|Project for Excellence in Journalism - Daily Briefing|
The (Auburn) CitizenTo Central New York sports fans, and many others nationally, Leo Pinckney was the “King of (Minor League) Baseball,” a title bestowed upon him at Minor League Baseball’s winter meetings in Nashville in 1998, and made official by New York State’s Assembly and Senate in 1999.
Although Leo “retired” in 1983 after 37 years as sports editor of The Auburn Citizen, he continued to write his sports column for the newspaper every week – more than 600 columns – until shortly before his death. He received many honors during his newspaper career, including the Syracuse Press Club’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.
But it is baseball for which Leo Pinckney was best known. The Citizen named him “Mr. Baseball,” a title seconded by Auburn’s Chamber of Commerce.
In 1958, Leo spearheaded Auburn’s effort to get the city’s team into the fledgling New York-Pennsylvania League. He and other Auburn sports fans literally went door-to-door to raise the funds needed to gain the franchise.
The campaign succeeded in raising $58,000 – enough to pique the interest of the New York Yankees as major league sponsor of the newly formed Auburn Astros.
Leo served 18 years as president of the team, now known as the Auburn Doubledays (named for Abner Doubleday, who is credited with inventing the game. Doubleday spent his early years in Auburn.) Leo was also president of the NY-P League, a director of the Baseball Writers of America, and was chairman of the Minor League Baseball Hall of Fame committee.
In 1996 – his 50th anniversary covering the annual Hall of Fame Game – he threw out the ceremonial first pitch in Cooperstown. Leo’s love affair with baseball started in high school, where he earned letters in basketball, as well as baseball.
When he was a senior in high school, he got a job in the sports department of The Citizen. Sports writing ran in the family. At the time, his older brother Paul was a sports writer at the Syracuse Herald, later becoming sports editor at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
World War II interrupted Leo’s sports-writing career. He served nearly four years in the U.S. Air Forces. He returned to The Citizen after his discharge in 1946 and was soon named sports editor there.
His contributions to sports and sports writing, and to the Auburn community are many:
· First commissioner of Little League and Babe Ruth Baseball in Auburn;
· President of the Vernon Downs Chapter of the New York State Harness Writers Association since 1984;
· A Cayuga County supervisor for five years;
· Commissioner of the New York State Bingo Commission for 15 years;
· Campaign chairman for the March of Dimes for 25 years;
· Named Sportswriter of the Month for Sport magazine;
· The NY-Penn League named its “Pinckney Division” after Leo in 1993
· Correspondent for the New York Times, Daily News, Spring News and the Associated Press for 31 years;
· Presented with the key to the City of Auburn in 1983.
Leo died Nov. 20, 2006, just two days after his 89th birthday.
--Joseph A. Porcello
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