In 1899, Leach would spend the lion's share of his season with the Colonels, hitting .288 over 106 contests, playing third base, shortstop, and second. His 57 RBI ranked him fourth on the squad, despite his limited playing time. When the season concluded, most of the Louisville team was traded to the Pirates, including Leach, Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke, Deacon Phillippe, and Rube Waddell. Louisville would not field a team in 1900.
1900 would mark the beginning of a Golden era in Pirates baseball, a period which would see Pittsburgh finish with a winning record in each of the next 14 seasons. For his part, Leach was mostly a utility infielder off the bench, appearing in only 51 games during his first season with the club. He hit an anemic .213 with 16 RBI and 20 runs scored for the second place finishing Pirates. The 79-60 club would end up 4.5 games behind the Brooklyn Bridegrooms.
1901 would see Leach more involved in the Pirates gameplan, hitting .305 over 98 games with 64 runs, 12 doubles, 13 triples, 44 RBI, and 16 stolen bases. Defensively, he ranked with the NL leaders at third base with 122 putouts (NL fifth), 196 assists (NL third), and nine double plays turned (NL fifth). The Pirates 90-49 record would see them earn the NL pennant, 7.5 games ahead of the second place Philadelphia Phillies.
In 1902, Leach led the National League with 22 triples and with six home runs. He hit .278 with a .426 SLG (NL fifth) over 135 games with 97 runs (NL fourth), 14 doubles, 85 RBI (NL second), 45 walks (NL ninth) and 25 stolen bases. He finished the season with a 5.9 WAR rating (NL seventh, second amongst position players). As the Pirates starting third baseman, he led the NL in dWAR, with a 1.8 rating, with 170 putouts (NL fifth), a league leading 316 assists, and a .926 fielding percentage (NL third). Despite his offensive outburst, he ranked second on the team in most significant categories to teammate Honus Wagner. The team finished with a franchise best 103-36 record, a .741 winning percentage. They were 27.5 games ahead of second place Brooklyn. Unfortunately, the World Series would not be held that season, so a matchup against the AL Champion Philadelphia Athletics would never come to fruition.
1903 would see Leach play 127 games at third base. He scored 97 times (NL eighth) with 16 doubles, 17 triples (NL third), seven home runs (NL second), 222 total bases (NL eighth), 87 RBI (NL fourth), 40 walks, 22 stolen bases, and a .298 batting average. Defensively, he made 178 putouts (NL third), 292 assists (NL second), and turned 16 double plays (NL second). He also led the league with 65 errors at the position, for an .879 fielding percentage. Pittsburgh won the pennant by 6.5 games over the New York Giants, with a 91-49 record. They would play the World Series against the AL Champion Boston Americans, losing the best-of-nine in eight contests. Leach went 9-for-33 (.273) with three runs, four triples, and seven RBI.
Leach hit .257 over 146 games for Pittsburgh in 1904. He scored 92 times (NL fifth) with 15 doubles, 12 triples (NL sixth), 56 RBI, 45 walks and 23 stolen bases. Defensively, he placed fourth in the league with a 1.9 dWAR rating, leading the NL with 212 putouts, 371 assists and finishing second with 18 double plays turned. His .907 fielding percentage was the fourth best figure in the senior circuit. Pittsburgh’s 87-66 record, enviable by today’s standards, was a full 19 games behind the pennant winning Giants and only good enough for fourth place.
In 1905, Leach played all over the place, with 71 starts in the outfield (with only two errors and a .988 F%), 58 at third base (with a league fourth best 13 double plays turned), and two starts each at second base and shortstop. In 131 games, he duplicated his .257 average from the prior season, scoring 71 times with 10 doubles, 14 triples (NL seventh), 53 RBI, 37 walks and 17 stolen bases. Pittsburgh again finished behind the Giants in the pennant race, at 96-57 and nine games behind.
1906 would see Leach hit .286 over 133 contests at third base (65 starts), outfield (60 starts), and shortstop. He scored 66 times with 39 RBI, 33 walks, 21 steals, and 16 sacrifice hits. Despite his generally unremarkable season, he placed 10th in the NL with 118 singles while leading the league with 25.1 AB/K. The Pirates finished 23.5 games behind the Chicago Cubs, at 93-60 and in third place.
In 1907, Leach boosted his average to .303 (NL fourth) with a .404 SLG (NL sixth) over 149 games (NL eighth) with 102 runs (NL second), 131 singles (NL third), 19 doubles, 12 triples (NL sixth), four home runs (NL sixth), 43 RBI, 40 walks, 43 stolen bases (NL fourth), and 29 sacrifice hits (NL fifth), finishing seventh in the NL with a 5.3 WAR rating (third amongst position players). He started 111 games in the outfield (posting an NL second best .980 fielding percentage), 33 at third base, six at shortstop, and once at second. Pittsburgh finished 91-63, in second place 17 games behind the Cubs.
1908 would see Leach hit .259 with a .381 SLG (NL 10th) in 152 games (NL 10th), with 93 runs scored (NL third), 24 doubles (NL ninth), 16 triples (NL third), five home runs (NL sixth), 41 RBI, 54 walks (NL 10th), 24 stolen bases, and 27 sacrifice hits (NL 10th), finishing with an NL ninth best among position players 4.8 WAR. He started 150 of his games at his old home on the hot corner, making 199 putouts (NL second), 293 assists (NL second), turning 19 double plays (NL second) with a .937 fielding percentage (NL third). On a personal level, Leach suffered the loss of his first wife to illness. The Pirates gained on the Cubs, but still finished in second at 98-56, just one game back.
In 1909, Leach appeared in 151 games (NL eighth), leading the NL with 126 runs and hitting .261 with 29 doubles, eight triples, six home runs (NL second), 43 RBI, 66 walks (NL sixth), 27 stolen bases, and 27 sacrifice hits. He started most of the season in the outfield, making 13 starts at third base. He ranked third in the NL with 333 outfield putouts. The Cubs finished at 104-49, 6.5 games behind the Bucs awesome 110-42 record for the pennant. Leach played well in his second Fall Classic, appearing in each of Pittsburgh’s seven games and hitting .360 (9-for-25) with four doubles, two RBI, and eight runs scored. The Pirates were victorious over the Detroit Tigers, four-games-to-three. This concluded a run where Pittsburgh posted their five best ever seasons (by won-loss record) over a nine year period.
In 1910, Leach played 135 games for the Bucs in the outfield, at shortstop, and at second base. He posted a .270 average with 83 runs scored, 24 doubles, 52 RBI, 38 walks, 18 stolen bases, and 20 sacrifice hits. His only top 10 rankings on the season were with 352 outfield putouts (NL fourth), and (unfortunately) 62 strikeouts (NL eighth). Pittsburgh finished at 86-67, 17.5 games out of the pennant and in third place in the NL.
In 1911, Leach appeared 108 times, batting just .238 with 60 runs scored, 12 doubles, six triples, three homers, 43 RBI, 19 stolen bases, 46 walks, and 12 sacrifice hits. His play may have been impacted by the loss of his second wife, again to illness. The Pirates went 85-69, 14.5 games behind the pennant winning Giants and seven games behind second place Chicago.
Leach began 1912 by hitting .299 over his first 28 games, with 12 walks and 19 RBI. The Pirates, clearly surmising that Leach’s best years were behind him, traded him with pitcher Lefty Leifield (7-3, 3.13 over two seasons with the Cubs) for pitcher King Cole (2-2, 6.43 with Pittsburgh) and outfielder Solly Hofman (.246 with nine RBI in 48 Pittsburgh games) to Chicago.
In two and a half very productive seasons as a member of the Cubs, Leach hit .267 over 366 games, with 57 doubles, 22 triples, 15 home runs, and 110 RBI. He later played with the Cincinnati Reds for one season, hitting .224 with 56 walks and 20 stolen bases in 107 games. Leach played with the International League’s Rochester Hustlers in 1916, hitting .244 for the “AA” level franchise. He played with the Kansas City Blues the following season, a “AA” level outfit with the American Association, again hitting .244.
1918 would see Leach resurface with the Pirates, hitting .194 with 19 walks in 94 plate appearances for a .363 OBP over 30 games. He would continue to play minor league ball, retiring at the age of 44 after hitting .326 with the “C” level Tampa Smokers in the Florida State League in 1922. His 49 inside-the-park-home-runs rank him second all-time in the major leagues.
All-Time Statline: 14 seasons, 1574 games, 1603-for-5910, .271/.332/.373, 1009 runs, 192 doubles, 139 triples, 43 home runs, 626 RBI, 271 stolen bases, 516 walks, 486 strikeouts, 34.1 WAR.
For more about this unassuming prodigy, check out his SABR bio, by Mark Armour.