Another link to the old Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League is gone. Jack Lohrke, who came by his nickname “Lucky” honestly, died Wednesday at age 85, two days after suffering a stroke.
As I do whenever I need information on old Seattle ballplayers, I called local baseball historian — and local treasure — Dave Eskenazi (who will be throwing out the first pitch at Saturday’s Mariners’ game, by the way, as the Mariners turn back the clock to 1939 to honor the Rainiers.)
Without looking it up, Eskenazi knew that Lohrke played for the 1956 and ’57 Rainiers — the latter managed by former major league star Lefty O’Doul. He was at the tail end of his career and played in just 49 and 47 games, hitting .272 and .143 (numbers I found on the great minor league website put together by SABR — the Society for American Baseball Research — and operated through Baseball Reference.
Lohrke, an infielder with the New York Giants and Philadelphia Phillies from 1946-53, is best known for his narrow escape from the terrible Snoqualmie Pass bus crash in 1946 that killed nine of the 15 member of the Spokane Indians that were on board. Lohrke was on the bus, which was en route to Bremerton, until the players stopped for lunch in Ellensburg. Lohrke got word from members of the Washington State patrol that he had been called up by the San Diego Padres of the PCL. Indians’ management had asked the patrol to track down the bus to deliver the news. Lohrke decided to hitch a ride back to Spokane, and thus wasn’t on it when it careened off the mountain pass after the driver swerved to avoid an oncoming car. The bus plunged over the enbankment and down 500 feet. Remarkably, six players surivived, as did the bus driver.
As a 1990 story in the Los Angeles Times pointed out, surviving that incident wasn’t the only reason that Lohrke was called “Lucky.” From Bob Wolf’s article:
Lohrke told the Times his war experirences conditioned him to the Spokane disaster.
“At that age, having been in combat, what’s going to shock you? I’m a fatalist. I believe the old song, that whatever will be will be.”
He went on to play through the 1959 season, when he was with Tri-Cities of the Northwest League. After his baseball career, he worked in security for Lockheed Missile and Space Co., in Sunnyvale, Calif.
A couple of other links:
Beyond Strasburg, I’d have to think CF/1B Dustin Ackley (UNC) and SS Grant Green (USC) would certainly be among those, along with UNC pitcher Alex White, and Missouri pitcher Kyle Gibson. But no inside info there at the moment. An interesting wild card is Aaron Crow, who was picked by Washington last year but didn’t sign, and is now with the independent Fort Worth Stars.