The 2020 baseball season is drawing to a close. It has been a season like no other with only sixty games and 16 teams making the playoffs. In the past I have written about Athens native Bill Stafford who had a short but brilliant career with the New York Yankees. Catskill native Mickey Brantley also deserves mentioning for his time with the Seattle Mariners. And when we write about home grown athletes, we must remember Catskillian Edsall Walker who played for the Homestead Grays in the Negro League. One major league baseball player from Greene County who is sometimes overlooked is pitcher Jerry Lane, actually Jerald Hal Lane (1926-1988).
Jerry Lane was born in Ashland. I have to imagine that the level of baseball being played in Ashland at the time when Lane was a boy was not of the caliber being played in many other parts of the country. For instance, he began his education in a one room school house which still stands just off County Route 10 on B.G. Partridge Road in Ashland. Despite what seems to me as a lack of opportunity, in 1948 he was signed to a minor league contract with the Boston Braves, now the Atlanta Braves. After two years he was acquired by the Washington Senators. In 1953 while playing for the Senator’s minor league affiliate Chattanooga Lookouts he was called up to the “big club.”
At age 27 on July 7 Lane made his major league debut as a starting pitcher at old Griffith Stadium against the Boston Red Sox. Despite taking a loss, Lane only gave up one run in eight innings of work. His only other start came on September 13 when he again pitched eight innings losing to the Detroit Tigers. He didn’t have a great season, but neither did the Washington Senators. Lane finished the season with a 1-4 record in 20 appearances, 56 2/3 innings pitched and a 4.92 earned run average. The Senators played .500 ball (76-76) and finished 23 ½ games behind the first place New York Yankees. Probably his biggest thrill came on August 18 when he beat the Yankees in relief.
Lane was sent back to Chattanooga in 1954 where he performed magnificently posting a 13-8 record and a 2.97 earned run average in 31 games. On August 7 he was acquired by the Cincinnati Redlegs, now the Cincinnati Reds. On September 7 he made his debut with the Redlegs as a relief pitcher and held the St. Louis Cardinals scoreless for over two innings. He appeared again on September 12, being called in relief in the first inning with the Redlegs leading 3-0. He worked 7 1/3 innings, and the Redlegs won 13-2.
Lane appeared in three more games for the Redlegs in 1954. The team finished fifth out of eight teams in the National League that year, 23 games out of first place. In 1955, Lane again found himself with the Redlegs appearing in eight more relief appearances before being sent back to the minors. He continued to play in the minor leagues until 1959 appearing in 429 games overall in 12 seasons. His minor league record was 114-118.
Jerry Lane played before the start of major league expansion in 1961. There were only 16 major league teams in the 1950s. Now there are 30. Because there were fewer major league teams in the 1950s, there were more minor league teams than there are now and the talent level was more robust. One has to wonder, if with more major league teams today, would Jerry Lane have had more opportunity to leave his mark in the major league baseball record books? Jerry Lane died in Chattanooga, Tennessee on July 24, 1988.
It is interesting to note that three years after Jerry Lane’s baseball career ended in 1959, his older brother Clarence (Larry) D. Lane (1921–1998) was elected New York State Assemblyman from Greene County. The popular Lane went on to serve 24 consecutive years in the legislature, the longest term in that office by anyone in Greene County history. Twice in his political career he garnered over 65 percent of the vote in his bid for re-election.
Two brothers, two paths in life; Jerry who used his physical talent to pursue a baseball career and Larry who parlayed his people skills into a long career in public service.
To reach columnist David Dorpfeld, e-mail email@example.com or visit him on Facebook at “Greene County Historian.”