Leroy Matlock

From BR Bullpen

Leroy Matlock (Lefty)

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 5' 9", Weight 175 lb.

Leroy Matlock was one of the best left-handed pitchers in the Negro Leagues during the 1930s. He broke in with the 1929 St. Louis Stars and went 5-2. In '30, he was 10-3 for St. Louis as they had the best record among Negro National League teams but he fell to 1-3 at age 24. One bright spot came on October 8, when he beat Bill Walker in an exhibition game by an 18-1 score; opposing hitters on the other team included Paul Waner, Bill Terry, Babe Herman and Lloyd Waner. In 1932, Leroy bounced around. He was 2-5 for the Washington Pilots, 4-1 for the Homestead Grays and also was with the Detroit Wolves.

By 1933, Matlock had found a new home, with the Pittsburgh Crawfords. He went 11-4 with a 3.23 RA and 49 strikeouts. He was fourth in the Negro National League in wins, strikeouts and RA. In RA, he ranked right between two Hall-of-Famers, Bill Foster and Satchel Paige. He was chosen for the first East-West Game but did not pitch. In '34, Matlock was 14-3 or 15-3 and tied for third or fourth in the NNL in victories. He tied for 4th with 47 Ks. He won his final four games that year.

Paige left Pittsburgh in 1935 but the club didn't miss a beat with Matlock going undefeated. Leroy went 17-0 to help the Crawfords to their best season. He led the league in wins, five more than Ray Brown and RA (2.04, .83 better than #2 Leon Day). He pitched two innings for the West in the 1935 East-West Game, allowing one unearned run for the West in the fifth during their 11-8 victory. He also got to bat once and was retired.

Matlock won his first six games in '36 to extend his winning streak to 26 games. He did not pitch in the NNL after July and finished 9-3 with a 1.50 RA, a whole point lower than the runner-up, Schoolboy Griffith. He was third in the NNL in wins, two behind Paige and one behind Bill Byrd. Trailing only Paige in votes for the 1936 East-West Game among pitchers, Matlock got the starting call for the East over Paige and pitched three scorless innings for the win in a 10-2 victory. Lefty also partook in an exhibition series against a MLB team headlined by Rogers Hornsby, Johnny Mize and Bob Feller. Matlock won game one by a 5-2 score and saved another contest as the Negro League stars emerged victorious.

Leroy was 1-0 for Pittsburgh in 1937 but then was suspended by Gus Greenlee after leaving to play in the Dominican League. He went 4-1 for the champion Ciudad Trujillo team. Matlock was 2-4 in the 1937-38 Cuban Winter League and finished his Pittsburgh career with a 3-7 year in 1938. He pitched in the Venezuelan League in '39.

In 1940, Matlock moved to the Mexican League, where he went 15-10 with a 3.27 ERA for the Mexico City Red Devils with only 47 walks in 228 2/3 innings. In '41, he went 15-9, 3.99 before fading to 9-13, 5.37 at age 35. Overall, he was 39-32, 4.16 in LMB, with 49 complete games in 94 starts.

His repertoire consisted of a curveball, drop, slider, fastball, changeup and screwball and he possessed excellent control. He was also known as a good-hitting pitcher, a reliable fielder and a moral character.

Sources: The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues by John Holway, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues by James Riley, Black Baseball's National Showcase by Larry Lester, The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics by Pedro Treto Cisneros