Home Field Advantage

10 Oct

William Lape had a brief minor league career; in 1911 he spent his first season in pro baseball playing in the Southwest Texas League, a “D”  league with clubs in Bay City, Beeville, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Laredo, and Victoria—Lape split the season between Victoria and Brownsville.

Texas was a bit of a culture shock for Lape, who was born in Irvin, Pennsylvania on June 11, 1888, and raised in Ohio.

When he returned to Ohio in the fall—the league, formed in 1910, folded after the 1911 season—Lape explained to The Dayton Herald that all of the umpires in Texas were “homers,” and why:

“They have to be or some of the ranchers who tote six-shooters around with them all the time would take a crack at them.  It comes a little hard to the northern players when they first go down there because they are looking for an even break on the road.  They soon get over that idea, however.  Every close play goes to the home team.

“The ranchers line up along the bleacher fence when the game gets close and every once in awhile some of them will waive their gun at the umpire just as a warning as to what might follow if he handed the home team the worst of it.  I’ve seen several games stopped for 15 or 20 minutes while the ranchers swarmed on the diamond and argued with the umpire”

lape.jpg

William Lape

The league, which played two-half seasons, with a championship series at the end, was in such poor financial straights at the close of the second half that first half champions Bay City declined to participate in a playoff.

Lape said during the 1910 playoff series between Brownsville and Victoria:

 “(T)here was a riot at every game.  Men fought each other in the grand stand and women cried and wrung their hands like an awful calamity was being enacted. I understand quite a few Texans are carrying lead around in their systems yet as a result of that series.”

While Lape said he enjoyed playing in Texas and that it could be lucrative, “I got $16 once for pulling off a steal of second and third that put us in the way of scoring the winning run,” he spent the rest of his career playing with professional and semi-pro clubs in Michigan and Ohio.

He died in Miami, Florida, July 28, 1973.

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