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Jack Lohrke

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Jack Wayne Lohrke (Lucky)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Jack Lohrke was an infielder, principally a third baseman, 14 years (1942-1959); seven in the Majors (1947-1953) and nine in the minors (1942;1946;1948;1953-1957;1959); losing three years to the Military and one year to inactivity. Lohrke was born on Monday, 25 February 1924, in Los Angeles, CA.

He graduated from South Gate High School and broke into OB in 1942 at age 18 with Twin Falls in the Pioneer League. He played for Twin Falls and the San Diego Padres in 1942 and was then drafted into the U.S. Army.

He saw combat in Europe, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the worst battle in U.S. History, from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945 and survived two battle experiences in which comrades on either side of him were killed. En route from Camp Kilmer in New Jersey to California where he was to receive his discharge, he was bumped from the military transport by a colonel. The plane went down with no survivors. The plane from which Lohrke got bumped left New Jersey and landed in Kansas City, KS without incident. After refueling in Kansas City, the Los Angeles-bound plane crashed seconds after takeoff, and all 20 on board, most of them soldiers, perished (WWW).

Discharged in 1946, he returned to San Diego but was optioned to the Spokane Indians of the Western International League. He played for Spokane until 24 June 1946, when, traveling at dusk in a drizzling rain, the Spokane Team Bus driver en route from Spokane, WA to Bremerton, WA veered the bus on a narrow road in the Cascade mountains to avoid an oncoming auto and the bus broke through the cable-guard railing and caught fire as it hurtled 350 feet down the steep, rocky mountainside some 60 miles east of Seattle, WA. Eight players were instantly killed and a ninth died a few days later. Lohrke learned when the bus stopped to feed the players in Ellensburg, WA that he had just been called up to San Diego and had gotten off the bus to hitchhike back to Spokane to catch a plane to San Diego when he was notified. One survivor was Ben Geraghty. Chris Hartje was among those who were killed. The crash occurred 15 minutes after Lohrke left the team. His trip from Spokane to San Diego was complicated by the sad task of having to accompany the young widows of two of his fallen friends to their respective homes. A little shell shocked, he made it to San Diego and finished the 1946 season there.

On August 15, 1946 he was purchased by the Boston Braves from San Diego but that purchase was voided on November 1 and he was drafted by the New York Giants from San Diego in the 1946 rule V draft on November 3.

Lohrke was 23 years old when he broke into the big leagues on 18 April 1947 with the New York Giants. He married Mary Josephine Sunseri on 10 December 1948. He played for the Giants (1947-1951), farmed out to the Jersey City Giants of the International League (IL) in 1949, and was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies (1952-1953), where he played his final MLB game on 10 June 1953 at age 29.

Lohrke gained the nickname "Lucky" for reasons that should now be obvious, and went on to become the Giants regular third baseman in 1947 and a utility man thereafter. (JK)

On August 31, 1947, despite a 10–4 loss to the first-place Brooklyn Dodgers, Lohrke homers to set a season record for home runs by a club. The Giants have now hit 183 home runs, topping the 182 hit by the 1936 New York Yankees. They will end the season with 221 round trippers.

He played in the 1951 World Series for the Giants but was hitless in two appearances.

On December 13, 1951 he was traded by the Giants to the Philadelphia Phillies for minor leaguer Jake Schmitt. On June 10, 1953 he played his final MLB game on 10 June at age 29.

On January 13, 1954, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded workhorse Murry Dickson to the Phils for Andy Hansen and Lohrke. Dickson led the league in losses the previous two years and does so again in 1954.

He returned to the minors, with the 1953 Baltimore Orioles of the IL (1953); the Hollywood Stars of the PCL (1954-1955); the Seattle Rainiers of the PCL (1956-1957); and Tri-City in the Northwest League(1959); ending his baseball career at age 35.

His best year was in 1947 with the record-setting Giants when he hit 12 Doubles, four Triples and 11 Home Runs in 112 Games. Overall he had 221 Hits, 125 Runs, 38 Doubles, 9 Triples, 22 Home Runs, 96 RBI and 9 Stolen Bases in 354 Games at (.242/.375/.327).

He is now retired for good after working 20 years for Lockheed Aircraft. His son, Kurt Lohrke, played in the minors (1971-1973). He had black hair and brown eyes, his ancestry was German and his principal hobbies were hunting, fishing and golf. He celebrated his 82nd birthday in February 2006 at his current residence in San Jose, CA his wife Mary Jo.

[edit] Anecdote about Jack's frustration with people pestering him about the tragedy

SABR member Bill Hickman learned that Lohrke was still alive in San Jose, and supplied me (John Pastier) with his phone number. At Bill's suggestion I called Lohrke, and was ready with a well-filled fountain pen and fresh stack of note paper.

The phone was answered after just a couple of rings (an auspicious start). It was answered by a lady whose voice sounded age-appropriate to someone who might be Lohrke's wife or sister. I asked if Jack Lohrke was there, and she answered yes (even more auspicious).

Then Jack Lohrke picked up the phone. I confirmed that it was him, announced myself, told him I was a member of SABR, and asked if he had heard of us. Not so auspiciously, he said no (we are, after all baseball's best-kept secret), so I quickly told him what SABR was. Then I said that his name had recently come up in our discussions. I mentioned that there was some confusion in SABR about the details of an event in his life, and that I'd like to ask him about the bus crash.

What follows is a complete and unedited transcript of the interview:

JL: "I'm tired of talking about that. Thank you. Bye bye." <click>


[edit] Sources

Principal sources for Jack Lohrke include newspaper obituaries (OB), government Veteran records (VA,CM,CW), Stars & Stripes (S&S), Sporting Life (SL), The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs {{{WW}}} (WW), old Baseball Registers {{{BR}}} (BR) , old Daguerreotypes by TSN {{{DAG}}} (DAG), Stars&Stripes (S&S), The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase (PD), The Baseball Library (BL), Baseball in World War II Europe by Gary Bedingfield (GB) {{{MORE}}} and independent research by Walter Kephart (WK) and Frank Russo (FR) and others. including ancestry.com

[edit] Related Sites

For a more complete story, see Lucky Jack Lohrke

and a full Bibliography from SABR's The Baseball Index (TBI)

Jack Lohrke, 85, New York Giants Infielder

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