Price: 70th anniversary: Spokane Indians, Duluth Dukes suffered similar fates in fiery bus wrecks

From SABR member Jim Price at the Spokane Spokesman-Review on June 18, 2016:

By the summer of 1948, the St. Louis Cardinals were headed for their 10th consecutive winning season. And although they hadn’t finished worse than second in the National League standings for seven years, their baseball dynasty stood on a shaky foundation. They badly needed a new catcher.

Bernie Gerl, a young Army veteran from Joliet, Illinois, playing for the Duluth Dukes – a Cardinals farm team – thought he might be the man. By season’s end, Del Rice, the St. Louis regular, would own a meager .197 batting average. Backup Del Wilber, who managed years later in Spokane, hit .190. Joe Garagiola batted a puny .107.

Gerl was behind the plate in Grand Forks, North Dakota, when a hand-picked group of rival players beat the league-leading home team, 4-3, in the Northern League all-star game. Future big leaguer Don Larsen was the winning pitcher.

Thirty-six hours later, Gerl was a central figure in one of the game’s most traumatic moments.

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Originally published: July 11, 2016. Last Updated: July 11, 2016.