Today in Sanford history: Buddy Lake dies

Today in Sanford history, Bernard David “Buddy” Lake died. It was March 1, 2003.

From 1950 to 1982, Lake was the popular co-owner of the Thrifty Service Station at the northeast corner of 2nd Street and Palmetto Avenue. Today that site is better known as the home of Inner Compass Brewing Co.

But the filling station was Buddy Lake’s second career. He’s best known for his legendary feats on the baseball diamond during the 1930s and 40as.

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.

Lake would joke years afterward that he gave the batter three chances to drive him home. Finally he said he had no choice but to steal if his team was going to win.

Then there was the time, in 1948, Lake pitched the Florida State League’s first perfect game against Sanford’s hated rival, DeLand. That accomplishment is even more remarkable because Lake was a great hitter who won the batting title in 1940. In fact, Lake remains the only professional player in any league to win a batting title and pitch a perfect game.

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 started his professional baseball career in 1934 during spring training with the Boston Braves, where he played alongside Babe Ruth and pitched against Lou Gehrig.

Lake never made it to the Major Leagues. An arm injury in 1936, and a stint in the Navy during World War II derailed those dreams. However, Lake had an impressive career during 832 games in the Florida State League, a minor league division in which Sanford was a charter member.

As far as I know, Buddy Lake is not related to Sanford’s infamous former mayor Forrest Lake. Buddy was born in Louisville, Ky. in 1913, and his family moved to Sanford in 1916. Forrest Lake was born 48 years earlier (1868) in Newberry, S.C. and moved to Sanford in 1886. There may be some very distant relation that I’m not aware of, however. I point that out because some people ask that question when I tell them the story of Buddy Lake.

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