Celebrating Baseball Opening Week with Interesting Story of John "Jack" Lamabe '65, G'68 | Springfield College

Celebrating Baseball Opening Week with Interesting Story of John "Jack" Lamabe '65, G'68


By: Damon Markiewicz

It’s not every day that you come across a Springfield College graduate who had the ability to pitch in the major leagues, while simultaneously earning their degree, but that’s the unique story of alumnus John “Jack” Lamabe ’65, G’68.

Prior to his time on Alden Street, Lamabe played two seasons of baseball and basketball at the University of Vermont, while also serving the United States Marine Corps, before being honorably discharged in 1958. In 1962, Lamabe was given the opportunity to play professional baseball when he was offered a contract by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he would end up making his Major League Baseball debut on April 17, 1962.

Lamabe’s professional baseball journey began with one full season with the Pirates before he was traded to the Boston Red Sox, where he pitched from 1963 through 1965. During his time with the Red Sox, Lamabe was also working on the first of two degrees he earned at Springfield College. In addition, he also met his future wife, Janet Berta Lamabe ’65, on Alden Street.

“I am very grateful to have met Jack (Lamabe), he was such a great guy,” explained David Behrend ’64, who had some fun racquetball games against Lamabe. “Jack was a workhorse on and off the field, and he was a true gentleman.”

On June 13, 1965, Lamabe earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from Springfield College. He also pursued his master’s degree in Physical Education from Springfield, and during his baseball off-seasons, he coached junior varsity basketball at the College during the 1965-66 and 1966-67 campaigns.

In the spring of 1967, Lamabe started one of his most memorable professional baseball seasons, a campaign that ended with him achieving yet another childhood dream. He started the 1967 baseball season with the Chicago White Sox, before being traded to the New York Mets, just 13 games into the campiagn. Then on July 16, 1967, in between games of a doubleheader with the St. Louis Cardinals, Lamabe was traded by New York to St. Louis, where he would eventually end the year helping the Cardinals to a 1967 World Series championship. Lamabe pitched in three games of the 1967 World Series as he helped the Cardinals defeat his former team, the Red Sox.

“Jack was such a durable pitcher, he spent most of his time as a relief pitcher, but he also could be a starting pitcher if the team needed that as well,” explained Behrend. “Former hall of fame player Stan Musial was the general manager of that 1967 Cardinals team, and he was the one who traded for Jack. Not everyone can say they pitched in the World Series and won a World Series. And there was Jack, earning his degrees from Springfield College, while also pitching in the major leagues and being a part of a World Championship. Such great accomplishments.”

Following his time with the Cardinals, Lamabe concluded his professional baseball career with the Chicago Cubs in 1968. He would move on to the next chapter of his life with two degrees from Springfield College, and a wealth of baseball knowledge that he could share with others. It was only natural that he would eventually take on a leadership position as the head baseball coach at Jacksonville University starting in 1974. Lamabe’s teams won 157 games during his five seasons as head coach, including coming within one game of the College World Series in 1976. He was officially inducted into the Jacksonville University Hall of Fame in 2011, ranking fifth all-time in wins for the program.

In 1979, Lamabe moved on to become the first full-time head baseball coach of the Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers, where he led his teams to an overall record of 134-115 in four seasons. Lamabe helped lay the foundation of the LSU baseball program, prior to the arrival of legendary LSU baseball coach Skip Bertman.

“I first met Jack when he was coaching for Jacksonville, and I was coaching at the University of Miami,” explained Bertman. “Jack was a great man, and he was able to work some of the baseball camps we would host in Louisiana. It was great to get to know him over the years, and the attendees of the camp enjoyed Jack a lot because of his professional baseball background. It wouldn’t be every day the people at the camp could talk to a World Series champion, so it was great to have Jack share his knowledge. Overall, Jack was a great man, very humble, and I always appreciated our time together.”

Lamabe passed away at his home in Baton Rouge, La. in December 2007. But because of the impact he had on individuals like Bertman and Behrend, his memory lives on.

“As good as he was as a pitcher and coach, Jack was even a better person,” described Behrend. “He truly is one of the great Springfield College success stories.”