Lance entered military service shortly after graduating from
high school in 1945. He played for the championship winning
Go-Devils in Europe and began playing minor league baseball in
Jack Lance was born on April 24, 1927, in Scranton,
Pennsylvania. As a senior at West Scranton High School in 1945,
he won the league batting championship with a .500 average.
Less than two months later, on July 9, he was drafted into the
Army and reported to Camp Wheeler, near Macon, Georgia. There he
played for Dodgers infielder and future major league manager
Lieutenant Bobby Bragan on the 3rd Regiment ball club where he
also won the batting crown.
Following a transfer to Germany in December 1945, Lance met up
with former 3rd Regiment ballplayers Carl Scheib (Philadelphia
Athletics pitcher) and John Boehringer (Cardinals farmhand) and
began playing for the 60th Infantry Regiment Go-Devils of the
9th Infantry Division in the spring of 1946. He soon became
their starting shortstop and eventually moved to third base -
possibly because Bobby Morgan, who would go on to enjoy eight
years as a shortstop with the Dodgers, Phillies, Cardinals and
Cubs, joined the club. Capitalizing on plenty of talent -
including that of player-manager Fay Starr of the Pacific Coast
League Los Angeles Angels - the team won the G.I World Series
Championship in September 1946, defeating the 508th Parachute
Infantry Regiment in six games.
Honorably discharged as a Corporal in late 1946, Lance chose the
Philadelphia Athletics over the Brooklyn Dodgers in January 1947
when the opportunity to play professional ball arrived. He still
has a hand-written letter from Connie Mack, welcoming him to the
Athletics organization. “Am pleased to hear that you signed a
contract with our organization,” Mack wrote, “and hope some day
to have you on the Athletics.”
Lance signed for a $1,500 bonus to go with the monthly salary of
$225. After a short stint with the Lexington A’s in the Class D
North Carolina State League, Jack was offered an additional $25
per month to play in the Detroit Tigers organization with the
Hagerstown Owls of the Class B Interstate League. Still only 20
years old, Lance found this level of pitching a little too tough
(he batted .120 in 17 games), and transferred to the Rome
Colonels of the Class C Canadian-American League. As a
shortstop, Lance played 68 games for the Colonels and batted
.216 with three home runs, being voted ‘Most Improved
Ballplayer’ by the local fans.
During the following spring training – 1948 - Lance was edged
out by a new infielder, Irving Carlson, who had played with
Jamestown the previous season. Lance was sold to the Goldsboro
Goldbugs of the Class D Coastal Plain League on April 25. He
batted .160 in 12 games with the Goldbugs and had a short stint
with the Smithfield-Selma Leafs of the Class D Tobacco State
Following the 1948 season, Jack attended tech school on the
GI-Bill while playing for local Scranton clubs. In July 1950, he
married his hometown sweetheart, Charlene Bray. Focused on his
family, he began a 40 year career at the A&P Food Store chain.
In a few years, he and Charlene had Jack Jr., the first of two
sons. As soon as his boys were old enough to throw a ball, he
was coaching them, all the way through American Legion ball.
Jack Jr. played college ball and also excelled as a coach for
American Legion baseball where he was inducted into the
Pennsylvania American Legion Hall of Fame in 1990. He also
coached college ball at Binghamton University in New York. Jeff,
who came along five years after Jack, Jr., retired from the U.S.
Navy in 2006 as a Commander following 30 years of service.
Jack Lance spent many hours working on local ball fields. His
wife often said she would have better luck having him mow their
own lawn if she were to place bases around the yard. In later
years, he umpired in a local Girl’s Softball League where he
enjoyed helping teach the sport. Jack Lance’s devotion to
baseball in his town was recognized in 1999, when he was elected
to the Scranton Area Sports Hall of Fame.
Jack is now 86. He and Charlene still reside in Scranton,
Pennsylvania, and his son Jeff talked to him about his baseball
career. “It’s amazing how well he can still remember his
teammates and managers from over 60 years ago,” said Jeff. “I
could see a twinkle in his eye on more than one occasion as he
remembered his younger days.”
Jack would love to hear from any old buddies from the past. His
address is 1023 Richmont Street, Scranton, PA 18509.
Thanks to Jeff Lance, who gathered much of this information
during a long and enjoyable conversation with his father.