Frank D. Lawrence
Frank Dudley Lawrence
Frank D, Lawrence was one of the most prominent minor league owners of the first half of the 20th century and a driving force in the development of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.
A native of Portsmouth, VA and well-rooted in the community (his grandfather had been the city's mayor), he organized his first minor league team, the Portsmouth Truckers of the Virginia League in 1913, to begin play the following season, and operated it until 1928 when the league collapsed in mid-season. For a time, he also operated the Norfolk Tars in the same league. Two of the players that passed through the Portsmouth team in those years were future Hall of Famers Pie Traynor and Hack Wilson, which he both sold to major league clubs. In 1935, he re-formed the club as a member of the Piedmont League, where they were known as the "Portsmouth Cubs" from 1936 onward due to a three-year affiliation with the Chicago Cubs (the name was kept even when the Philadelphia Phillies replaced the Cubs in 1939, with the Cubs returning as the parent club in 1941. The league folded in 1955, but he returned as an advisor to the new Portsmouth Tides in 1961, who are the ancestors of today's Norfolk Tides.
Lawrence was extremely well-respected in minor league circles and was named the Minor League Executive of the Year by The Sporting News in 1943. His teams won a total of five league pennants during his tenure. His baseball ventures, which he considered a hobby because he claimed he never made any money during all those years, apart from the $300 he earned working concessions while still in high school, were supported by a successful career as a banker. He also served on the Portsmouth city council He was also a pioneer in the introduction of night baseball and Sunday games to the minor leagues. In 1941, his efforts led to the construction of Portsmouth Stadium at a cost of $250,000; the ballpark was renamed in his honor in 1962.
On February 9, 1959, he filed a $250,000 lawsuit against Major League Baseball and Commissioner Ford Frick claiming that allowing radio and television broadcasts of major league games into minor league territory had effectively killed his business. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court before he lost.
He was inducted in the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
- Robert Creamer: "Civil War in Virginia: One angry minor league club owner has rebelled against the major leagues. On his success or failure may rest the future of baseball", Sports Illustrated, August 1, 1955.