Leslie O. James distinguished himself in various sports as an athlete, manager, coach and offical.
James graduated from Falconer High School in 1936 and while attending the school he was a standout in track, football, basketball and baseball.
In his senior track season James competed in the pole vault competition winning first place in the Chautauqua County Meet and third in the WNY Zone 6 Meet.
James was also quarterback and the punter for Golden Falcons football team. Additionally, he was a guard on the basketball squad and pitched and performed at several infield positions in baseball.
While still in high school, James began his lengthy Muny baseball league career with the Falcon merchants. Later, from 1937 to 1939, James was the member of two-time champion Art Medal Builders in the YMCA Community Basketball League.
James, whose baseball career spanned more than 20 years, had the achievement of being on the very first professional baseball team for Jamestown. He played on the 1939 Jamestown Pirates the year of the PONY league (later NYP-League) when they played at Celoron Park.
He performed for the Jamestown Moose Lodge (1940-1941), which played independently against area basketball teams. In addition, the Moose Lodge scheduled games in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
His teams won the Erie Dispatch tournament in 1949 and placed second in 1941. Manager Gus Laskaris stated that James was an exceptional guard in passing and on defense would always take the other team's best player.
The period of 1940-1943 saw James play for several baseball teams, including Thore Carlson's Vikings in the Muny League, a league was considered by many to be better than the PONY League at that time.
James had a very exciting season in 1944 as several noteworthy events took place. One was being selected an All-American first baseman thanks to his performance for the Jamestown Boosters in the National Semi-Pro Tournament in Wichita, Kansas. Several major league scouts were on hand and praised Jamestown for James' performance in the two games played by the Boosters. James helped the Boosters, who were an all-star team, reach Wichita by winning the New York State title. That same year, he assisted Hope's Windows in repeating as Muny A League champs. In the championship game, he displayed extra-base power with three doubles and a triple to drive in four runs.
James also managed the Falconer American Legion to the Chautauqua County League title.
In 1945, James was signed by the then Brooklyn Dodgers organization and started spring traing with the Newport News Dodgers in Virginia, but unfortunately sickness forced him to quit.
In 1945, James began his supurb career with the Jamestown Steel Partition Bombers. His first year saw the Bombers compile a 32-7 city championship record and his batting average was .393. James, who was given the nickname of "Flash," was considered the best first baseman in the area.
He hit at a .339 pace in 1947 as the Bombers once again were New York State champions and went to the National Tournament. The following year the Bombers had one of its finest teams, recording a 53-7 record, but didn't go to the National Tournament after winning the State Tournament. They were unbeaten in the Muny league. The season of 1949 brought an independent schedule against some of the top teams in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Canada with outstanding success.
James was named manager of the Bombers in 1952 and guided the team to the title of the Muny AA League and in the playoffs.
James retired from playing in 1953 to begin a coaching career with young people. He became a Little League manager and president while also taking care of the Willard Street Park.
In 1957, James was instrumental in helping form the Jamestown Midget Footbal League. Assisted by Arnie Everett, he built outstanding teams for the South Side Blue Devils, that were well-coached and won many titles.
It was in 1961 that the South Blue Devils accepted an invitation to compete in the annual Shrine Bowl in Daytona Beach, Florida. He coached the Blue Devils from 1957-1963 and even when he retired James offered any help that was asked by his successors. He continued to assist various teams in the area and worked as an umpire and official before moving to Clearwater, Florida, in 1970.
Les James died in 1992. He was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.
Join the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame
A membership program is available to persons who are interested in preserving the history of sports in Chautauqua County and honoring the outstanding individuals who have created our cherished sports memories.
In addition to helping the CSHoF carry out its twin missions of maintaining a hall of fame and exhibit hall, members will receive several value-added benefits for their membership fee.
To join, please contact Russ Ecklund at
716-484-7684 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Sports Hall of Fame is dependent on the volunteers who staff the hall. They are dedicated to the hall and the athletes honored there. The Board of Directors greatly appreciates the time and effort given by the volunteers.
The CSHoF can use additional volunteers to be at the hall during the day to greet visitors. To volunteer contact Randy Anderson at 716-640-6219.
Video ArchiveThe Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame has a collection of DVD's chronicling sports in Chautauqua County, the Hall of Fame inductees and interviews with sports personalities. They are available for viewing by visitors at the hall. See the complete list on our video archive page.