Frank D. Lawrence, born in Portsmouth, Virginia on March 15, 1891, was a guiding force in professional baseball for half a century, as an independent owner of Minor League teams. In 1913, Lawrence organized his first team known as the Truckers and entered them in the old Virginia League. He operated this club until 1928 when the league collapsed. At one time, he operated both the Portsmouth and Norfolk clubs.
In 1935, Lawrence returned as owner of the Portsmouth Cubs of the Piedmont League, which folded in 1955. He then served in an advisory capacity when pro baseball returned to Portsmouth in the 1960’s. Lawrence was regarded by many baseball people as the #1 operator in Minor League baseball. He was named by The Sporting News as “Minor League Executive of the Year” in 1943. His Trucker teams won pennants in 1920, 1921, and 1927. His Portsmouth Cubs won pennants in 1943 and 1948.
Among some of the great baseball players on his teams were Hall of Famers, Pie Traynor and Hack Wilson; and such former Big League stars as Brooks Lawrence, Bill Nicholson, Harry Brecheen, Hal Wagner, Kirby Higby, Eddie Stanky, Ken Guettler, and Ace Parker. Lawrence’s managers included Jimmy Foxx, Pepper Martin, Tony Lazzeri, Winn Clark, Milton Stock, Bill Steinecke, Ival Goodman, Skeeter Scalzi, Reggie Oteo and Parker. He was a successful banker and never drew a salary for his baseball efforts. Lawrence said, “Banking is my business and baseball is my hobby.”
Lawrence was a pioneer in playing night baseball and on Sunday, in 1954, he filed a $250,000 damage suit against the Major Leagues for invading the Minor League’s territory with radio and television broadcast. He lost, but not before taking it to the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1941, through his efforts, Portsmouth Stadium was constructed at a cost of $250,000. Twenty-one years later, the stadium was renamed in his honor. Frank Lawrence died on January 15, 1966, but he will be remembered as one of Virginia’s greatest contributors to the sport of baseball in the state.