News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Baseball historian recounts tragic event

Author and baseball historian Eric Vickrey will present "Season of Shattered Dreams: Postwar Baseball, the Spokane Indians, and a Tragic Bus Crash That Changed Everything," on Thursday, May 30, at 6:30 p.m. at Paulina Springs Books. This is the first-ever book on the deadliest accident in American professional sports history.

Vic Picetti, Bob Paterson, and Bob Kinnaman are names that may be known to baseball historians, but they could have been as recognizable as Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays, and Mickey Mantle. They were just three of the promising athletes who died in a tragic bus crash on a treacherous stretch of road in Washington State's Cascade Mountains on June 24, 1946. They played for the Spokane Indians and were among the nine who lost their lives when the bus skidded off the road and into a ravine. To this day it remains the deadliest accident in the history of American professional sports.

"Season of Shattered Dreams" brings to life a bygone baseball era. With many athletes serving in World War II, baseball in the 1940s limped along with players that were too old, too young, or unfit for the military. The end of the war revived the sport. Like many teams, the minor-league Spokane Indians saw an influx of talented players who, finally home, were eager to be back on the field.

Vickrey gives us an intimate portrayal of the lives of the athletes who were on the bus on that tragic day, including Jack Lohrke, Ben Geraghty, and Vic Picetti. Lohrke, known as "Lucky Lohrke," survived the Battle of the Bulge, the bus accident, and also narrowly missed being on a plane that crashed and killed everyone onboard. He went on to play for the New York Giants and Philadelphia Phillies. Geraghty survived the bus crash but was haunted by it for life. Called "the ultimate baseball man," he had a celebrated career as a manager, but was plagued by alcoholism and fears of travel. Dedicated to making the sport more equitable for players of color, Geraghty was hailed as the "finest human being I have ever known," by Hank Aaron. Picetti was the son of Italian immigrants, fiercely talented, and destined for the big leagues. He was killed in the accident days after writing his mother one of his tender letters.

Author Eric Vickrey is an Illinois native with a lifelong love of baseball. He has written dozens of articles as a member of the Society for American Baseball Research and is the author of two books.

Paulina Springs Books is located at 252 W. Hood Ave.

 

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