The Obit For Lee Wheat

Leroy Wheat, 78, Major Leaguer and Broward College athletic director

BY MARIA CHERCOLES | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

July 31, 2008

Leroy William Wheat, a former Major League pitcher who was an athletics director at Broward College, died Tuesday. He was 78.

Mr. Wheat, of Fort Lauderdale, died of pneumonia at Holy Cross Hospital, said his daughter Debby Walters.

Throughout his baseball career, Mr. Wheat played with big names such as Bob Feller, Mike Garcia, Bob Schanz and Ewell Blackwell. He also pitched against Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris and Ted Williams, among others.

Born in 1929 in Edwardsville, Ill., Mr. Wheat joined the Cleveland Indians in 1948, right out of high school. There, he went from Class A to AAA shortly before he was drafted into the Army, where he served from 1951 to 1953.

"He was in the prime of his baseball career and had to give up two years of his prime time for the country," said his wife, Sally Wheat.

Mr. Wheat joined the Philadelphia Athletics and was featured in a 1954 Topps baseball card wearing the Philadelphia uniform. He also played for the Kansas City Athletics and for a Class AAA Dodgers Organization team. He retired in 1959 and started his coaching career.

He coached at Fort Lauderdale High School and later Broward College (formerly Broward Community College), where he started the baseball program. He became the school's athletic director in 1979 and retired in 1990.

He was recognized by induction into the Hall of Fame of the National Junior College Athletic Association.

"He worked very long hours and was very dedicated. He got a lot of scholarships for the players he trained. He had a lot of rapport with other coaches and recruiters and helped his students get ahead," Walters said.

He left his family a short baseball memoir, which closes with, "I thoroughly enjoyed playing baseball. It gave me the opportunity to travel, meet many nice fans, play with or against many fine players, and a challenge to do my very best."

In addition to his wife, Mr. Wheat's survivors include daughters Debby Walters and Nancy Moore, sister Virginia Evans, brother Robert Wheat and seven grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday at the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, 401 SE 50th Ave. Instead of flowers, the family requests donations to the Melanoma Research Fund, Duke Campus Center, Durham, N.C., 27701, or to the Scholarship Fund of the First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale.