When we started this project our goal was to shine a spotlight on the people who helped build Oklahoma and played the great game of baseball. Buck Ross is the perfect example of that. He proudly served in the Marines, traveled the country playing baseball, and was a longtime businessman.
Thanks to his daughters Francie Wright and Leigh Ann Matthews for sharing his story and all of these amazing pictures with us.
“He was just a great man no matter what he did he did 100% and plus,” said his daughter Leigh Ann Matthews, “I think baseball was his favorite thing to be remembered by.”
Buck was born Leolin Ross on September 3, 1920 in Wilmington, Delaware. After a brief stint at St. Olaf’s College in Minnesota he joined the Marines where he played baseball and then served in the South Pacific from 1942-1945.
While he was in the Marines, Buck continued to play baseball for his base at Marimar and other Marine Corp teams.
U.S. Marines Team Picture. Buck Ross is standing in the top row, second from the right.
Miramar Baseball. Buck Ross is in the center of the frame.
Buck started his professional baseball career after the Marines in 1946 when he was 25 years old. His first team was in Gloversville, New York. He went 2-9 in 25 games for the Glovers. He also had 9 saves.
Buck also pitched for the Newark Moundsmen in New Jersey in 1946. He had a 5-2 record and a 2.68 ERA in 10 games.
Newark, N.J. Baseball. Buck Ross is in the center of the frame, fourth from both the right and left
1947 was the turning point in Buck’s life when he joined the Muskogee Reds. Little did he know that he’d meet his first wife and eventually settle into a longtime community leader in Muskogee.
Buck won 33 games in Muskogee and had an average ERA of 4.88 from 1947-1951.
The Reds were a very popular team in the 1940s and going to a Reds game at Athletic Park was the thing to do during the summer. Business owners would try to take advantage of the popularity by sponsoring different events at the ballpark that would often include getting the players involved. “We didn’t see him play but for the people who did see him play he was a famous local baseball player for the time.” said his daughter Francie Wright, “So many people remember him playing and back in the day it was the national pastime. People didn’t have TVs or anything they went to the ballpark every night to watch the local baseball teams play.”
Muskogee Reds 1947. Buck Ross is in the front row, second from the left.
Shortly after Buck moved to Muskogee he met Mildred Ramey, the two got married in August of 1947. Several business owners through a wedding shower for the new bride and groom. A popular picture that has made its way around Muskogee shows the happy couple on the ball field. The Ross’ daughter Francie Wright says a popular misconception is that they got married at the ball park but they actually got married at Trinity Methodist Church and just had a wedding shower at the ball park.
Buck Ross and his new bride, the former Mildred Ramey
A few years later after Francie was born the Ross’ were honored with another shower on the diamond. Buck and Reds teammate Heinie Mueller (who had also just had a child) had to compete in a baby themed contest to determine who would get the presents.
Wright says a baby stroller with a baby doll in it was placed at first and third base. Mueller and Ross had to race to home plate pushing the stroller, place the dolls on a table, and then change the doll’s diaper. “Whoever did that the fastest length of time won a whole basket of goodies from the local merchants. My dad said he didn’t win because he forgot to powder the baby before diapered it.”, said Wright.
Buck Ross' Paycheck
Buck would only play a few more years after that baby shower. The Muskogee Reds changed their nickname to the Giants in 1951 which marked Buck’s final year as a player. He pitched for both Muskogee and Lawton that year getting 10 wins and 12 saves. He retired following the ’51 season.
“It makes me very proud and makes me realize that he was more than just a baseball player he was a character the people looked up to your little boys that want to be just like him when they grow up.”, said Wright.
Buck’s post playing days were just as busy and his playing career. He was a scout for the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds, officiating football and baseball, and became an insurance agent.
Buck would marry two more times before passing away in 2007 at the age of 86.
Buck’s memory is still alive and well in Muskogee. His daughters say they often hear from people who either watched him play or heard stories of pitching. “It’s a source of a lot of pride. My siblings and I are all just proud that we came from parents that really were the way they were,” said Wright, “He was an icon and he didn’t even know what that word meant. He was a special person.”
He certainly sounds like a fascinating man, here’s to you Buck!