The Red Sox Sandy Leon and former Brave Bob Hazle have something in common – a wicked hot streak. Will it last?
The Red Sox Sandy Leon is the latest feel good story about his unanticipated success that has certainly surprised Boston fans or just those familiar with baseball. Leon is on a tear and the hits keep coming – flairs, line drives, seeing eye, flukes and just about any assortment and combination that have created a staggering stat line. Leon has also smoked the occasional ball for a resounding extra base hit. What gives?
Leon was signed last season as a security blanket after being released by the Washington Nationals and the switch-hitter soon was on the MLB roster thanks to Christian Vazquez having season-ending surgery and Ryan Hanigan having his bell rung catching. The Red Sox were forced to bring in Blake Swihart to share the catching duties with Leon.
The issue with Leon has always been the same and it is not his above average defense, but his below average offense.
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In 2015 Leon finished his 41 game stint with a .184 average. In 10 minor league seasons, Leon has slashed .238/.325/.330 in 612 games. Power? How about 28 home runs and 228 RBI.
In 1957 the Milwaukee Braves were grinding towards a pennant and needed some reinforcements – another bat off the bench and a sometime replacement for Bill Bruton who suffered a knee injury. The Braves dipped into Wichita of the American Association for a 26-year-old left-hand hitting outfielder named Bob Hazle.
Hazel was hitting .279 when he was promoted and had seen some MLB service time with Cincinnati in 1955. Hazle did nothing for the Reds, but had hit 29 home runs for their Nashville team while hitting .314. In the off-season, Hazle was traded to the Braves in a deal that no one cared about except the players and their families.
With the Braves, Hazle soon became “The Hurricane.”
In less than a month, Hazle hit .473 and swatted five home runs and then got a classic nickname. Hazle cooled off a bit, but still, hit .403 in 41 games and hit seven home runs and bagged 27 RBI. In a key series against the Cardinals, the “Hurricane” went seven for 14 as the Braves swept their closest competition and never looked back.
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In the World Series Hazle hit only .134, but his only two hits came in the seventh game as I immensely enjoyed watching the Yankees lose to the team I first became a fan of. How wonderful to watch Lew Burdette shut down the Bombers 5-0 as he won three WS games, but for Hazle that was it.
In 1958 the magic disappeared and Hazle went back to being a bench player and after hitting only .179 was sold to the Tigers. In 1959 it was back to the minors for a few years and then out of baseball at age 29.
For just a small segment of one season, Hazle became a legend and certainly was the bounce that put the Braves into the driver’s seat for the World Series. The Braves coasted in by finishing eight games ahead of the Cardinals and Hazle can take a healthy amount of credit for that.
Leon is now in a Hazle like streak and it won’t continue. I know it, you know it, everyone knows it and that means Leon. Leon can enjoy it and maybe he won’t hit .300, but have enough confidence that the Red Sox just may have a catcher that hits far better than anyone expected.