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What's in a nickname? Just ask Jack "Lucky" Lohkre

mchenrycards

Featured Contributor, Vintage Corner, Senior Membe
Jack "Lucky" Lohrke certainly earned his nickname during his life here on earth. Lohrke was a fledgling infielder in the New York Giants (Yes..New York) system who seemed to have cheated death six times before his professional baseball career would even get of the ground.

Having grown up in the Los Angeles area, he was plucked from the sandlots by the Giants' scouts and sent the low minors in Spokane, Washington for part of the 1946 season. Having performed well in Spokane the Giants decided to move him up to the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League where he would spend the rest of the season, earning a roster spot with the big club the next year. With most players this would be the end of their minor league story but not with Lucky. In the years after the war, communication with players was achieved via telegraph and in Lucky's case, the move to San Diego was presented to him in the form of a Telegram that would reach him in Ellensburg, Washington, courtesy of the Washington State Patrol. It seems that the Indians business office needed to reach Lucky and since he was on the team bus with no means of communication, the team enlisted the help of the State Patrol to deliver the Telegram. With the team sitting at a restaurant enjoying an bite to eat, the State Patrol found Lucky rather easily and watched as he gathered his bags off of the bus and started his hitchhike back to Spokane. He had planned to board a bus from Spokane and travel down the Pacific Coast highway to his new home in San Diego. Later that night, on a rain covered road the Spokane team bus that Lucky had just left would be sideswiped by an out of control car, causing it to careen out of control and plunge 500 feet down a ravine, killing nine members of the Spokane Indians. Two of the players killed were Lohrke's best friends and undoubtedly would have been one of the casualties of this tragic incident as he surely would have been seated next to them.

While only 22 years of age at the time of this bus accident, Lucky was not unaccustomed to snatching life from the jaws of certain death. Lohrke had fought in World War two as an infantryman and had participated in the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge and four times saw his fellow soldiers on either side of him killed while he walked away unscathed. He would survive a troop train crash that killed three soldiers while injuring many more and saw many other soldiers fall at the hands of the enemy while he survived. Lohrke continued to earn his nickname at the end of the war when he was bumped from his ride home aboard a transport plane for "some big shot" only to see that plane crash 45 minutes after take off.

Lohrke would go on to play 354 games in his six year major league career with the Giants and Phillies before retiring to work for Lockheed in the security field based in his native California. One of the highlights of his career was that he had a front row seat for the infamous 1951 Bobby Thompson shot heard round the world that would help propel the Giants into the World Series. When asked later in life about his good fortune with cheating death he would downplay it by saying "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." Lucky would go on to live to a very ripe old age of 85 all the while knowing his life should have been cut short so many times before.

In 1949 Bowman produced a card set that featured Jack Lohrke on card number 59 in a set that many feel is really not very attractive. While considered to be the beginning of the modern color sports cards, this set features 25 Hall of Famers and was the very first set to feature African American baseball players on cardboard with Jackie Robinson, Satchell Paige and Roy Campenella leading the way. While this set saw innovations that are still being used today, it was also one of the first sets that gave an in depth background or interesting story of the player depicted on the front of the card. All one needs to do is look at the back of Lucky Lohrke's 1949 Bowman offering to know that this card may contain the most tragic back story of any card ever made.
Rest in peace Lucky.....you certainly deserve it!

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