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SportsView

By WALT BORLA
Sports opinion writer

Veteran followers of major league baseball may well recall the name of Jack Lohrke, an infielder dating back to the late 40's and early 1950's. Lohrke had the knick name of "Lucky" throughout his baseball career. Why he was tagged with the name of "Lucky" is quite a story in itself.

Born in Los Angeles, Calif., Lohrke was drafted into the Army at the age of 18 during World War II. While riding a troop train through California, Lohrke's rail car came off the tracks, three soldiers were killed and many badly burned. Lohrke walked away uninjured. A year later Lohrke was involved in the invasion of Normandy and went on to fight in the Battle of the Bulge in which 19,000 U.S. servicemen were killed. On four separate occasions soldiers on either side of Lohrke were killed. Each time he walked away uninjured.

At wars end Lohrke was sent home and he boarded a plane in New Jersey for a flight back to California. Before the plane took off a colonel came on, pulled rank on Lohrke and took his seat, forcing him to wait for the next transport. Less than an hour later the colonel and all passengers perished as the plane crashed.

After his discharge from the Army Lohrke began his baseball career. A year later he was playing for the Spokane Indians in the Double -A Western International League. On a rainy June day the team was enroute to Seattle for a weekend series. The bus stopped at a diner in a mid-Wahington state city for lunch where word came that Lohrke was being promoted to the San Diego team in the Pacific Coast League. Rather than continue on to Seattle with his team, Lohrke elected to return to Spokane and catch a flight to San Diego. He bid his teammates farewell and watched them board the bus. Thirty minutes later the bus skidded on the wet highway and tumbled 350 feet into a ravine. Nine players were killed.

Lohrke lived to play in the 1951 World Series as a member of the New York Giants team that lost to the New York Yankees in the subway series of that year. He retired from baseball in 1953 and recently at 84 years of age, recalled just how "lucky " he was.

But last week the luck ran out. Wednesday, at a San Jose, Calif. hospital, two days after having a stroke at his home, the grim reaper finally caught up with him and his legacy of being able to cheat death.




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