John ‘Scrap Iron’ Lehman passed away on March 12th after many years and championships in the Inland Northwest MSBL in Washington. He had recently been inducted into the inaugural class of the Inland Northwest Hall of Fame in 2020 as their very first inductee. Longtime friend and teammate Kerry Pease put together a fitting tribute to John (below).
Submitted by INMBL Battery-mate and friend Kerry Pease
Growing up in the Bay Area as an avid fan of the Athletics and Giants, you would think John Lehman had plenty of opportunity to play baseball. Although he and his dad were enthusiasts of the game (and attended a few in his childhood) his father was “Old School”… in that when it came time for extra-curricular activities after school, a job for his son always came first. Consequently, John never played an inning of High School ball, he worked to help the family.
Fast forward nearly 15 years, and a new and struggling Spokane adult baseball league becomes an answer to a prayer. John began to live his dream of playing hardball, but the dream may have been more like a nightmare the first couple of years. Admittedly, his skills were raw, as were those of his teammates. In other words, they got their butts handed to them regularly. Tenaciously he stuck with it through those lean years, and not only did his abilities begin to excel, but better players gravitated towards him. While still working and raising a family, he devoted many hours to refining the craft. Just as importantly, his positive attitude and outgoing spirit were like a magnet to players in the league.
As a catcher, John developed exceptional technique in receiving, and his mastery for calling a game are unmatched. Pitchers simply love throwing to him, because it seemed he always got the borderline strike, and was consistently thinking two pitches ahead to seal the deal. At the plate he frustrated many a defense with his contact hitter approach, and his crafty ability to lay the perfect bunt down the third base line. His lean and speedy frame often made infielders rush their throws on groundballs sending the merry-go-round in motion.
Although he spent many innings behind the dish, it never appeared to slow him down, and rarely resulted in any injury (at least not that he would ever say.) About two decades ago, after catching a double header in the heat of mid-summer, he sauntered off the field spent. John had the look similar to the character from Peanuts called Pig-Pen, sweat stained and dirt head to toe from stealing a few bases… the nickname “Scrap Iron” was dubbed, and it fit like a glove. [A much better handle than Pig-Pen.]
Over his 27-year career as a player and player/manager, John has amassed an unprecedented 21 League Titles. And for over half of those years, he has been a semi-regular to the MSBL World Series and various other tournaments throughout the country. In a recent interview about the proposition of being in the HOF, he humbly stated, “I’m not worthy, I’m not a good enough player for that.” What we in the Inland Northwest League see, is a man who epitomizes what the MSBL is all about… Making the most of second chances, being a reliable and consistent teammate, leading when others won’t pick up the reigns, and making others look good before self. We want the brotherhood of our baseball nation to know what we know. He is Hall of Fame worthy!