The Eutaw Street plaza entrance to Camden Yards was renamed “Leon Day Way” in 1995 by then-Mayor Kurt Schmoke, a fitting tribute to the ballplayer and the significant African-American history on the stadium’s grounds; Camden Station was once part of Harriett Tubman’s Underground Railroad.
A native of Baltimore, Day was raised on Pierpont Street along the B&O Railroad tracks and regularly attended games at Westport’s Maryland Baseball Park to watch the Baltimore Black Sox, with whom he began his career.
Day played for the Black Sox in 1934 before jumping the next season to the Brooklyn Eagles. In 1936, after the Eagles were sold and relocated to Newark, Day established a Negro League record with 18 strikeouts against the Baltimore Elite Giants. In 1946, after returning from military service in World War II, he became the only Negro League pitcher to toss an Opening Day no-hitter.
Day ended his Negro League career where it started, in Baltimore, leading the Elite Giants to the championship in 1949. He later pitched briefly in the International and Eastern leagues.
Day died in Baltimore on March 13, 1995, just days after learning that he had been selected for the Hall of Fame. His .708 winning percentage is tops among all Hall of Famers.
From the National Baseball Hall of Fame:
“The Negro leagues’ outstanding strikeout pitcher with a dominating fastball and
wicked curve, quiet Leon Day was the mainstay of the Newark pitching staff in
the late 1930s and ’40s. Also a superb contact hitter and speedy baserunner, Day
was versatile enough to play second base or the outfield when he wasn’t
pitching. He spent two years pitching on integrated Army teams during World War
II, and in his first game back with the Eagles in 1946, he tossed a no-hitter
against the Philadelphia Stars.”
Image Source: The Sun (click photo for original)