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Frank Lane

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Frank Lane
(Trader Frank, Frantic Frank, Trader Lane, The Wheeler Dealer)

Contents

[edit] Biographical Information

Frank Lane was primarily known as a controversial General Manager for the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Athletics, Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers, but he also played professional football, officiated football and basketball and was a GM in the National Basketball Association.

He was involved in over 400 player trades. Lane played a little minor league ball and was a minor league executive and president of the American Association, but gained fame as a General Manager for four decades. He traded stars like Red Schoendienst, Rocky Colavito and Roger Maris with abandon. Cardinal owner Gussie Busch blocked Lane's attempted trade of Stan Musial. Lane became business manager of the Athletics in 1961 and later scouted for the Orioles and Brewers. (FJO)

Lane's first brush with professional sports came in American football, where he played professionally for a number of Ohio teams prior to the creation of the National Football League. After his attempt at playing professional baseball fell short, Lane shifted to officiating, serving as a highly-touted referee in both football and basketball. In 1933, he was named as traveling secretary for the Reds, while continuing to spend his offseasons as an official. After later spending one season as general manager of the team's Durham, NC minor league club, Lane was elevated to assistant general manager for the Reds under Warren Giles on November 17, 1936.

After the United States entered World War II, Lane went into the U.S. Navy and spent the next four years in the service before returning in 1946 as general manager of the Kansas City Blues, a farm club of the New York Yankees. One year in that position led to a two-year stretch as president of the American Association. Lane then resigned that post in 1948 to become general manager of the White Sox.

Over the next seven years, he would shape the Sox into a contender after nearly two decades of mediocrity. After resigning in September 1955, Lane quickly found work again in St. Louis, where he spent two seasons before peripatetically moving to Cleveland in November 1957. Lane left Cleveland in January 1961 for an executive position with the A's, but the combination of Lane and volatile owner Charlie Finley meant an end to his employment just eight months later. The lingering feud between the two over compensation would result in a lawsuit that took over three years to settle. Due to his uncertain contract status, Lane was forced out of baseball during this period, but found employment on May 7, 1962 as general manager of the National Basketball Association's Chicago Packers.

On January 8, 1965, Lane settled his lawsuit with Finley, accepting $113,000, as well as the freedom to take another position in baseball. Early reports of his being part of an ownership group to buy the Boston Red Sox, as well as potentially serving as president of the Texas League, proved to be unfounded. Instead, Lane was hired by the Baltimore Orioles as a special assistant to general manager Lee MacPhail on March 7, serving primarily as a team scout, a post he would hold for nearly six years.

Shortly before his 75th birthday, he was hired as general manager for the Bewers. Following that stint, Lane concluded his career as a scout for both the California Angels and Texas Rangers.

Lane would gain fame (and sometimes infamy) for his multiple transactions, earning nicknames such as "Trader Frank", "Frantic Frank", "Trader Lane" and "The Wheeler Dealer" for the more than 400 trades he made over the years, including 241 with the White Sox alone. In addition to dealing figures such as Jim Busby, Norm Cash, Colavito and Maris, Lane also dispatched future Hall of Famers Schoendienst and Early Wynn. Yet players were not the only people involved in Lane's transactions--in 1960, during his tenure with the Indians, he dealt manager Joe Gordon in exchange for Detroit Tigers skipper Jimmy Dykes.

He died at age 84 in a nursing home in Dallas TX after a long illness and is buried at Restland Memorial Park in Dallas. In Bobby Bragan's book, "You Can't Hit the Ball With the Bat On Your Shoulder," Bragan wrote that he was asked by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn's office to represent them at the funeral. Bragan would be the lone baseball official to attend Lane's rites.

Preceded by
Unknown
Chicago White Sox General Manager
1948-1955
Succeeded by
Johnny Rigney & Charlie Comiskey, Jr
Preceded by
Dick Meyer
St. Louis Cardinals General Manager
1956-1957
Succeeded by
Bing Devine
Preceded by
Hank Greenberg
Cleveland Indians General Manager
1958-1960
Succeeded by
Gabe Paul
Preceded by
Parke Carroll
Kansas City A's General Manager
1961
Succeeded by
Pat Friday
Preceded by
Marvin Milkes
Milwaukee Brewers General Manager
1971-1972
Succeeded by
Jim Wilson

[edit] Highlights

  • May 3, 1949: Taking advantage of the shortened fence installed by White Sox GM Frank Lane, the Senators belt seven homers—and need them all—in beating Chicago, 14–12 in 10 innings. This is only time a team has collected seven homers in an extra inning contest. Clyde Vollmer leads the hit parade with two, followed by Mark Christman, Gil Coan, Al Evans, Eddie Robinson and Bud Stewart. The Sox get homers from Joe Tipton and Gus Zernial.
  • May 4, 1949: White Sox infielder Floyd Baker, who will play 874 games in his 13 year MLB career, hits his only home run, off Sid Hudson, into "Home Run Lane," named for GM Frank Lane, in an 8–7 loss to the Washington Senators.
  • May 30, 1952: Over the protests of manager Paul Richards, White Sox GM Frank Lane swaps fleet CF Jim Busby, along with Mel Hoderlein to Washington for Sam Mele. Busby's loss leaves a defensive hole in the outfield, which the Sox will fill when they acquire Jim Rivera in July.
  • September 23, 1955: After a running feud with minority stockholder Charlie Comiskey, Jr, Frank Lane resigns as GM of the White Sox.
  • May 17, 1956: The Pittsburgh Pirates continue swapping by sending outfielder Bobby Del Greco and pitcher Dick Littlefield to St. Louis for outfielder Bill Virdon. Virdon, the 1955 Rookie of the Year, was hitting just .211 for the Cards when GM Frank Lane unloads him. Virdon will hit .334 the rest of the year for Pittsburgh.
  • November 12, 1957: Frank Lane resigns as GM of the Cardinals, who replace him with Bing Devine.
  • December 4, 1957: The White Sox send fan-favorite Minnie Minoso and infielder Fred Hatfield to the Indians for pitcher Early Wynn and outfielder Al Smith. Wynn coming off his first losing season, will rebound with the White Sox, topping the American League in wins and innings in 1959. The trade was the first for the new Indians' GM Frank Lane.
  • April 12, 1960: In a deal that will haunt the Indians, Frank Lane sends Norm Cash to Detroit for third baseman Steve Demeter. Cash will be Detroit's regular first baseman for the next 14 years and will hit 373 home runs for them. Demeter will play four games for Cleveland.
  • April 17, 1960: On Easter Sunday, Frank Lane brings American League batting champ Harvey Kuenn to Cleveland and sends co-homerun champ Colavito to Detroit. Colavito, an unparalleled fan favorite in Cleveland, had been a brief Spring holdout for more money. Colavito was on first base in an exhibition game in Memphis against the White Sox when manager Gordon informed him of the trade. Rocky will hit 173 home runs before returning to the Tribe on January 20, 1965. Kuenn will report to Cleveland, pull a muscle, and never be the same hitter. He'll be traded after one season.
  • August 3, 1960: Frank Lane trades managers with Detroit's GM Bill DeWitt. The Indians Joe Gordon (49-46) is dealt to the Tigers for Jimmy Dykes (44-52). For one game, until the pair can change places, Jo-Jo White pilots the Indians and Billy Hitchcock guides the Tigers.
  • January 3, 1961: Frank Lane quits as GM of the Indians to take the same post with the Athletics.
  • April 27, 1961: Gabe Paul resigns as GM of the Houston Colt 45s for the same job at Cleveland. He replaces Frank Lane.
  • August 22, 1961: Frank Lane's short tenure as GM of the A's ends when Charlie Finley replaces him with Pat Friday.
  • May 7, 1962: Former baseball executive Frank Lane signs on as GM of the Chicago Packers of the National Basketball Association.
  • October 8, 1963: Frank Lane sues Finley for $144,166 for breach of contract.

[edit] Sources

Principal sources for Frank Lane include newspaper obituaries (OB), government Veteran records (VA,CM,CW), Stars & Stripes (S&S), Sporting Life (SL), The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs {{{WW}}} (WW), old Baseball Registers {{{BR}}} (BR) , old Daguerreotypes by TSN {{{DAG}}} (DAG), Stars&Stripes (S&S), The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase (PD), The Baseball Library (BL), Baseball in World War II Europe by Gary Bedingfield (GB) {{{MORE}}} and independent research by Walter Kephart (WK) and Frank Russo (FR) and others.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Bob Vanderberg: Frantic Frank Lane: Baseball’s Ultimate Wheeler-Dealer, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2013. ISBN 978-0-7864-7018-1

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