Virgil "Fire" Trucks
March 30, 2013
by William Szczepanek
Virgil Oliver "Fire Trucks was a pitcher in the Major Leagues for 17 years with two years off for military service in 1944 and 1945. He began his career in 1941 with Detroit and finished in 1958 with the New York Yankees at the age of 41. He also had stints with the St Louis Browns, Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Athletics.
In his first minor league season for Andulusia Bulldogs of the Class D Alabama Florida League, Trucks set a minor league record with 418 strikeouts while compiling a 25 wins and 6 losses record with a 1.25 ERA. trucks was a fireballing righthander whose fastball was recorded on radar at 105 mph.
Virgil passed on March 23, 2013 at the age of 95. He was one of the oldest living Major Leaguers. My memories of Virgil are primarily this 1956 baseball card of him. He was a very successful pitcher in the twilight of his career when I became interested in baseball. I don't ever remember seeing him pitch, but was a bit jolted in hearing about his death, since I remember his baseball card so well. It's strange that a baseball card can have that effect.
He had 177 wins and 135 losses with a career ERA of 3.39. He pitched 2 no-hit games in one season, one against the Washington Senators and the other against the Yankees in 1952. Each game was a 1-0 victory. He is only one of five pitchers to accomplish this feat.
He was discharged from the Navy in 1945. He pitched one game at the end of the season on September 30th and gave up 1 run on 3 hits in 5 1/3 innings with no decision. Hal Newhouser got the victory for the Tigers, winning 6-3. The next week on October 4th Trucks started the second game of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs and pitched the Tigers to a 4-1 victory.
In 1949 Trucks led the AL with 6 shutouts and 153 strikeouts with 19 wins and 11 losses. In 1952, the year of his 2 no-hitters, he had a respectable ERA of 3.97, but only managed 5 wins and 19 losses for the lowly Tigers who gave him little run support. In 1953 he bounced back going 20 and 10 for two teams, the Browns and the White Sox. He finished the season going 15 and 6 with the Sox. In 1954 he would go 19 and 12 and again lead the league with 5 shutouts.
Like many of his time he had no problem throwing 200 pitches per game. The most difficult batter he faced, like many others, was Ted Williams. Virgil Trucks was a familiar name to me, even though I never saw him pitch, but I have never forgotten what his baseball card looked like.
You can check out Trucks' stats at Baseball-Reference.com.