Jesse Roy Levan
(Big Cat, Horse)
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 172 lb.
- High School Reading (PA) High School
- Debut September 27, 1947
- Final Game May 15, 1955
- Born July 15, 1926 in Reading, PA USA
- Died November 30, 1998 in Reading, PA USA
Jesse Levan was an outfielder/first baseman for 14 years (1944-1959), three in the Major Leagues (1947, 1954-1955) and 14 in the minors (1944, 1947-1959), losing two years to the military. He served two years in the United States Armed Forces during World War II (1945-1946) (BR).
Levan was born on July 15, 1926, in Reading, PA. He was signed by the Philadelphia Blue Jays as an amateur free agent in 1944 at only 17 years of age by William Morgan. When he was only 20 years old, he broke into the big leagues on September 27, 1947, with the Philadelphia Phillies. He played in just two games that season, collecting four hits in nine at-bats.
He had three cups of coffee with the Phillies (1947) and Washington Senators (1954 and 1955). He played in a combined 23 games between the 1954 and 1955 seasons for Washington, collecting 6 hits in 26 at-bats. He had a home run and five RBI in his brief major league career. He hit .286 in 35 major-league at-bats. He was a good hitter but a very poor fielder, which explains his inability to stick in the major leagues despite excellent minor league numbers. He did make the Senators' opening day roster in 1955, but was sent down after going 2 for 15 mainly as a pinch hitter.
Levan was named "Big Cat" by Pepper Martin due to his resemblance to Johnny Mize and "Horse" by Manager Ellis Clary because he was "as big as a horse". In the minors, he played 1,807 games with 216 home runs, 1,285 runs batted in and a lifetime batting average of .316 with considerable black ink.
He led the Florida International League in batting average (.334), slugging (.458), runs (93, tied for the lead), hits (192), RBI (87) and doubles (35) in 1952. He led the Southern Association in RBI in 1957 when he drove in 114. He hit over .300 seven times in the minors and three times topped 20 homers.
In 1959 he was banned from baseball for life for allegedly cooperating with gamblers in the "foul ball hitting" scandal in the Southern Association. Testimony from teammate Sammy Meeks was the bellwether action of the case. Teammate Waldo Gonzalez was suspended for a year.
- Won Batting titles in 1950 (.334 Interstate League), 1952 (.334 Florida International League), and 1954 (.348 Florida International League)
- Led league in home runs in 1954 (23 Florida International League)
- Led league in RBI in 1952 (87 Florida International League), and 1957 (114 Southern Association)
- Led league in at bats in 1947 (570 Interstate League), 1953 (542 Florida International League, (588 1957 Southern Association)
- Led league in runs scored in 1952 (93 Florida International League
- Led league in hits in 1950 (171 Interstate League), 1952 (192 Florida International League), 1953 (175 Florida International League), 1954 (130Florida International League)
- Led league in doubles in 1951 (36 Provincial League), 1952 (35 Florida International League), and 1957 (38 Southern Association)
Principal sources for Jesse Levan include newspaper obituaries (OB), government records (VA,CM,CW), Sporting Life (SL), Baseball Digest, The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs (none) (WW), old Baseball Registers (1955) (BR), TSN's Daguerreotypes (none) (DAG), The Historical Register, The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase(PD), The Baseball Library (BL); various Encyclopediae including The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball by Turkin & Thompson (T&T), MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia (Mac), Total Baseball (TB), The Bill James Historical Abstract (BJ) and The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (LJ); Retrosheet (RS), The Baseball Chronology (BC), Baseball Page (BP), The Baseball Almanac (BA), Baseball Cube (B3), SABR's Minor League Baseball Stars, Volume III (MLS) and obituaries at deadballera.com (DBE) as well as research by Reed Howard (RH), Pat Doyle (PD) and Frank Hamilton (FH).
- Warren Corbett: "Why, They'll Bet on a Foul Ball: The Southern Association Scandal of 1959", in The National Pastime - A Review of Baseball History, Society for American Baseball Research, Cleveland, OH, number 26 (May, 2006), pp. 54-60.