The Bob Feller Act of Valor Foundation recognizes Leon Day for his sacrifices during World War II to serve his country. At the age of 26, in the prime of his career, he was drafted into the U. S. Army. His service saw him at Utah Beach on D-Day, and he also helped share the joy of baseball throughout the military ranks.
After two years of high school, Day left to play semi-pro baseball with the Silver Moons. From there, he went on to join the Baltimore Black Sox, until the team was disbanded. He then joined the Brooklyn Eagles and became one of the major stars of the Negro Leagues.
On September 1, 1943, Day was drafted and served with the 818th Amphibian Battalion in Europe. He participated in the Battle of Normandy on D-Day and was tasked with the dangerous job of delivering supplies to Utah Beach on June 12th. Between 1944 and 1945 Day served in France and Belgium driving a six-wheel vehicle known as a DUKW, also called a Duck, across the two countries. He continued to share his baseball talent after the military victory in Europe and became a star on the Overseas Invasion Service Expedition (OISE) All-Stars team in France, run by Sam Nahem, a Phillies’ pitcher. They played in the ETO World Series Championship and beat the 71st Infantry Division of the Third Army. Despite the talent on the opposing team, which included Ewell Blackwell, Harry Walker, Johnny Wyrostek, and Maurice Van Robays, they won the title. After the ETO World Series, some of the OISE and Third Army baseball stars, including Day, went to Italy to compete in the Mediterranean Theater Championship.
Day was discharged in February 1946 and returned to the Newark Eagles. He finished the season leading the league in strikeouts, innings pitched, and shutouts, despite the sore arm he developed towards the end of the season.
Day was playing for the Mexico City Red Devils in the Mexican League when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the Major Leagues. He returned to the Negro National League in 1949, but then moved to Canada in 1950 to play for the semi-pro Winnipeg Buffaloes. He left to pitch in the International League for Toronto in 1951, but after a brief stint with Scranton in the Eastern League, returned to Canada for the Brandon Greys team. He ended his career with the Brandon Greys, retiring in 1955.
Day had a successful baseball career and was considered by Monte Irvin to be “the complete athlete.” In 1995, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee. He passed away just days after learning of his election. His legacy lives on through the Leon Day Foundation, which was started by his widow, Geraldine Day, to provide opportunities to join organized sports for at-risk youth.
The Foundation honors Leon Day for not only his commendable service and dedication to his country during WWII, but also for his values that are demonstrated through his Foundation to promote self-awareness and lifelong learning for all ages through organized sports, resources, and educational programs.