Fifty years ago today, at or about 1 p.m., a major Toronto sports figure lost his life in a plane crash and, hard as it is to believe now, the story was front-page headline news in all the Toronto papers a day later.
Edward Albert (Ted) Hogan, a 5-foot-4 service station owner and operator whose mere presence in a stock car could fill the 20,000-seat CNE Grandstand or the 7,000-seat Pincecrest Speedway, was killed when his two-passenger, single-engine Aerocoupe plane lost power and crashed into Lake Ontario just off Port Union Rd. in Scarborough.
Also killed was his buddy, and fellow CNE racing nut, Bruce Tanner.
Known by a variety of nicknames — Terrible Ted and Mighty Mite, among them — Hogan was a star racing driver whose exploits were covered by beat reporters for the Telegram, the Star and the Globe and Mail. With only the Maple Leafs and Argonauts as competition, the car racers were household names in Toronto.
Hogan, Jimmy Howard and Norm Macareth were mentioned in conversation around the dinner table or in the beverage rooms about as often as Harry Lumley, Todd Sloan, Dick Shatto or Danny Nykoluk.
From 1949, when he started racing at Speedway Park up on Highway 7 west of Jane St., until his death in 1960, Hogan was a terror on the track. His Irish heritage combined with his short stature meant he didn’t take any crap from anybody and he was a fierce competitor, particularly when up against his chief rival, Hamilton’s Howard.
I recall one Friday night at the Ex when, during warmups, Hogan was being held up exiting Turns 2 and 4 by either a rookie or a veteran intent on giving him a hard time. Whichever, Hogan eventually got rid of his nemesis by — first — running into the back of him two or three times (as in, “outta-the-way, junior”) and — finally — just running him off the track.
Racing historian Dave Boon tells the story of one night in June, 1959, when Hogan and Howard got into a little on-track argument that held up the racing for 20 minutes. Citing as his source a story in the Globe and Mail, Boon reports:
“Hogan was leading and Howard was attempting to pass. Eventually, Howard — in a fit of frustration — bumped Hogan into the infield on Lap 30. Hogan managed to get his car back on the asphalt a lap later, blocking the track. Howard then seemingly deliberately drove his car into Hogan’s, which then totally blocked the track and at which point starter Ross Kennedy stopped the race.
“The two drivers then engaged in ‘some choice verbiage’ and Hogan drove his car into the pits. Cooler heads then took over, Hogan and Howard eventually shook hands, and the race was restarted with Hogan in front, which he held to the end of the 60 laps.”
Historian Glen Tustin reports that Hogan was the father of six and served in World War II as a mechanic. In his 11-year racing career, and with the help of the late master mechanic and car designer Doug Duncan, he won two track championships at the CNE and countless races at tracks throughout southern Ontario and the northern United States.
Despite the popularity of the sport, the Argos wanted the CNE Stadium (as the Grandstand came to be called) to themselves and in the early 1960s, the stock cars were being asked to vacate the premises by the end of June. It was the beginning of the end.
Then, because of the international success of runners Bruce Kidd and Bill Crothers, CNE managers tore up the asphalt track surrounding the football field and, in 1967, put down a cinder track for what they expected would an explosion of interest in track-and-field — something that never happened.
Although racing was gone from downtown Toronto, it continued in the Toronto area at Pinecrest Speedway until 1976, when that track also closed.