William R. Lander played minor-league
Who: William R. Lander, 87, a North Kansas City man and World War II veteran who played minor-league baseball as a young man.
When and how he died: Aug. 15, of aspiration pneumonia, dysphasia and dementia.
Baseball talent: William Lander always had a powerful and accurate arm, even when he was just a 12-year-old boy throwing newspapers in Slater, Mo., his family said. This talent gave way to pitching a baseball, and by the time he was 15, Lander was playing against adults — and beating them.
“When he was 15 years old,” son Brian Lander said, “he was striking out 35-year-old men.” (His teammates got beer after a win, while William was given root beer.)
Scouts pursued William, and son Gary has clippings and paperwork from his dad’s early career, including a signed contract with a Cincinnati Reds-affiliated team. William Lander’s time on the field was cut short, though, when he was drafted.
During World War II, Lander served as a military policeman in England, which is how he met his first wife, Dorothy, who was British. After the war, the family settled in Missouri, as Lander moved to Kansas City for work. He took a series of jobs where he was hired as much for his pitching skills as anything, so he could play on the company ball team.
No car, no problem: He spent most of his working life with the Santa Fe Trailways, employed as a checker on the loading docks, his sons said.
He didn’t own a car until he was in his mid-30s, so his children have memories of him walking home through the West Bottoms to North Kansas City after he’d worked extra hours and missed the bus.
“As a child, I remember him walking home from the A&P as he carried several bags of groceries in his arms for almost 2 miles,” son Gary Lander wrote in his father’s eulogy.
Loves of his life: William Lander lost his wife, Dorothy, to colon cancer in 1987. Later, he married Wanda, who lived down the street. They were together for 10 years until Wanda died of breast cancer, Gary Lander said.
During each illness, William Lander rarely left his wife’s hospital room, Gary added.
William Lander enjoyed following sports, and he liked to go dancing.
“Those two spent all of their free time on the dance floor,” Gary Lander said of his parents.
One of William Lander’s proudest accomplishments was buying his own home. He was able to live independently, though that became more difficult during the past few years of his life due to arthritis in his knees and hip.
Survivors include: three sons and their spouses, two stepchildren and their spouses, 12 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and a sister.
The last word: “He was a man of character, and he was a man of his word,” Gary Lander said.