Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Hac's Back

You are looking at my all-time favorite badass.

HacMan. Penitentiary Face. One Flap Down.

Jeffrey (don't call him Jeff) Leonard has just been hired as the manager of the Reno Silver Sox, a member of the independent Golden Baseball League. It's a long way from "The Show" and I, for one, hope Hac makes it all the way back.

Leonard made my all-time Fan Hall of Fame with his swaggering years in the 1980's Giants outfield. That backwards cap on the baseball card, that surly scowl...he was our badass. For a guy with a .266 career average, ol' Hac cut a pretty wide swath.

Let's not forget how dismal things were for the Giants in the mid-80's. 96 losses in 1984, followed by 100 losses in 1985. Attendance dropped to barely 800,000 in '85. The turnaround began in 1986 when Will Clark and Robby Thompson arrived, Mike Krukow won 20 games and suddenly, the Giants were contenders (and attendance nearly doubled). At least two of those fans, my wife and her friend Amy, fondly remember the way Leonard filled out a uniform.

1987 was the year that put Jeffrey Leonard on the national map. He hit those 4 homers in the playoff series loss to St. Louis, punctuating them with his oh-so-slow "one flap down" home run trot. You can still get an angry reaction by mentioning his name in Redbird Land. Hac's MVP award in that NL Championship Series remains the last one ever won by a guy on a losing team.

Jeffrey Leonard's mean mug appeared to have been come by honestly--he was from the tough streets of West Philadelphia. He never talked much about what he'd left behind, but you got the impression it was more than you could handle. He was also caught up in baseball's last big drug scandal: the cocaine mess of the mid-80's. He had to pay a fine and do community service to avoid a suspension.

I hope he gets a real shot at someday managing in the big leagues. Hac managed the Sonoma County Crushers (ask my colleague Steve Bitker for some stories, as Steve was the team's play-by-play voice at the time) as well as a couple of A's minor league teams. Hac understands (unlike some of today's players) the difference between style and substance. He played the game hard and true and never left any doubt whose side he was on.

It would be great to see that mug back in a big-league dugout.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was at AT&T Park this summer when they had the 20th annvy thing for the 87 Giants. Leonard looked great, like he could go back to St. Louis and drop a flap all over again!