Carolina Bus Accident Recalls Previous Crashes

by Douglas Fox | Posted on Tuesday, May 12th, 2015
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It’s something that’s often thought about, but rarely discussed.  With over 200 teams across 15 leagues spread throughout Canada, the U.S.A. and Mexico, minor league baseball teams criss-cross the continent, and the vast majority of that travel is by bus.

Minor League baseball’s worst fear was realized early Tuesday morning, when a coach carrying the Carolina Mudcats, Atlanta’s Class A affiliate, flipped onto its side in Columbus County, NC.  33 people were on board the bus, and reports indicate that at least seven of them were taken to hospital for treatment.  None of the injuries were described as life-threatening, however, and all were expected to be released today.

There have been several fatal bus crashes throughout the history of the minors.  On July 24, 1948, a bus carrying the Northern League’s Duluth Dukes crashed head-on with a truck near Minneapolis, killing driver/Manager George Treadwell, and four of his players were killed, along with the truck driver.

The worst bus accident in minor league history occurred on June 24, 1946, when the driver of a charter carrying the Spokane Chiefs of the Western International League swerved to avoid an oncoming car on a rain-slicked, corkscrew road in the Cascade Mountains.  The bus veered off the road, and slid down an embankment, whereupon the bus burst into flames as it crashed.  Nine men died (seven of them instantly), and seven more were injured.  Despite a severe head injury, infielder Ben Geraghty was able to crawl back up the mountainside to flag down help.  Geraghty went on to manage in the minors for almost twenty years, but he carried the emotional scars of the accident until the end of his days.

Pitcher/author Pat Jordan wrote about playing for Geraghty in the Braves organization in his classic A False Spring:

“When I arrived in Bradenton in the fall of 1960, Ben Geraghty was already a legendary figure in professional baseball.  His former players spoke of him in mystical as well as mythical terms……He was a master at inducing aging veterans like Ed Charles to surpass their own self-defined limitations, while at the same time and on the same team, he coddled and prodded young prospects into fulfilling their potential.”

“He survived that accident, and eventually his wounds healed, although he never again was a healthy man.  He was easily susceptible to cuts and sprains and colds and fevers, and the slightest effort exhausted him quickly…..After the accident he tried to anticipate everything before it happened, and in doing so seemed distracted from what was happening at the moment.  The present seemed to hold little interest for him.  He’d already seen it, and it was no threat.  Only the future was a threat, and so, even as he spoke to you, he was looking through and beyond you and into the future.”

Geraghty’s ability to get the most out of his players became, ironically,  his ticket to a lifetime in the minors.  He developed youngsters like Hank Aaron and Joe Torre into stars, and for that the Braves thanked him by continually passing over him when the major league club’s manager chair was vacant.  Geraghty died of a heart attack while managing AAA Jacksonville in the middle of the 1963 season.

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Douglas Fox
About the Author

Doug Fox has played, watched, studied, and generally obsessed about baseball for decades, and once played in the Toronto Star Pee-Wee Baseball tournament. He writes about Blue Jays prospects and minor league baseball at Follow him on Twitter @Clutchlings77.

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