Listen to the stories about Bernard David “Buddy” Lake and you assume the tales are baseball’s version of Paul Bunyon: outrageous feats of athleticism that are more fiction than fact.
That is until you realize Lake’s accomplishments were performed in front of thousands of people on such a regular basis, that they almost became commonplace.
Lake was born in Louisville Kentucky in 1914. His family moved to Sanford in 1916. From a young age he was an outstanding athlete, some say the greatest athlete ever to come out of Seminole High School.
He never made it to the major leagues, but he played alongside Babe Ruth and pitched to New York Yankees great Lou Gehrig.
Lake’s legend was built during 832 games in the Florida State League, a minor league division in which Sanford was a charter member.
He may have been a minor league player, but he performed some major league magic.
There was the night Lake stole home to win a playoff game against St. Augustine. Daring the pitcher to pick him off, Lake took big leads three times, only to retreat to third base. The fourth time he headed for home.
Years later, Lake said he gave the batter three chances to drive him home. Finally he said he he had no choice but to steal if his team was going to win.
Then there was the time Lake, an accomplished hitter who won the batting title in 1940, pitched the Florida State League’s first perfect game against Sanford’s hated rival DeLand. He remains the only professional player in any league to win a batting title and pitch a perfect game.
But Lake’s legend was cemented on July 19, 1947. Sanford travelled to Deland for a doubleheader. Lake played third base in the first game and took the mound for the second game.
After 18 innings Lake was still on the mound pitching a shutout. The problem was his teammates weren’t providing any offense, so Lake took matters into his own hands and hit a solo home run in the top of the 19th. He held DeLand scoreless in the bottom of the inning and finished the evening with a 19-inning shutout, and a 1-0 Sanford win.
Lake remained popular even after he retired from baseball in 1950. He was the co-owner of the Thrifty Service Station, located at the northeast corner of Palmetto Avenue and 2nd Street. The site is soon to become Inner Compass Brewing Co.
– by Dan Ping