Baseball History: Virgil Trucks and Don Newcombe

don newcombe 1961

Don Newcombe appeared on this 1961 Topps baseball card after his final season in the the big leagues.

It’s amazing how baseball’s present can always be connected to its past.

As the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game finished, David Price of the Detroit Tigers was the winning pitcher. Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers was on the wrong end of a 6-3 American League victory thanks to a first-inning homer by the night’s Most Valuable Player Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels.

At the end of the Fox Sports broadcast, the commentators mentioned that the last time a Tigers pitcher earned the win and a Dodgers hurler got tagged with the loss in the same game was in 1949.

In that contest at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Virgil Trucks of the Tigers claimed the victory in 11-7 win by the AL. Don Newcombe of the Dodgers was the loser.

Most of the pitchers that afternoon were not very impressive until the final three innings of the affair that featured six errors with five committed by the National League.

Trucks and Newcombe both gave up two runs on three hits during their time on the mound. There are other connections with the duo to a present day player other than the most recent all-star game.

Newcombe, who was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1949, was the initial winner of the Cy Young Award in 1956 after posting a 27-7 record for the Dodgers. He also won the NL MVP that season making him the first player to claim all three of those honors.

Justin Verlander of the Tigers joined that exclusive list in 2011 as he won the AL MVP and Cy Young Award. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2006.

After serving in the United States Navy during World War II, Trucks returned to the Tigers late in the 1945 season. He appeared in one game and didn’t get a decision in the contest. However, the right-hander started and won game two of the World Series as the Tigers eventually won the title against the Chicago Cubs.

Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals became the second player in MLB history to win a post-season contest without having a victory during the regular season in 2012. Carpenter, who won the NL Cy Award in 2005, picked up a win in game three of the NL Division Series against the Washington Nationals. He spent the season dealing with thoracic outlet syndrome.

Virgil Trucks with the St. Louis Browns on his 1953 Bowman baseball card.

Virgil Trucks with the St. Louis Browns on his 1953 Bowman baseball card.

Newcombe and Trucks are also important figures from a historical standpoint.

In 1949, Newcombe was one of the first four African-Americans to play in an all-star game. He was joined by Brooklyn teammates Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella, while Larry Doby was on the AL squad. Newcombe was also the first African-American to start on the mound in a World Series game. Two years later, he was the first to win 20 games. After two years of military service, he returned to help Brooklyn win the World Series in 1955. He was a four-time all-star who posted a 149-90 record in his 10-year career that included stops in Cincinnati and Cleveland.

Trucks was a four-time all-star in his 17-year career with five teams. He spent 12 of those seasons with the Tigers. In 1949, he finished the year 19-11 and led the AL with six shutouts. He had is best year in 1953 when he was 20-10 with the St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox.

His 1952 season was perhaps one of the strangest in history as he posted a 5-19 mark. On May 15, Trucks had a 0-2 record entering a contest in Detroit against Washington. That day, Trucks tossed a no-hitter in a 1-0 victory as he struck out seven and walked one.

Trucks had won just three more games by Aug. 25. He was 4-15 on that date as he proceeded to no-hit eventual world champion New York in a 1-0 decision at Yankee Stadium. He fanned eight Yankees and walked only one in his final win of the year. He is one of four players to throw two no-hitters in the same season.

Johnny Vander Meer of the Cincinnati Reds was the first with back-to-back efforts in 1938, while Allie Reynolds of the Yankees did it in 1951. Nolan Ryan was the last to do it in 1973 for the California Angels.

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One thought on “Baseball History: Virgil Trucks and Don Newcombe

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