A GREAT view of the field at AT&T Park in Chattanooga during their pre-season open house!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book: "Throwing Heat- The Life and Times of Virgil Fire Trucks"

Virgil Trucks put out a very fun book about his baseball career a few years back. It is another one that is hard to find these days. I bought my copy from Virgil some time ago.

The book is a little unusual, in that the chapters are broken up by one page notes from player friends of his talking about their relationships with Virgil Trucks. The notes from his friends are interesting on their own.

Virgil gives a lot of great baseball stories, including covering his relatively brief time in the minors. He tosses a few no-hitters, including one where he not only tosses the no-hitter, but he is the only one to hit and score for his team!

Another game involves him losing a no-hitter, in a situation similar to Harvey Haddix.

Virgil seems to get along with many other players and coaches in the minors. He does have a manager who fines him $50 for staying out late after a very long game. Trucks says that he was just out trying to find some food after the game. He protests the fine, which is eventually resolved. Virgil has the chance to play for this manager again, but initially refuses to. The manager assures Virgil that he will leave him alone. After awhile, Virgil says, they became friendly.

Virgil talks about how he was not a smoker, but he did agree to appear in a Camel add. Players then weren't making the money they do now, and the money paid for his likeness was needed. Virgil comments that he hopes no young person was influenced to smoke because of him.

Virgil also took off season jobs. He had a job (while he was playing in the majors) that involved going around to people and asking them not to empty their ashtrays on the sidewalk.

I like how Virgil tells a story, and then one of the other players who contribute may add (or disagree) with Virgil's version of the story.

For example, Virgil tells a great story about staying in a hotel while with the Tigers. Management suspects he has brought a girl to his room, and they try to bust him. As Virgil tells the story, he denies being a ladies man or having a girl in his room. Ted Gray seems to remember things a little differently though, as he says he suspects his fellow pitcher indeed did have a girl in his room! Believe it or not, the story actually gets better, as a lawyers get involved!
Virgil talks about the baseball legend midget, Eddie Gaedel. He quotes Gaedel before his at bat. This might be my new favorite baseball quote by the way. "Just get the ball over- I'm gonna murder it!" Bob Cain, the pitcher that day who heard this from Gaedel would be the only player to attend Eddie's funeral years later. Any first hand account of the Gaedel plate appearance is worth the price of a book.

Another story involves the scoring of an error vs. a hit during one of Virgil's no-hitters (he had 2 in one season!).

Virgil talks about going after Hank Bauer during a bench clearing brawl, but he later becomes friendly with him, according to Bauer, while they are with the Yankees.

Virgil gets shuffled around between several teams. He finally accomplishes his goal of winning 20 games in 1 season. He comes close to doing it again, but just misses. He plays very briefly in the PCL, the coaches for the Pirates.

Trucks does a great job of telling baseball stories. He takes time out to serve his country in the military, as many of the greats did during WWII. He plays in a military baseball World Series, and Barnstorms too. He isn't afraid to say what he thinks, ending his book with some observations about today's players.

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