Sunday, August 23, 2015

Wehrle luck

There's a standing joke between several of my sports writing colleagues and myself that whenever I appear somewhere to cover a game, it's time for them to run for their lives.

They don't want anything to do with Wehrle luck.

Wha...? What's that?

It's when I'm at a game, and for no reason at all, it goes into overtime. Or extra innings. Or it goes into extra innings, and then it rains. Or it's raining and lightning before the game even begins, causing a two-hour delay before the game is finally postponed.

It's the kind of luck that extends your time in the stadium or arena longer than it normally should. For people working on a deadline, it's very frustrating.

You get the idea. Wehrle luck. It feels like it's happened more often than the odds might suggest — especially the games that go into overtime — that "Wehrle luck" is now a proper (or maybe an improper) noun among my colleagues.

Every now and then I wonder why this dark cloud should follow me around.

Then I got an email from my brother, Scott, who is kind of the family genealogist. Scott has done a wonderful job tracing our Civil War ancestors, pointing out to me there were more connective bloodlines in that conflict than I ever imagined.

Then he sent this email a few days ago after he investigated a few leads in (Huh? I worked 30 years at a newspaper. How come I never heard of before?). Scott started off relating the familiar tale of our great grandfather, William, who was electrocuted and died while working for Pennsylvania Power and Light. That's family lore. Also, logically, maybe that's where Wehrle (bad) luck began.

But nooooo.

William's father, Francis (or Franz) died at the age of 53 when, according to Scott's email, he fell from a trolley pole in 1893. This is precisely why I don't mess with anything that requires the use of electricity.

On top of that, Franz' brother, Frank was hit by a train somewhere in Clinton County, PA. Hit by a train? Yikes. That's some pretty bad Wehrle luck right there. Kind of makes me wonder what happened. Was he trying to race his buckboard over the railroad crossing — and just mistimed it? I have no clue.

But it goes on.

Franz was rather prolific before his death, spawning sons Francis Joseph (who was a justice of the peace and a choirmaster), William (who was electrocuted), John, Edward, Frank (named for his train-racing uncle, I guess), Charles and Emil.

Scott points out that Emil and Francis Joseph both died in their 40s because of tuberculosis.

Emil was already a marked man. When he was a teenager, he lost his right leg when he jumped off a trolley to avoid paying the fare — and was run over by another oncoming trolley.

If this wasn't so sad, it would be funny. A Max Sennett comedy, maybe. I'm still trying to figure out why these boys keep getting run over by trains and trolleys. Maybe the smart gene hadn't found its way into the lineage just yet. Maybe we're still waiting.

Anyway, John, Edward and Charles, it turns out, lived long lives, although Charles was a "troublemaker" and worked at a bar in the hotel his mother owned.

I guess I shouldn't feel too bad about my own brand of Wehrle luck, given some of the things my forebears have gone through. What's a few extra innings anyway compared to jumping in front of a trolley?

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