Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Jack Lance


Date and Place of Birth: April 24, 1927 Scranton, Pennsylvania

Baseball Experience: Minor League
Military Unit: US Army

Area Served: European Theater of Operations


Jack LanceJack 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 1947.

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 League.

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.


Jack Lance

Jack Lance with the Go-Devils in Europe (Jack is middle row, third left)


Jack Lance


Jack Lance

Jack Lance with the 1946 ETO GI World Series champs (Jack is front row, far right)

 Created September 13, 2013.

Copyright © 2013 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.