Wagner was 24 years old when he broke into the big leagues on June 22, 1958. A solid line-drive hitter and colorful player, in his rookie year Wagner compiled a .307 batting average with 13 home runs in 74 games. With a congested outfield that included Willie Mays, Felipe Alou, Orlando Cepeda and Bill White, he was traded to the Cardinals after the 1959 season.
Wagner played a reserve role for St. Louis in 39 games and hit four home runs. Nevertheless, one of them was a notable one; he entered the major league record books by hitting the first home run ever at Candlestick Park on April 12, 1960, providing the only Cardinals run during a 3-1 loss against his former Giants team.
Traded to the expansion Angels in 1961, Wagner played his first regular season. He responded, hitting .280 with 28 home runs and 79 RBI in 133 games. His most productive season came in 1962, when he blasted 37 homers (third highest in the American League), and collected 107 RBI, 96 runs, 164 hits and 21 doubles, all career highs, while batting .268. That year he played in both All-Star games, and in the second contest he went 3-for-4 including a two-run home run, being named the game's Most Valuable Player. One of the first true sluggers in Angels history, Wagner hit 91 home runs with 276 RBI in 442 games. In 1963, after his second All-Star selection, he was sent to the Indians in the same trade that brought Joe Adcock to the Angels. Wagner had come to very much enjoy playing and living in Los Angeles, and was resentful toward the Angels over being traded. People who knew him said that he carried that resentment toward the team with him for the rest of his life.
As a Cleveland left fielder, Wagner hit 97 home runs from 1964-67. His best year with the Indians was 1964, when he hit 31 homers with 100 RBI and 94 runs. In 1965 he hit .294 with 28 homers. Wagner also compiled 26 stolen bases in 30 attempts in 1964-65.
Later in his career, Wagner was a respected pinch hitter, leading the AL with 46 appearances in 1968 while splitting the season between the Indians and White Sox. Purchased by the Cincinnati Reds in 1968, Wagner returned to the White Sox later in the year and was released after that. Then, he signed as a free agent with the Giants, making his final appearance in San Francisco on October 2, 1969.
After his playing career ended, Wagner enjoyed some small acting roles, prominently in John Cassavetes' 1974 film A Woman Under the Influence, and as a member of Depression-era barnstorming team in The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976).
On the whole, though, Wagner's life after baseball was not particularly successful--especially in financial terms. In his later years Wagner disappeared from the public eye, fell into substance abuse and was frequently homeless, living on the streets in South Los Angeles. At the end of his life, he had adopted a small electrical shed behind a video store in that area as a makeshift home. Wagner died in that shed of natural causes on January 3, 2004. His official obituary stated, not completely inaccurately, that he died 'at home'.
Victim was beloved in the neighborhood; As murder charges are filed against two teenagers, the family of victim Leon Wagner struggles to go on.(NEWS)
Oct 21, 2005; Byline: Curt Brown; Staff Writer When they weren't joshing about fishing or fixing up old cars, Leon Wagner would sometimes pull...