It may come as a shock to many, but big muscles weren’t needed to lead the league in homeruns many decades ago. A batter didn’t have to inject foreign substances in his body or spend more time in a weight room than Charles Atlas to pace his circuit in round-trippers. No, Wee Tommy Leach was built more like a horse jockey than an American Gladiator but he nevertheless led the National League in homeruns one season.
Tommy the Wee got his first Major League look with the old Louisville Colonels in 1898. As a rookie in 1899 he hit a nifty .288 but the National League was in financial trouble and the Colonels were a bubble team–destined to be absorbed or dropped. Many Colonels players were shifted over to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1900 because Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss had a stake in the Kentucky club. Joining Leach in the mass exodus to Pittsburgh from Louisville were Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke and Rube Waddell as well as stars Chief Zimmer, Deacon Phillippe and Little All-Right Claude Ritchey. Needless to say, a dynasty was born.
Tommy struggled his first year in Pittsburgh as a part-time player. Still playing part-time in 1910, Leach hit .305 and led NL third basemen in triples and slugging average. From that moment on, Leach was a regular. In arguably his finest season, Leach paced the National League in homeruns in 1902 with a whopping total of six long balls. Tommy the Wee also legged out 22 triples–the only NL infielder to reach 20–and finished second in RBI. Among his position peers, Leach was head and shoulders above them all–in the standings if not in measurements. He led NL third basemen in runs, hits, doubles, stolen bases, batting average and slugging average.
Leach tied for second in the league in the homerun department in 1903 while leading NL third basemen in RBI and triples. A three-bag machine, Tommy the Wee currently resides in the 23rd spot in career triples. The Pirates took part in the first modern World Series and Leach smacked four triples and drove in seven runs against Red Sox pitchers in the first modern Fall Classic.
Again, Leach paced NL third basemen in triples and runs scored in 1904. In 1905, Tommy began rotating between third base and the outfield. His career was pretty much split between the stations. In 1906, Leach hit .286 and then finished second in the senior circuit in runs scored in 1907, playing predominately in center field. Tommy’s 43 stolen bases topped NL center fielders in ’07.
Shifted back to third base in 1908, Leach led National League hot corner custodians in runs scored and doubles. He was at the top of his run-getting game in the Pirates championship season of 1909. That year, Tommy paced the senior circuit with 126 runs scored. The Pirates took on the American League champion Detroit Tigers of Ty Cobb in the Fall Classic and Tommy did his bit, hitting .360 with four doubles and eight runs scored, helping the Pirates defeat the Tigers.
Tommy hit .270 in 1910 then had an off-year in 1911. He rebounded in 1912 but was traded early in the season to the Cubs with pitcher Lefty Leifield for Circus Solly Hofman. Tommy the Wee still had a couple good seasons left in his slight frame. He led the National League in runs scored in 1913 with the Cubs who used him in center field. He paced NL center fielders with 77 walks which enabled him to post a nifty .391 on-base percentage. In 1914, he led Major League center fielders in homeruns but it was his last good year. He hit .224 with the Reds in 1915 and closed out his career with the Pirates in 1918 after two years in the bushes.
G 2,147/R 1,352/H 2,144/2B 277/3B 170/HR 62/RBI 810/SB 364/BA .270/SA .371