Leo Woods (1918-1974)
Leo Woods, one of Nova Scotia’s premier ballplayers, had a career that spanned 28 years combined in senior baseball/softball stretching from 1935 to 1963. Fellow players, competitors, fans, sportscasters and sports historians alike often commented: ”Leo was one of the finest baseball/softball performers ever to display his talents in these parts”. Throughout his softball career Leo played mostly Senior “A” calibre ball, while his baseball career spanned 12 years, playing in the Halifax Defense League from 1941 to 1945 and in the highly competitive Halifax and District League from 1946 to 1951, all the while playing against many talented imports from the United States collegiate and minor-pro ranks, many of whom went on to play in the major leagues. During his five years in the H&D, Leo played in three All-Star games and batted in the top 10 three times against a select group of pitchers. He was also in third place as of August 1, 1951 for a fourth time, batting .329, but records were incomplete for the full season.
However, Leo’s first and foremost love was softball (called fastball today). At the early age of 17, he began playing senior baseball, alternating between softball and baseball, often playing both games on a single day. Shoestring catches were his trademarks playing baseball, while in softball, at that time, outfielders made catches with their bare hands. In addition to being an excellent fielder, Leo was a superb softball pitcher. At the age of 18, he pitched his first no-hitter against the North End All-Stars; and in 1942, playing against the Navy, he pitched a second-career no hitter. Limited research revealed that Leo also pitched nine more games limiting opponents to 4 hits or less. In 1940, Halifax Shipyards won it’s first Maritime title with Leo pitching a three-hitter in an 11-4 win against Liverpool in Provincial playoffs and a lopsided win against Moncton in the first game for the Maritime title.
Still, Leo was best known for his hitting ability. While playing in the talent-laden Defense League between 1941 and 1945, Leo combined for an impressive .311 batting average in regular league and playoff action. This league consisted of many Maritime legends and professional-level talent that played for the service-based clubs. Playing in the professional class H&D league, Leo compiled a very respectable .283 average based on 315 hits in 1113 plate appearances between 1945 and 1951. As noted previously, he consistently batted in the top ten of that league.
Records indicate that Leo Woods was an even better hitter in fastball. In 1940, the Halifax Shipyards won their first Maritime championship, with Leo batting 5 for 11 with a .455 batting average in that series. In the 1942 playoffs, his batting average was .391. In 1946 and 1947, Leo was a member of the Halifax Zwickers* softball team when they won back-to-back Maritime championships. During these playoffs years, Leo batted an average of .397 and .343 respectively. In 1948, with Keith Stags, he won a third consecutive Maritime senior softball title. Again Leo led the way with a .386 batting average in the playoffs. In 1956, at the age of 38, Leo won the Halifax Senior “A” Batting Championship title with a .477 average.
Throughout his long successful career, Leo played on 18 city championship teams, won 6 Nova Scotia titles, and played on 5 teams that won Maritime softball crowns.
*The Halifax Zwickers’ team was also among the 19 legacy inductions in 2014.