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Andy Leonard

Sport: Baseball

Born: June 1, 1846

Died: August 22, 1903

Town: Newark

Andrew Jackson Leonard was born June 1, 1846 in County Cavan, Ireland and grew up in Newark after his mother and siblings fled the Potato Famine. Newark was a hotbed of baseball in the 1850s and Andy excelled at the game. He and another boy from the neighborhood, Charlie Sweasy were good enough to be compensated for their performance as teenagers through goods, services and odd jobs. Andy was average height for his time—5’7”, and weighed a muscular 160-170 pounds.

Andy played two years as a shortstop for a club in Newburgh, New York and then joined Sweasy on a club in Irvington. In 1868, the two men traveled to Cincinnati, where they were set up with good-paying jobs in a hat company in exchange for playing for the Buckeyes Baseball Club. In 1869, Harry Wright hired Andy and Charlie to join the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first all-professional club. Because Harry’s brother George played shortstop, Andy switched to left field, and became one of the game's top flychasers. Andy was also praised for his throwing abilty. He and fellow New Jerseyan John Hatfield had two of the most powerful arms in the game.

The Red Stockings went 57–0 during an 1869 exhibition tour. Andy and Charlie were the club’s top power hitters,; Andy once hit three home runs in a game. In 1870, he accomplished the feat of collecting one hit in each inning during a wipepout of another Ohio club.

In 1871, Wright took several of his players to Boston to play for the Red Stockings in the new National Association of Professional Baseball Players. Andy was not among them. Instead, he and Charlie Sweasy played for the Washington Olympics. Andy rejoined Wirght in Boston in 1872 and was a .300 hitter in four seasons there. The Rede Stockings won the pennant in each of those years. Boston also won the pennant in the National League, 1877 and 1878.

Andy probably could have remained a star into the 1880s, but his eyesight was failing and he was unwilling to wear glasses in the field. He moved to shortstop briefly before retiring in 1880. Andy moved back home to Newark after his career, where he worked for the city. Later he moved to Boston to work for his old teammate George Wright’s sporting goods company, Wright & Ditson. Andy passed away in Roxbury, MA at the age of 57.

 

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