Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Leo Koury, most wanted umpire ever

Terry Rea and Chuck Wrenn in the day
Chuck gave me a print of this 30-year-old photo, which I had not seen before, when I visited his charming home across the street from Libby Hill Park about a month ago. He had recently discovered a trove of slides of his from that era in a box, mostly of softball scenes. We had a great time looking at them and telling stories from that time to the others present, whether they wanted to hear them or not.

Chuck even had a couple of pictures of the legendary Leo Koury on the job, umpiring a softball game.

The shot above was taken at Tony Martin’s farm at the Fan District Softball League’s season-ending picnic/awards ceremony in August of 1977. That year Chuck and I had served as the league’s commissioners. That season had been our first at Chandler Ballfield, where games were played through the FDSL's final season (1994).

Update: When I first posted the photo above with a mention of Leo Koury a month ago, it prompted a writer doing some research on Koury to send me an email. So I have added a scan (see below) of the small portrait of Koury I did for his card for SLANT Legends, a card collection of locals I designed and published in 1993.For readers who don't know who Koury was, he owned several restaurants in Richmond, including a couple of gay clubs. He was seen as a lovable underworld figure by some, and as a dangerous criminal by others. His restaurants had sponsored several softball teams and he umpired softball games as a sideline. In 1978 he fled the long arm of the law -- Koury disappeared just before he was indicted for a laundry list of crimes, including murder, although no corpse was ever found.

The FBI never could find him, either, which eventually made Leo Koury the man who stayed at the top of their most-wanted list longer than anyone else. Rumor had it he was in and out of Richmond a few times during his time on the lam, but he never got caught. At the age of 56, in 1991, Koury died of a brain hemorrhage in a San Diego hospital.

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