Schechter: Virgil Trucks, greatness interrupted

From SABR member Gabriel Schechter at The National Pastime Museum on October 16, 2015:

I defy you to find a more bizarre pitching season than Virgil Trucks had in 1952. The affable right-hander from Alabama was in his eighth full season with the Detroit Tigers, for whom he had recorded his first Major League victory a decade earlier, on his 25th birthday. A 14-game winner as a rookie, he had established himself on the Tigers’ dominant “T-N-T” starting trio of the late 1940s, along with Hal Newhouser and Dizzy Trout. His resume included only one losing season, with his best showing a 19–11 record and a 2.81 ERA in 1949, when he led the American League in strikeouts.

This flame-throwing hurler, who once fanned 420 hitters in a minor league season, achieved amazing things in 1952: He tossed a pair of no-hitters, one at Yankee Stadium; in his next start after the first one, he took a no-hitter to the seventh inning. He later allowed the leadoff hitter a slow roller good for a single, and nobody else got a hit. In those four starts, Virgil Trucks logged 34 2/3 innings and gave up three hits.

Yet 1952 was Trucks’ worst season in the Majors—by far. Apart from those four gems, he had a 1–19 record with a 4.77 ERA. Twice he took a 2–0 lead to the ninth inning and lost, and he even surrendered the winning run three times in relief. The season was a six-month nightmare punctured by four scintillating gems.

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Originally published: October 16, 2015. Last Updated: October 16, 2015.