Jump to content


Photo

Bobby Ball


  • Please log in to reply
9 replies to this topic

#1 Philsy

Philsy
  • Member

  • 40 posts
  • Joined: August 06

Posted 20 August 2006 - 09:09

No, not the second-rate English comedian, but an American driver who raced at Indy 500 in 1951 and 1952.

Can anyone supply some information on him, please? I know he died after being in a coma for a long while after a crash, but can find no information on his life prior to that.

Thanks!

Phil

Advertisement

#2 Herbert

Herbert
  • Member

  • 340 posts
  • Joined: March 03

Posted 20 August 2006 - 10:46

Ball was Arizona Midget champion in 1949 and 1950. In 1951 and 1952 he raced in the AAA National Midget Championship. He won one race in each eason.

He suffered injuries on 1/4/1953 and died from these on 2/27/1954.

#3 E.B.

E.B.
  • Member

  • 1,693 posts
  • Joined: March 05

Posted 20 August 2006 - 14:34

He was quite a tall guy, but looked nothing like your archetypal race car driver. With his reddish hair and glasses, he look more like a studious college bookworm. He liked to wear cowboy gear though, and was known as a very quiet but nice person.

His fatal injury was probably caused by part of his helmet being forced into the back of his skull, resulting in a 14 month coma from which he never recovered :(

One minor correction: Bobby Ball, the English comedian, is third-rate at best.

#4 Philsy

Philsy
  • Member

  • 40 posts
  • Joined: August 06

Posted 20 August 2006 - 17:48

Thank you both, that's very useful. And apologies for my mistake regarding the English Bobby Ball ;)

Phil

#5 ensign14

ensign14
  • Member

  • 37,035 posts
  • Joined: December 01

Posted 20 August 2006 - 20:07

Ball was a schoolfriend of fellow Phoenician Jimmy Bryan. ISTR seeing something in a Hungness yearbook that Bryan stayed as a guest at the same house in Indy during the months of May that Ball had stayed in in the early 50s (in those days when drivers did not have 7 star hotels provided for by teams and relied on local families).

#6 Jim Thurman

Jim Thurman
  • Member

  • 4,146 posts
  • Joined: February 01

Posted 27 August 2006 - 18:25

Originally posted by Philsy
No, not the second-rate English comedian, but an American driver who raced at Indy 500 in 1951 and 1952.

Can anyone supply some information on him, please? I know he died after being in a coma for a long while after a crash, but can find no information on his life prior to that.


As others have mentioned, Bobby Ball was from Arizona and very untypical looking for an American race driver of the time. One of the few bespectacled drivers of his time, he began his racing career like so many other young men from the Western U.S. in the post-WWII era by racing Track Roadsters. He then moved on to Midgets and Champ Cars.

His Champ Car win came October 2, 1952 at San Jose, California on the 1 mile dirt oval at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. The race also saw an accident which ultimately proved fatal to Joe James.

The accident that left him in a coma was a Midget race at Carrell Speedway, Gardena, California.

I recall a great photo of Ball, unbuckling his chinstrap, his glasses and bucket style helmet splattered with dirt/mud.

#7 Jim Thurman

Jim Thurman
  • Member

  • 4,146 posts
  • Joined: February 01

Posted 02 April 2009 - 17:57

Based on the confusion and downright erroneous misinformation, I recently did some research and checked the Los Angeles Times of January 5, 1953 for an account of Bobby Ball's accident.

The article in the Times, written by Jack Curnow, was remarkably detailed.

It did happen at Carrell Speedway (I thought as much, and there are reliable sources giving that as the location, but I wanted confirmation). Carrell was dirt at the time, again as I expected, but with it's surface going from dirt to pavement and then back again - it was worth confirming.

The race was for AAA Midgets and promoted by J.C. Agajanian. While only a 14 car field, it truly was a "Who's Who".

The accident happened on the first lap when a car spun or did a half spin and stacked up the rest of the field, leading to a six car mishap. Five of the six drivers involved were Allen Heath, Andy Linden, Johnny Tolan, Jimmy Bryan and Ball. Linden's car flipped end over end to the crashwall and Ball's car vaulted Jimmy Bryan's and Johnny Tolan's. A wheel of Ball's car struck Bryan in the chest as it flew over his cockpit. Tolan, Linden and Bryan were all treated for injuries. Ball suffered a basal skull fracture and a "head injury specialist" was flown in at the request of an AAA official.

So, there it is. Grim, unpleasant, but it clears up a lot of errors, rumors and speculation.

Apologies for a few gaps in my notes, but it was closing time and I had to rush.

Edited by Jim Thurman, 26 May 2011 - 06:12.


#8 Dennis Currington

Dennis Currington
  • Member

  • 145 posts
  • Joined: March 04

Posted 03 April 2009 - 07:32

Originally posted by ensign14
Ball was a schoolfriend of fellow Phoenician Jimmy Bryan. ISTR seeing something in a Hungness yearbook that Bryan stayed as a guest at the same house in Indy during the months of May that Ball had stayed in in the early 50s (in those days when drivers did not have 7 star hotels provided for by teams and relied on local families).


For years, Phoenix International Raceway ran the Spring CART race in honor of Jimmy Bryan and the Fall race honored Bobby Ball .

#9 fines

fines
  • Member

  • 9,647 posts
  • Joined: September 00

Posted 03 April 2009 - 11:14

It is perhaps worth mentioning that Ball and Bryan were not only pals, but also both rising stars from the same area, "the 48th state", and as such also very much rivals. In fact, Ball was always a step or two ahead of the "Cowboy", who didn't become the superstar we remember today until after Bobby's death!

A candidate for the "could've been" club if ever there was one! :(

#10 Graham Clayton

Graham Clayton
  • Member

  • 1,080 posts
  • Joined: January 01

Posted 26 May 2011 - 05:37

An interesting article from the "Vancouver Sun", dated May 30, 1953:

"Roar of Race May Revive Injured Driver

The roar of the Indianapolis speedway race will be used in an attempt to revive an injured driver from a five-month coma. An hour-long tape recording of the 500-mile classic will be placed beside the bedside of stricken Bobby Ball, who finished fifth in the 1951 Indianapolis race. Ball, who dropped out of the early going with car trouble last year, was injured later in a midget auto race January 4. Dr John Eisenbeiss, Ball's physician, hopes the sounds of racing cars and track noises may provide enough stimulus to bring him back to consciousness."