University of Tennessee football and baseball star Hunter “Dodo” Lane darted in and out of professional ball in less than 24 months, yet still ascended to the major leagues. The infielder became a “one-hit wonder” with a 1-for-15 performance for the 1924 Boston Braves, before opening a successful politically-involved law practice in the Memphis area.
James Hunter Lane was born on July 20, 1900, in Pulaski, Tennessee. His parents were William Lane, a salesman born in Texas, and Josephine Lane, born in Tennessee. Not much is known about young James’s childhood. By age 17, Hunter (by then his preferred first name) was the placekicker for West Tennessee State Normal (now Memphis State University).1 His September 1918 draft card shows the 18-year-old, brown-haired, blue-eyed lad newly enrolled at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. The freshman also played end on the Student Army Training Corps football team, which had replaced the varsity team during the war. Records also list Lane as a Tennessee veteran of World War I, He served for a short while at Camp Gaillard near St. Louis between late 1918 and early 1919. However, by March 1919, Hunter was back on the Knoxville campus.2
Lane, a right-hander standing 5-feet-11 and weighing 165 pounds, was a four-year standout left end on the football team at UT. For the baseball program, he was a third baseman/outfielder. His first year, as a starting third baseman, he shared the left side of the diamond with shortstop Frank Callaway. In June 1919, he was awarded the freshman scholarship and medal offered by the Scarabbean Senior society,3 and followed up by being named sophomore class president. By the fall of 1921, Lane was a charter member of the new UT golf team.4 In May 1922, fraternity man “Dodo” Lane, one of the best-known students on campus, gave a rousing speech lamenting the “Old Politics” at UT, stating that a man harboring “petty grievances…was not a Tennessee man.”5 The origins of the nickname “Dodo” during college are murky, but possibly a clue can be gleaned from an excerpt of a 1921 ode to the football team in the Knoxville Sentinel: “Over there’s Lane, but we call him ‘Dodo,’ we had to nickname him, we all love him so.”6
Lane played on the 1922 baseball team with Ben Cantwell for manager Merrick “Spike” Webb. The writeup before their opener against Carson-Newman claimed that Lane was “believed by many to be the best ball player on the team, and experts predict a bright future for ‘Dodo.’”7 He also was the College of Law’s track coach in their intra-campus meet against the “Engineers, Litts, and Ags.”8 Believing his football eligibility was exhausted, Lane signed a professional contract with the Knoxville Pioneers of the Class D Appalachian League at the conclusion of the collegiate baseball season. However, upon hearing that he was granted one more year on the gridiron, he quickly requested the contract be voided, confiding that “the thrill of catching a forward pass is much greater to me than scooping up the hottest grounder or poling out base hits.”9 Lane, that “wizard at snagging passes,”10 caught Roe Campbell’s pass for a memorable late victory for the Volunteers over Mississippi State, played in Lane’s hometown of Memphis.11 In November, in his last football game, a victory over the University of Kentucky, Lane’s “work was brilliant at all times.”12
Heading into 1923, it was said that Lane “will have three branches open to him—baseball, coaching, and law.”13 In March 1923, outfielder and team captain Lane was denied another year of baseball eligibility for the University.14 So he signed a new pro contract with the Pioneers.15 In the same month, he was granted a state license to practice law.16
Having already passed his state bar exams, Lane missed a June series against Johnson City (Tennessee) to attend the law school’s graduation ceremonies, with his parents in town from Memphis for the occasion.17 Knoxville and manager Frank Moffett won the Appalachian League by 11½ games over Bristol, with Lane hitting .245 in 87 games.18 Lane was also reunited in Knoxville with his UT teammate Callaway. Boston Braves scout Arthur Devins saw Lane play on Labor Day 1923 against the Greeneville (Tennessee) Burley Cubs. The next week, the Knoxville News-Sentinel’s headline read: “’Dodo’ Lane is Sold to Boston Nationals.”19 Lane was to report for the Braves’ 1924 spring training. Also in September, alumnus Lane penned an editorial regarding the University of Tennessee administration.20
During the Braves training camp, Lane swapped law anecdotes with fellow ballplayer and attorney-in-waiting Wade Lefler (whose pinch hits would help the Washington Senators to the 1924 pennant). Lane had already successfully tried cases in 1923 and had been appointed a judge in his hometown of Buntyn, Tennessee.21 By April, Lane was farmed to the Worcester (Massachusetts) Panthers of the Class A Eastern League.22 There he claimed an infield spot.23
However, on May 4, Boston “got short on infielders” and recalled Lane from Worcester.24 His major league debut was May 13 at Pittsburgh, when player-manager Dave Bancroft summoned him to pinch hit in the top of the seventh inning with the Braves down, 5-1. Lane flied out to Pirates left fielder Kiki Cuyler.25 The rookie’s second appearance occurred 18 days later, going 0-for-2 as a midgame replacement for second baseman Cotton Tierney, after Tierney had been hit on the arm by a pitch. Lane entered the game at third base with third baseman Ernie Padgett moving over to second. The Braves were already down, 14-3, after five innings and lost, 14-8. Lane then rode the pine for the whole month of June.
On July 4, second baseman Tierney, in a slump and with a bad cold causing eye irritation, was replaced in the lineup by third baseman Lane, Padgett moving from third to second. Lane played both full games of the Independence Day doubleheader at home against the Brooklyn Dodgers. He recorded his only big league hit, a sixth inning single, off Tiny Osborne in the second game. Next, Lane, “made a difficult and mighty important catch of [Jimmy] Johnston’s foul fly [with one out] in the ninth inning of the second game,” preventing the tying run from reaching base as Boston went on to win the game, 1-0 .26 Lane went 0-for-4 the next day, in his third and last start, also against Brooklyn.
He had but one more unsuccessful at bat with the Braves, and it came a week later. Lane ended up batting 1-for-15 (.067) in his seven games with the Braves. His final major league appearance came on defense two weeks later, when he entered the game on July 26 after Tierney suffered a painfully injured finger as he tried to make a barehanded stop of a smash by Charlie Grimm. Again Padgett shifted to second while Lane took over at third. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette observed that Lane had a “Sunday clause” in his contract and sniped that “Hunter also does not play ball on Saturday, judging by his action on two plays which lost the old ball game for the Tribe.”27 The potshot was at least partly undeserved, because Lane had left for a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of the game, when the Braves rallied to tie the score. The Pirates eventually won in the 14th.
In mid-August, he was sent down to the Pittsfield (Massachusetts) Hillies, also in the Eastern League.28 Lane ended the Eastern League campaign playing in eight games for Worcester and 24 for Pittsfield, with a combined .254 average.29 Nonetheless, in September the Braves exercised their option on him for 1925.30
In early February 1925, Lane was listed as a Braves prospect.31 However, by month’s end, he was released by Boston, along with eight-year veteran Ray Powell.32 Lane declined an invitation from Knoxville manager Frank Moffett to play once again with the Pioneers, instead settling in Memphis and playing independent ball on the weekends.33
Hunter married Lucille Robertson Barrow on December 12, 1927, in Shelby County, Tennessee. She was 19, eight years his junior. The Lanes had four children: James Hunter Lane Jr. (born in 1929), Mary (1931), Lucille (1938), and Camille (1941). In early 1928, Hunter was slated to play on a Memphis All-Stars semipro football team.34 Hunter, Lucille, and the children settled down in Memphis, yet Hunter was a regular attendee at University of Tennessee football games in Knoxville. He served on local Selective Service appeals boards during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He later was elected president of the Chickasaw (Tennessee) Country Club. By 1960, Hunter Sr. and Hunter Jr. were in law practice together at Lane & Lane in Germantown, Tennessee. Senior served as secretary of the Tennessee Bar Association, and was involved in various civic organizations that encouraged Memphians to become involved in the political process.35 Junior later served as Memphis Commissioner of Public Service and unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Memphis in 1967.
James Hunter Lane Sr. died on September 13, 1994, at the age of 94, at his home in Memphis, from heart disease.36 At the time he was the second-oldest living former Brave behind Tim McNamara.37 He is buried at the Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis. He was survived by his wife of 67 years, Lucille, and three daughters, Mary, Camille, and Lucille, and his son, James Hunter Lane Jr.
This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Norman Macht and fact-checked by Karen Holleran.
Baseball-Reference.com, StatsCrew.com, MyHeritage.com
1 “Jackson High Loses to West Tenn. Normal,” (Nashville) Tennessean, October 28, 1917: 46.
2 “Social Events of the Past Week,” Journal and Tribune (Knoxville, Tennessee), March 9, 1919: 21.
3 “Fourteen Given Prizes at U.T.,” Journal and Tribune, June 26, 1919: 11.
4 “‘Goff’ Team at the University,” Knoxville (Tennessee) Sentinel, September 27, 1921: 27.
5 “Students Bury ‘Old Politics,’” Journal and Tribune, May 9, 1922: 12.
6 “Our Wonderful Team,” Knoxville Sentinel, November 1, 1921: 20.
7 “Saturday Game to be Hot One,” Knoxville Sentinel, March 30, 1922: 28.
8 “Inter-College Meet Saturday,” Knoxville Sentinel, April 6, 1922: 20.
9 “Hunter Lane Released by Mgr. Moffett,” Journal and Tribune, April 3, 1922: 13.
10 “Spring Football is Agreed Upon,” Knoxville Sentinel, December 14, 1921: 20.
11 Barney Ballard, “In the Press Box,” Journal and Tribune, November 8, 1935: 18.
12 “Vols Down Wildcats 14-7 in Thrilling Game,” Knoxville Sentinel, December 1, 1922: 24.
13 “Commodores Play Two Baseball Games with U.T. in Knoxville,” Nashville (Tennessee) Banner, January 23, 1923: 10.
14 “Vol Baseball Prospects Dark,” Journal and Tribune, April 1, 1923: 13.
15 “Star Athlete Signs with Pioneers,” Journal and Tribune, April 4, 1923: 11.
16 “71 Granted Licenses for Practice of Law,” Tennessean, March 26, 1923: 2.
17 “Moffett Crew Playing J.C.,” Journal and Tribune, June 4, 1923: 9.
18 He is listed only as Lane in Baseball-Reference.com.
19 “’Dodo’ Lane is Sold to Boston Nationals,” Knoxville (Tennessee) News-Sentinel, September 10, 1923: 3.
20 “’Truth’ Asks for New U.T. Board,” Journal and Tribune, September 4, 1924: 4.
21 “Lawyers Trying for Job with the Boston Braves,” Brooklyn (New York) Daily Eagle, April 9, 1924: 28.
22 “Hunter Lane Sent to Worcester Club,” Knoxville News-Sentinel, April 14, 1924: 2.
23 “Burkett Expects to Slug His Way to Top of Eastern Heap,” Hartford (Connecticut) Courant, April 20, 1924: 38.
24 “Notes,” Berkshire Eagle (Pittsfield, Massachusetts), May 5, 1924: 10.
25 “Buccos Break Losing Streak and Sidetrack Rube Marquard,” Pittsburgh Daily Post, May 14, 1924: 13.
26 “Two Fine Games Go to Crippled Braves,” Boston Globe, July 5, 1924: 8.
27 “Pirates Beat Braves in Fourteenth,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 27, 1924: 18.
28 “Hunter Lane Coming; May Drop Gardella,” Berkshire Eagle, August 15, 1924: 2.
29 “Official Eastern League Averages: Individual Batting.” Berkshire Eagle, November 17, 1924: 10.
30 “Option Exercised on Infielder Lane,” Berkshire Eagle, September 16, 1924: 2.
31 “Braves to Go South Mar. 5,” News-Democrat (Paducah, Kentucky), February 6, 1925: 6.
32 “Powell and Lane Let Go by Braves,” Hartford Courant, February 17, 1925: 10.
33 “Hunter Lane is Out of Professional Baseball,” Knoxville News-Sentinel, April 23, 1925: 2
34 “McArthur to Play on Pro Grid Eleven,” Knoxville News-Sentinel, December 23, 1927: 14.
35 “Retired Attorney Lane, 94, Dies,” Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee), September 13, 1994: 10.
36 “Retired Attorney Lane, 94, Dies.”
37 McNamara died on November 5, 1994. Subsequently, the Braves P.R. department made an unfortunate error by wishing the deceased Lane a happy 95th birthday in the team’s press notes on July 20, 1995. “Padres’ late rallies beat Braves,” Palm Beach (Florida) Post, July 22, 1995.