 in Moberly, Missouri

Died:February 6, 1968 in St. Paul, Minnesota
Ht:5'-9", Wt: 180
Batted left and threw left
Position: pitcher
Years: 1929-42
Teams:Pittsburgh Crawfords, St. Louis Stars, Detroit Wolves, Homestead Grays, Washington Pilots, New York Cubans, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela

Leroy Matlock, as great as he was, is best known in Negro League lore, as the benificiary of one time a team "sat down" on Satchel Paige.

Matlock grew up in Moberly, Missouri, only a few hundered miles east of Kansas City, and though he would play for several teams, he would never suit up for the Kansas City Monarchs.

Matlock was a stocky left-handed pitcher, with a good fastball and a variety of curves. After a few seasons with the St. Louis Stars, Matlock gained fame with the Pittsburgh Crawfords in the mid-1930s, on a staff with Satchel Paige. In 1934, Matlock went 14-3 in league games, and in '35, when Paige left to play in North Dakota, Matlock became the team's ace. It could be argued that Matlock was even more dominating than Paige in the mid-30s, as the lefty reportedly won 26 straight league games during a three year period, besting the Major League record of consecutive pitching victories, set by another lefty, Carl Hubell, with 24.

Matlock pitched in the East-West game in 1935 and '36. He didn't allow an earned run in five innings, and he was the winning pitcher in '36; he was helped in the '36 game by a great play by fellow Crawford third baseman Judy Johnson.

In his prime, Matlock was usually among the league leaders in wins and ERA.

Now, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. In 1937, the Crawfords were nearly put out of business when Matlock, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Bill Perkins and Sammy Bankhead jumped the club to play in the Dominican Republic for the Ciudad Trujillo Dragons, named after the controversial president of the country.

The Dragons ended the season by winning the championship game in front of a huge crowd and hundreds of armed soldiers, with Matlock winning the game, helped by a Bankhead grand slam. The team then returned to the United States and entered the Denver Post semipro tournament. Satchel left the team when he was offered more money elsewhere, the team picked up first baseman Showboat Thomas, pitchers Bob Griffith and Chet Brewer, and catcher Spoony Palm. The Dragons were far superior than their opponents, and breezed through the first six games, making it to the championship game. Because the Dragons were unbeaten, they would have to be beaten twice by their oppoents, the Duncan Cementers, who had come through the loser's bracket.

A $1000 cash bonus was offered to the winning pitcher of the final game, and Paige, by far the best-paid player in the Negro Leagues, flew to Denver to pitch. Behind his back, the players got together and conspired to throw the game, knowing that the well-liked Matlock would pitch the following game. The Denver Post newspaper, of course, knew nothing about the fix, and after the Dragons lost 6-4 after committing several passed balls, throwing errors, and baserunning mistakes (one sure-handed outfielder let a grounder roll through his legs all the way to the fence) it was called the greatest upset in baseball history! Reality hit when Matlock pitched the next game and the Dragon offense exploded for 11 runs against the Cementers, and the game was called early because of the lopsided score.

Over the next five seasons, Matlock became a baseball gypsy, playing in the Negro Leagues, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
 
Matlock passed away at the age of 61 on February 6, 1968.

Dominican Republic championship game
August 13, 1937
Aguilina Cabaenas (6).....AB R H E
Clyde Spearman, rf.........5 1 2 0
Horacio, ss................4 1 1 1
X Pat Patterson, ph........1 1 1 0
Santos Amaro, 3b...........5 1 2 0
Red Parnell, lf............5 0 1 0
Martin Dihigo, cf, p.......5 0 4 0
Clarence Palm, c...........4 0 0 0
Showboat Thomas, 1b........4 1 3 0
Silvio Garcia, 2b..........3 1 2 1
Chet Brewer, p.............2 0 0 1
XX Alvarez, cf.............1 0 0 1
Totals...................39 6 16 4
X Batted for Horacio in 9th
XX Batted for Brewer in 5th

Ciudad Trujillo (8).......AB R H E
Cool Papa Bell, cf.........4 1 1 1
Harry Williams, 2b.........5 1 1 0
Lazaro Salazar, 1b.........4 1 1 0
Josh Gibson, c.............4 1 3 0
Sammy Bankhead, ss.........5 1 1 1
Bill Perkins, rf...........4 0 1 0
Castanos, lf...............4 0 1 0
X Tetelo Vargas, lf........0 0 0 0
Correa, 3b.................2 2 1 0
Leroy Matlock, p...........3 1 1 0
XX Paige, p................0 0 0 0
Totals...................35 8 11 2
X Replaced Costanos in 8th
XX Pitched for Matlock in 9th
Aguilas Cabaenas.............000 002 004-6
Ciudad Trujillo Dragones.....000 080 00X-8
Home Run-Bankhead. Doubles-Amaro, Dihigo, Matlock.
RBIs-Bankhead 4, Amaro 2, Williams 2, Salazar 1,
Matlock 1, Palm 1, Garcia 1, Patterson 1, Dihigo 1.
Sacrifices-Matlock, Garcia.

Double Play-Bankhead to Williams to Salazar.
Innings pitched-for Brewer 4, for Dihigo 4,
for Matlock 8-1/3, for Paige 2/3. Hits-off Brewer 5,
off Dihigo 5, off Matlock 13, Off Paige 3.
Strike Outs-by Dihigo 1, by Matlock 4. Walks-off Brewer 2,
off Dihigo 2, off Matlock 1. Passed Ball-Palm.
Hit by Pitch-Brewer. Time of Game-2:35.

XXX


 




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