18. August 2008 · Comments Off on eBay Watch: Doc’s not just the Nickname (1920) · Categories: Archive 2008, eBay Watch, History, Michigan Memorabilia, Ohio State

Celtics coach Doc Rivers had a great line this past season- when asked to comment on the health of one of his players he shot back, “You know Doc’s a nickname, correct?”  Laughter ensued and Boston went on to win the NBA championship.

Doc of course is a popular nickname amongst athletes for whatever reason, and just like Rivers, typically these guys don’t hold a doctorate or a professional medical license. The next installment of eBay Watch takes a look at a Michigan Man who was far from typical.

Michigan's Doc Lavan

Up for bid is a 1920ish baseball card featuring John Leonard ‘Doc’ Lavan, who attended Michigan from 1908-1911 and went on to have a nice major league career [from nationmaster.com]:

Lavan played in 1,163 major league games, of which 1,126 were at the shortstop position. In 11 seasons, Lavan had a lifetime batting average of .245 with 954 hits, 377 RBIs, 338 runs scored, and 186 extra base hits. He had his best season as a batter in 1920 when he hit .289 with 32 extra base hits and 63 RBIs.

You can see his career statistics here. Here’s the full auction, as of writing this post the card was still trying to fetch an opening bid.

As for the nickname Doc, you guessed it, Lavan was an actual doctor. His life during and after baseball is pretty remarkable:

Lavan was known as “Doc” because he was actually a medical doctor. He was a lieutenant surgeon in the U.S. Navy during World War I and also served in World War II. He retired from military service after World War II as a Commander for the Naval Reserve. Lavan was a practicing medical doctor, who also served as a city health officer in New York City, New York, St. Louis, Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri, Toledo, Ohio, Kalamazoo, Michigan and Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also served as Director of Research for the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis.

Lavan played for the great Branch Rickey at Michigan. Rickey was the man who facilitated bringing Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Michigan's Branch Rickey

Of course records are scarce on early Michigan baseball and the Wolverines were in the middle of their boycott of the conference during Rickey’s time in Ann Arbor, so they couldn’t claim a league title. Rickey was in Ann Arbor pursuing his law degree and managed the Wolverines on the side. Lavan later followed his coach to his first major league stint in St. Louis.

Due to his extensive military medical experience, upon his death in 1952 Lavan was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, one of the few major league baseball players to hold this distinction: