Escaping Death: The Story Of Jack "Lucky" Lohrke

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Escaping Death: The Story Of Jack

There have been many amazing stories in baseball.

There have also been many weird stories in baseball.

This one falls under both.

Jack Lohrke was born in 1924. He began to play minor league baseball in 1942 when he was 18. Then, he was drafted into the army to fight in World War II.

This is how his story begins:

In 1942, while riding on a train through California to ship off to war, the train Lohrke was on went off the tracks. Three people were killed and many more were severely burned by steaming water that rushed through the train car.

Lohrke walked away uninjured.

In 1943, Lohrke fought in the Battle of Normandy. He survived and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the deadliest battle fought by American troops in the European Theater.

On four separate occasions, the soldiers on either side of Lohrke were killed.

Each time Lohrke walked away uninjured.

In 1945, Lohrke was sent home from war. He arrived in New Jersey and boarded a plane for his flight back to California. Just as the plane was about to take off, a colonel marched onto the plane and took his seat. Lohrke had to wait for the next plane.

Less than an hour later, the plane crashed in Ohio. There were no survivors.

In 1946, Lohrke was playing Double-A ball with the Spokane Indians in the Western International League. The team was driving up to play a series in Seattle when they stopped at a diner for lunch.

As they were getting on the bus, Lohrke was told he had a phone call. He thought it was odd, considering he was in the middle of the Cascade Mountains. 

It turned out to be the team's owner, who called to tell Lohrke he has been promoted to Triple-A San Diego Padres (then in the Pacific Coast League).

Lohrke was obviously excited. But he had to make a choice:

Continue with the team to Seattle and take a train back to Spokane from there?

OR

Make it back home on his own?

He chose to hitchhike back to Spokane. He said goodbye to his teammates and watched them board the bus.

About 30 minutes later, the bus skidded on the wet highway and crashed through a guardrail before tumbling 350 feet into a ravine. Then, the gas tank exploded.

Nine of the 15 players on board were killed. This tragedy remains one of the worst disasters in the history of American sports.


The Aftermath

After Lohrke's many escapes from death, he continued with his baseball career. He played well enough with San Diego to make it to the majors. 

He played for the New York Giants (1947-1951) and the Philadelphia Phillies (1952-1953). 

Lohrke died on April 29, 2009.   

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