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Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Virgil Trucks Interview

As I told you all here, I was afforded the once in a lifetime opportunity of being able to interview Virgil Trucks over the phone today. It all started when I sent him a Christmas card thanking him for the amazing returns when I sent him a baseball to sign. I told him about the blog and that I would love the opportunity to possibly interview him it he found the time. I got a post card from him on Monday saying that he'd love to do an interview. I called him that night and set the interview up for today. I got some good questions from readers and some of my friends. I was really nervous, only because I hate talking on the phone, plus I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get the interview to record right. In the end, Mr. Trucks was very generous with his time and very forthcoming in his answers. Here we go:
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It was amazing when I read your book to find that you played on the Browns in 1953 with Satchel Paige. Can you tell me a little bit about him?
He and I became really close friends when I was playing over there. He was one great guy. He had some funny stories, I probably don't remember them all, but he was always telling me something. His most famous quote was "Don't look back, it may be gaining on you."
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Did you ever collect your own baseball cards? (Question from Drew)
Oh, I had a few, but I never collected them, no. When I got some, I usually gave them to some kids, or my kids, or some kids in the neighborhood or something. I never kept too many of them.
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Did you have a favorite baseball card? (Question from Drew)
Well, I would say the favorite one of what I had was Ted Williams. He and I became great friends after he was through playing. He settled down in Florida I was there in Florida for about 10 years and I lived pretty close to him...maybe 150 miles apart. I was at his place maybe once a month, visiting with him, talking to him and b.s.ing with him.
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You're really generous when fans request your autograph. Especially nowadays, how does it make you feel that even though you haven't played in a long time, people still remember what you've done?
Most of it comes from young kids anyway, Between 12 and 14 years of age. They realize they have no chance to ever see me play ball and always sort of compliment me on things that they have dug up and tell me the things that I've accomplished, which, you know, I already knew but I was always glad to get those letters and I still get 10-15 letters a day from different fans around the country.
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Have you ever asked for anyone's autograph? (Question from reader - unclemoe)
The only autographs I guess I ever asked for was Ted Williams, Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb. I've never asked for one of the modern day ballplayers, they probably wouldn't give it to me anyway. Some feel like they are a little above the ballplayers of my era.
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What piece of memorabilia from your playing days do you cherish the most?
Well, I would have to say that would have to be the two no hitters actually. I gave the baseballs to the Alabama and Michigan halls of fame. The Alabama hall of Fame has one and the Michigan Hall of Fame has the other. I'm in both of those halls of fame. And of course playing in the World Series in '45. I still have my ring. That's something that I only had one chance to do out of all of my career and you never forget that. Being able to win a ballgame in the series was quite a pleasure.
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Is there a piece of memorabilia that you wish you still had?
Yeah, I wish I still had Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth's autographs. I got quite a few; Mickey Mantle and I got to be very close friends and moreso after I got to play for the Yankees for half a year the last year that I played and that was something that I thoroughly enjoyed. I wish that I could have spent my whole career there. I think if you had spent your entire career there, I'd be talking to a Hall of Famer right now. (Laughs) Oh yeah I have thought about that. It's one thought that has crossed my mind. All the years I played are all those years they won the World Series.
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Were you ever star struck when you met a certain player? (Question from Max)
Not really at all. I went about playing the game. They were in my category and I was in theirs, so we were just playing a ballgame as far as I was concerned. I admired a few of them, that's for sure.
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Who did you admire?
Well, mostly, as I've said, would be Ted Williams, Mantle, Joe DiMaggio; Jimmie Foxx I even got to play against. Guys like that, especially the old-timers who were going out of baseball as I was coming up because I felt that those guys were the ones that created the game for me. A lot of today's players feel like we didn't have anything to do with where they are at today.
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Who do you feel was the greatest hitter that you ever faced and how did you prepare to face them when they stepped in the batter's box?
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Well, there was not much preparation to pitch against Ted Williams. You had to pitch power to power, he was a power hitter and I was a power pitcher and I didn't have too much success that way. That's the way you pitched to the guys that you knew were great hitters like he was. Same with DiMaggio. You couldn't really fool those guys with pitches because they knew the pitches that you threw and they waited for that particular pitch. They knew they were going to get one and that's the one they took charge of.
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Who was the greatest pitcher that you ever saw?
Obviously, there were a lot of great pitchers before I came up, but I'd rate Bob Feller with anybody, and Robin Roberts. They are two of the better pitchers that I saw.
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Concerning your two no hitters in 1952, did you have a feeling when you first stepped on the mound in those games that something special was going to happen?
No, because we were having such a bad year, the entire club. We finished last that year. I ended up 5-19. We really had nothing to excite us. We were just going through the season, so to speak. We didn't have any power hitters. The leading home run hitter may have hit 25 (*Walt Dropo hit 23), but I doubt it and I don't think anyone on the ballclub drove in over 100 runs (*Dropo had 70). So, we were really a bad bad ballclub and there was nothing really exciting about the year.
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Do you still follow baseball today?
Just on television, that's all and I don't follow it all that closely. I can see the Braves games everyday and who they play. I don't see that many American League games because, living near a National League city, you don't see American League games all that much. You may see one on the weekend once in a while. When they play Interleague games, you may get to see a few of them. Other than that, you don't see much of the America League in this area.
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How do you feel about the use of radar guns and the emphasis on pitchers' velocity these days? (Question from Jim)
Well, that's ok. It doesn't really prove anything except that he can throw the ball a hundred miles an hour. That's about the only thing that it proves. It does give the hitter the knowledge that the guy can throw the ball that hard.
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Which of today's players impresses you the most?
The one guy that I like the most is a type of player that I like, in the way that he plays is Jeter with the Yankees. He is the best player that I care about really watching.
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What was harder: pitching to players like Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams or writing your book? (Question from P.A.)
(Laughs) Well, I kept all of my scrapbooks through the years and that's how I was able to come up with the book like it went. Because it wasn't all from memory! It was having these things that are in the scrapbook that you can go by. Pitching to Mantle and Ted Williams was probably the toughest part of my pitching against anyone. Joe D, I got out pretty well but he had a stance that was different from anybody else.
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Do you still have any of your old jerseys?
No, I gave most of my stuff of importance to the Alabama Hall of Fame and the Michigan Hall of Fame. My jersey from the minor leagues in Beaumont (Texas) was one that nobody would want. They were thick red wool and the hottest jerseys I ever saw in my life.
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A message from Virgil Trucks as we closed the interview:
I am glad to help a fan. I'm more than glad to do it because that's what the game meant to me. It was always being good to the fans and the fans were always good to me. I tell you what, I had a lot of wonderful fans when I played. I doubt if any ballplayers can say that about themselves today. I appreciate someone who wants to find out more about the game and if I can help them in that way. That's what I'm here for. Have a great 2011.
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As you all can see, Mr. Trucks was very easy to talk to. I can't say enough how great it was to be able to have the chance to talk to him about baseball. It is definitely an experience that I will remember for a long time. I recorded the interview with my wife's voice recorder, so I'm going to listen to it every now and then. Also, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Mr. Trucks' book. At a price of $30.00, it is definitely worth it. If anyone wants a copy, his address can be found online. Thank you very much, Virgil Trucks. You are definitely an asset to the game!
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**Special thanks to Drew, had you not told me about Mr. Trucks, I would have never thought to send him a ball. I really appreciate the push in the right direction. Thanks buddy!!
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***Also, thanks to: Drew, P.A., Pete, Max, Babe, unclemoe, Rae and Jim for help with some of the questions that were asked.
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