Last survivor of ’46 Indians dead at 85
Former Spokane Indians infielder Jack Lohrke, perhaps best known for his early brushes with death, died on Wednesday in a San Jose, Calif., hospital at the age of 85.
Lohrke, a major league infielder in the 1940s and 1950s, was playing for the Indians in 1946 when he and his minor league teammates boarded a bus for a ride across the state of Washington. During a lunch stop, Lohrke got word that he’d been promoted to Triple-A San Diego, took his gear and hitchhiked home.
That night, the bus careened off a rain-slicked pass through the Cascades and plummeted into a valley, killing nine players. It remains the most deadly crash involving an American pro sports team. He is the last known survivor among uniformed personnel on that team.
Lohrke served in the Army during World War II and recounted how four soldiers – two on each side of him – were killed in combat.
In 1945, Lohrke was leaving the service when he prepared to board a military transport for the trip home to California. Shortly before takeoff, he was bumped from the flight by a higher-ranking officer. The plane crashed and all passengers were killed.
In a Nov. 14, 1994, article in Sports Illustrated, Ron Fimrite wrote:
From the time he joined the Padres after the accident, Lohrke was called, for obvious reasons, “Lucky” – Lucky Lohrke, the ballplayer who got off the bus in the nick of time, the soldier bumped from the plane that crashed. The name stuck. Who else, after all, had more right to be called Lucky? He’s in the Baseball Encyclopedia that way: Lucky Lohrke. An amiable man, he lived with the nickname, but he never liked it, never wanted to be reminded of how close he had come to riding that bus into oblivion. But what could he do about it?
But the memory pains him. “When you’re the age I was back then,” he said, “you haven’t got a worry in the world. You’re playing ball because you want to play – and they’re giving you money to do it. And then …well, sometimes those names spring back at me.”
He clears his throat. “I’ll tell you this: Nobody outside of baseball calls me Lucky Lohrke these days. I may have been lucky, but the name is Jack. Jack Lohrke.”
He finished his career with two years at Hollywood (1953-54), two at Seattle (1955-56), one at Portland and half a season at Tri-City.
Spiders open home season
The Spokane Spiders open their regular season today and Saturday against the Victoria Highlanders and the Kitsap Pumas at the Greyhound Park in Post Falls. Both games start at 7 p.m.
The Spiders are 3-0 in the preseason, beating Flathead, Yakima and North Idaho College.
Tickets are available at the gates of Greyhound Park in Post Falls. For more information log on to spokanespiders.com.
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