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BOOK EXCERPT: How Ben Hogan Survived a Head-On Collision With a Greyhound Bus

Dogfish Head

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TEA is my HERO
Apr 8, 2012
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Thankfully, perhaps miraculously, Tiger Woods survived a horrific car accident on Tuesday and has come through surgeries that saved his leg and much more. We've been told he is "in good spirits." A long recovery begins.

The last few days there has been a lot of interest in (and comparison to) Ben Hogan and his head-on collision with a bus 72 years ago. I wrote about it in my book
THE LONGEST SHOT. Here's an excerpt.


January 10, 1949​
ON FEBRUARY 2, 1949, GROUNDHOG DAY, Ben Hogan swung his Cadillac onto Highway 80 in Van Horn, Texas, en route to Fort Worth 500 miles to the east. He and wife Valerie were anxious to return home after the season-opening tour events, two of which Hogan won, the Bing Crosby Pro-Am and the Long Beach Open.

Encountering patches of dense fog and a surface thinly coated with ice, Hogan switched on his headlights and crept along the two-lane highway. At their snail-like pace, it would take hours longer to cover the hundreds of miles to Fort Worth. In minutes, the comforts of home would become even more distant for the Hogans.

Alvin Logan wanted to stay on schedule. The 27-year-old Greyhound bus driver and 34 passengers were traveling westbound, the opposite direction from the Hogans, when Logan decided to pass a six-wheel freight hauler lumbering along the fog-shrouded road. Seeing no vehicles ahead, Logan swung the 10-ton coach into the passing lane and accelerated to 50 miles per hour up a slight incline.

Seconds later, at 8:30 a.m., the bus and Cadillac collided on a small bridge that crossed a culvert. Hogan saw the oncoming headlights in his lane but was trapped on the bridge with no escape route. He let go of the steering wheel and threw himself across the passenger seat to shield his wife from the head-on crash. It saved his life.

The impact drove the steering column into the sedan, catching Hogan's left shoulder and fracturing his collarbone. The Cadillac's 500-pound V-8 engine also slammed into the car's interior. Hogan's face struck the dashboard, and his left leg was crushed. In addition to the fractured collarbone, he sustained a double fracture to his pelvis, a broken left ankle and a cracked rib. Valerie's injuries were minor.

In the confusion that followed, none of the 38 people left the scene to find a phone and report the accident. A Texas state trooper arrived and radioed for help. Ninety minutes elapsed before the battered golfer received medical attention and was loaded into an ambulance.

Hogan was in a state of delirium, fading in and out of consciousness. At one point during the long ambulance ride to El Paso, he gripped an imaginary golf club in his hands and waved back a gallery to the left of a dreamy fairway.

* * *​

While eating breakfast that morning in El Paso, a young golf pro overheard a waitress say there was a terrible accident east of Van Horn. A short while later, with lights flashing and sirens screaming, two police motorcycles and an ambulance sped by as the golf pro headed in the opposite direction to San Antonio for the Texas Open.

The next morning Jack Fleck read in the newspaper that Ben Hogan was near death in an El Paso hospital.
* * *​
Embed from Getty Images
Arriving at El Paso's Hotel Dieu Hospital in critical condition, Hogan rallied over the next few days, and his condition progressed from fair to good. Cards, letters and flowers poured into Hogan's hospital room as news of the accident was splashed across the front pages of the nation's newspapers. A story line emerged that would change how the public regarded the aloof golf champion: Ben Hogan sacrificed himself to save his wife. Hogan was a hero.

Publicly, hospital personnel expressed satisfaction with the patient's progress. Privately, Hogan's doctors doubted whether the golf great would walk again without assistance and all but ruled out tournament golf.

Then things took a sudden downturn. A blood clot traveled from Hogan's left leg to his right lung, causing a sharp pain in his chest. More large clots broke freee, each on a certain death sentence if it blocked a main artery. There were few medical options in 1949 and no effective blood-thinning drugs. They decided to operate. Newspapers prepared obituarties.

Dr. Alton S. Ochsner, the country's top vascular surgeon and a Tulane University professor, flew to El Paso to perform the high-risk surgery. It was a complex, highly invasive two-hour procedure to enter Hogan's abdomen and tie off the inferior vena cava, the blood's primary pathway from the lower body to the heart and lungs. Valerie prayed in the chapel.

On April 1, Ben Hogan, weighing 120 pounds, left the hospital on a gurney and boarded a train for Fort Worth, completing the journey he and his wife had begun two months earlier.
Embed from Getty Images


Source: BOOK EXCERPT: How Ben Hogan Survived a Head-On Collision With a Greyhound Bus
 

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