Virgil O Trucks was born on
April 26, 1917 in
Birmingham, Alabama. He signed with the Detroit Tigers’
organization in 1938 and played with Andalusia of the
Alabama-Florida League his rookie
year, posting a 25-6 won-loss record and outstanding 1.25 ERA.
He played with
of the Evangeline League and Beaumont
of the Texas League in 1939, joining
full-time in 1940. Then, in 1941, the right-hander was with
of the International League, where he was 12-12 with a 3.22 ERA and
earned a September call-up to
Detroit. Trucks made his major league debut
on September 27, pitching two innings in relief against the Chicago
Trucks stayed with the
Tigers in 1942, making 28 appearances on the mound for a 14-8 record
and 2.74 ERA. In 1943, the 26-year-old was even better with a 16-10
record and his 118 strikeouts was fifth best in the American League.
On February 15, 1944, his
career was put on hold when he entered military service with the
Navy. Serving at Great Lakes in 1944, Trucks went to the Pacific at
the end of the year and played in the Army-Navy Service World Series
He was the winning pitcher in Game 1 and Game 4 of the series.
"The Army out in Hawaii,” he commented some years later, “had
DiMaggio and all those ballplayers and the Navy didn't have as much.
The Navy was looked down on and Admiral [Chester]
Nimitz didn't go for that. He brought out all those major league
ballplayers who were in the Navy back in the States and challenged
the Army to that World Series."
Trucks later played for the
Fifth Fleet team on the Navy’s Western Pacific tour and was then
stationed on Guam where he found a novel way to keep occupied. "We took
rides,” he says. “We took one in a B-29 and some in B-24s. We didn't
go along on any bombing runs, we'd just fly around the islands with
the pilots and come back in and land. But we signed some baseballs
they would take out and drop on their bombing missions. We had some
on a B-29 that went to Japan. The balls
were completely filled with autographs."
Trucks injured his knee
while on Guam and was flown back to the
and stationed at Norman Naval Air Station in Oklahoma. He had been set for his Navy
discharge as early as July 1945, but his papers languished on an
officer’s desk in Oklahoma until
the end of September as the pitcher helplessly watched his team
fight down the stretch with Washington. Meanwhile,
Trucks found a catcher able enough to handle his fastball, and began
throwing and running on the base field in his dungarees and spikes.
When his papers were finally processed Trucks was in fairly good
shape, though not in the prime condition he would have been leaving
He made one appearance for
the Tigers before the regular season ended and made two starts in
the World Series against the Cubs. Trucks remained with the Tigers
through 1952. He won 19 games in 1949, leading the league in
strikeouts and shutouts. The two-time all-star later played for the
Browns, White Sox, Athletics and Yankees before ending his career in
Trucks later became director
of a youth center in Leeds, Alabama. He is an inductee in the Alabama
Sports Hall of Fame.