Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Spokane Bus Tragedy

A former minor leaguer named Gus Hallbourg died yesterday at the age of 87. Not remarkable in and of itself. Former minor leaguers probably die every other day. What is notable is that he was a member of the 1946 Spokane Indians and survived what still stands as the worst transit accident in the history of professional baseball.

It happened on June 24th, when the Indians' bus was on its way to a road series in Bremerton. The road was wet, an oncoming car crossed the line, the driver swerved, and the bus ran off the road and down an embankment where it crashed and burned. Eight men died instantly. Another would die later. Six others, including Hallbourg, were injured. The Indians, relying on players loaned from other teams, managed to finish the season and placed seventh in the league.

I'd never heard a thing about the 1946 Spokane Indians before reading Hallbourg's obit on the wire last night. A lawyer-turned-writer (aren't they the worst?) named Beth Bollinger has written a novel about it.

Bollinger apparently signed books at the SABR convention in St. Louis over the summer. Anyone talk to her? Anyone read the book? Worth my time?

1 comment: said...

Of course the book is worth your time! Though as the author herself, I may be a bit biased.

Seriously, I'm glad to see you speak of Gus Hallbourg. He was a great ball player, and a great human being. I was so sad to hear of his passing. He and his wife were newlyweds that year in 1946. In 2005, they graciously invited me into their home and gave me comments on the manuscript of the novel. They also told me stories from that year that I was able to integrate into the final version. So though we have lost Gus, some of his stories live on, not just through my novel but through the articles that people have written in the past. Let me know if you get a chance to read the book! Beth Bollinger