Leeman, Ronnie (2002)
Ron Leeman of South Portland today joins fellow 1952 All-Telegram League selection Dick Black in the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2002.
With ball playing brothers Dick and Duddy, Ron’s sandlot days were spent on Jordan Field behind the Frank I. Brown School on Highland Avenue in South Portland. There he came under the tutelage of Keith Jordan, five-letterman at Portland High School, who coaxed Ron into catching in fifth grade, a position he never abandoned throughout his career. Ron played alongside Eddie Norton, Doug Standley, and Gene Class and won city championships in three sports.
Following a year at Norway High School and the death of Ron’s father, the family returned to South Portland. Ron became the team’s starting catcher as a sophomore and enjoyed three outstanding years under coach Henry LaVallee capped by his All-Telegram League selection as a senior in 1952. Leeman hit .371 that year and led the league in home runs, including a memorable one off that tough lefty from Cheverus, Dick Black.
Leeman’s South Portland teammates included Dickie Coggins, Ron Harris, John Libby and Gerry Davis and this talented Red Riot nine beat Cony for the State title in 1952.
Following graduation, Leeman spent his summer pastiming in the highly-regarded Down East League for the Farmington Flyers.
Ron attended Springfield College where he was elected captain of the freshman team and was one of four from that group chosen to play for Grand Falls, New Brunswick in the Maine-New Brunswick League that summer.
Leeman joined the Army in 1954 and played two years for Fort Devens on a post team that won the First Army Championship and was eliminated in the semi-finals of the All Army Tournament by a Fort McPherson team that featured three big-league pitchers in Vinegar Bend Mizell, Taylor Phillips, and Billy O’Dell. Leeman caught all but a couple of games during his tour and hit .379 in 1955 including a game-winning home run in the All-Army tourney off Billy Loes.
Leeman’s ability to handle big-league pitchers, both behind the plate and with bat in hand, caught the attention of professional scouts and Ron signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1956, Ron notes wryly that his $4,000 signing bonus was four times that received by another rookie that year, Mickey Mantle of the Yankees.
Leeman only played one year of pro ball before an attractive job offer from Portland Pipe Line and family considerations lured him back home to South Portland. Leeman continued to play several years for the South Portland Merchants in the Twilight League, catching local legends Ed Hadlock and Dick Carmichael among others.
Now retired, Ron lives on Cummings Road with his wife of 47 years, the former Geraldine Lord – yes, the same Gerry Lord who was valedictorian of South Portland High School Class of 1950. Ron’s four daughters and six grandchildren all live in Maine and join us today in welcoming the lanky Red Riot into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.