José Leblanc Vargas
(Cheo, Jules, Count)
listed as Julio LeBlanc in US sources
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Born 1894 in Cienfuegos, Cienfuegos Cuba
- Died January 31, 1922 in Santiago de Cuba, Santiago de Cuba Cuba
José Leblanc pitched in Cuba and the US before meeting a tragic end.
Leblanc was 2 for 12 with two walks for the Almendares Blues in 1912-1913, as a backup catcher to Gervasio González. He was 3 for 14 as an infielder for the Philadelphia Giants in 1915. He went 2-2 as a pitcher in the Cuban Winter League in 1918-1919. He was a P-1B-OF for the Cuban Stars in 1919. He had a 6-3, 2.69 record and hit .230/.278/.351 for a 135 ERA+ and 88 OPS+. He was 6th in wins among major western black teams. He struggled that winter in Cuba, going 0-5 and tying Lucas Boada and Oscar Tuero for the win lead.
He was excellent for the Cuban Stars in 1920, when the team joined the new Negro National League. José was 11-9 with a 1.99 ERA (184 ERA+) and 1.07 WHIP. He hit .182/.259/.247. He was 3rd in the new league in ERA (behind Dave Brown and Tom Williams), tied Bill Drake, Bill Holland and Tom Johnson for 8th in wins, was second in whiffs (103, 3 behind Sam Crawford), second in opponent average behind Brown and third in complete games (16, behind Drake and Cheo Hernández.
In 1920-1921, the spitballer was 1-0 with two runs (one earned) in nine innings for Habana. In 1921, he was 15-12 with a save and a 2.52 ERA (164 ERA+), completing 22 of 25 games. He hit .248/.307/.318 (81 OPS+). He was third in ERA (after Bullet Rogan and Brown), third in innings pitched (236, after Jim Jeffries and Roy Roberts), 4th in WHIP (1.11, between Rube Curry and Williams), 8th in Ks (116, between Bill Force and Jeffries), tied Jeffries and Holland for fourth in wins and tied Rogan and Holland for second with 22 complete games. He was 2-0 with 7 strikeouts to lead the shortened CWL schedule in wins and whiffs in the winter of 1921 before the season ended.
Leblanc was playing for an independent league in Cuba in 1922. In a January game, there was a long argument over a call at home plate. Leblanc exchanged words with Antonio Susini, who struck Leblanc in the head with a bat. Leblanc was knocked senseless to the ground and the police had to intervene. Leblanc was taken to the hospital, where doctors tried to relieve the swelling in his head and then had brain surgery. It was not successful and he did the next day. Susini would serve time in prison but would later return to play ball following his sentence. José María Fernández called the incident the greatest disgust he had ever seen in baseball. Interestingly, the event is not mentioned in A History of Cuban Baseball by Peter Bjarkman or in Jorge Figueredo's annual account of Cuban baseball.
He was 34-24 with a 164 ERA+ in his US career but only 6-7 back in Cuba.