R.I.P. Virgil “Fire” Trucks, 1917-2013

Back in the early 1970s, WC studied antitrust law under Prof. Paul Slater. Prof. Slater had been involved in parts of the baseball antitrust litigation. Slater was also a Chicago Cubs fan, and would take some of us up to do baseball antitrust work in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. These field trips usually involved some quantities of Falstaff Beer and watching the Cubs lose. WC hasn’t had much need for antitrust law, but the field work made WC a life-long Cubs fan. 

Famously, the Cubs last appeared in a World Series in 1945. Or as the late, great Steve Goodman put it,

The last time the Cubs won the National League Pennant
Was the year we dropped the Bomb on Japan

– Steve Goodman, “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request”

Virgil Trucks, 1917-2013 - Photo by Gary Tramontian

Virgil Trucks, 1917-2013 – Photo by Gary Tramontian

The Cubs lost that World Series of course, in no small part because of the efforts of starting pitcher Virgil Trucks. Trucks missed two seasons serving in the Navy in World War II and was discharged less than two weeks before his start in the second game of the 1945 World Series. Because of the War, the Major League Baseball had waived the rule requiring players to have been on the team’s roster by September 1 to qualify for post-season play. He defeated the Cubs in that game. Think about that: the Cubs were defeated by a man who had not thrown a pitch in major league baseball for two years. He held the Cubs scoreless for four innings a few days later, in Game 6, although he didn’t have a decision in that game. At his death, Trucks was believed to be the last surviving member of either team in that World Series.

After the 1945 Series, Truck went on to have a distinguished career with the Tigers, the St. Louis Browns, and the New York Yankees. He is one of just five pitchers in Major League Baseball history to throw two no-hitters in one season. He was on the All-Star team twice, and retired as a player in 1958 with a career record of 177 wins and 135 losses. Trucks was the uncle of Butch Trucks, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, although he may not have been much of a fan of rock music.

Trucks went on to a long coaching career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Atlanta Braves and the Tigers. He was also a terrific spokesman for Major League Baseball and the Detroit Tigers, much-loved by the fans and, by all accounts, one of the nicest guys in the game. He died in Alabama after a brief illness at age 95.

R.I.P. Virgil Oswald “Fire” Trucks. One of baseball’s gentlemen.