HF: Mr. Trucks, you became a Yankee in 1958 at the age of forty-one. What was your reaction when you discovered that you had been traded to the Yankees?
VT: "In those days, you never found out you had been traded from the ball club directly. You usually found out from the radio or the newspapers. We were in Boston when Jackie Jensen, who was playing center field that day, happened to go into the clubhouse between innings and heard that I had been traded. I was in the Kansas City bullpen so Jensen came over to our bullpen and told me that I was a Yankee. I was happy, elated and stunned. If I had spent my entire career with the Yankees, I would be in the Hall of Fame."
(NOTE: Virgil Trucks won 177 games with an ERA of 3.39. He spent many seasons with losing teams. He makes an interesting point since he would have won many more games had he been with the Yankees all those years.)
HF: Mr. Trucks, you spent most of the 1958 season with the New York Yankees, joining them at the trading deadline, which was June 15. That Yankees got off to a great start and on May 22, with a record of 22-5, they were the only team in the American League with a record above.500. They played mediocre baseball the rest of the season to finish with ninety-two wins. What was your impression of the Yankees' attitude when you joined them?
VT: "The Yankees never relaxed and the opposition could never relax. If you let up against the Yankees, you were beaten. They beat us so many times in the ninth inning, in our ballpark and in Yankee Stadium. They didn't do it just to us. They did it to everybody."
HF: How did Yankees' manager Casey Stengel use you during the 1958 season?
VT: "I was used mostly in relief but I started a few games. I won the game that clinched the 1958 pennant but there were still two weeks left to the season so it wasn't that important. I got a ring for the (1958) World Series even though Stengel didn't put me on the World Series roster. He picked Murray Dickson, who was only with the team for the last month of the season. I wasn't happy about that and when the Yankees asked me to pitch batting practice for the Series, I was going to refuse until Milt Richman, who was a writer at the time, talked me into it."
HF: That is a great anecdote that few know. Tell me, who were the two or three toughest hitters for you to get out?
VT: "The toughest was probably Ted Williams but Mantle, Dickey, DiMaggio and Berra were also tough. Yogi was tough because he was a bad ball hitter. He would swing at anything so you never knew what to throw him. I would just throw strikes down the middle because that was as effective as anything else."
HF: If you were pitching today, who do you think would be the two or three toughest hitters for you?
VT: "It depends on the league but Sheffield, Bonds, Giambi and Posada seem tough outs."
HF: How do you explain the fact that so many home runs have been hit so far in the last few years?
VT: "Most of those home runs are illegal. The ball is souped up and little guys hit long home runs to the opposite field."
HF: What was the height of the pitching mound during the time you played?
VT: "Well, until about 1950, there was no set rule so teams built the mound according to their pitching staff."
HF: What is your opinion of managers having starting pitchers go six or seven innings, bringing in a set up man for an inning or two, and then going to the closer?
VT: "Well, Stengel might have started that in the late 1950s but others didn't start to use it until the 1980s. When I pitched, we pitched every fourth day and often would pitch in relief the second day after we started. Two of the worst managerial moves were made by John McNamara in the 1986 World Series and Grady Little in the playoffs against the Yankees in 2003. McNamara had to replace Buckner at first. The man was hurt and was a defensive liability but he stayed in the game and it cost the Red Sox. This past year, while I was watching Pedro tire against the Yankees I kept saying that Little had to go to the bullpen. He never did and it cost him his job."
HF: When you were with the Yankees, their major rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers were already in Los Angeles. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry paled in comparison then but has grown to epic proportions since. What are your thoughts about the 'Curse of the Bambino'?
VT: "I really don't know much about it other than the Yankees acquired Babe Ruth from Boston, but do you know about the 'Curse of the Goat?' I actually saw the goat and the guy who wanted to buy a ticket for him in order to take him to the game during the 1945 World Series. I was with the Tigers and we were at Wrigley Field. They wouldn't allow the goat into Wrigley Field so the guy cursed the Cubs, saying they would never return to the World Series. We beat the Cubs in that Series and the Cubs have not returned since."
HF: One of baseball all time greats, Hank Greenberg, was your teammate on that Tigers team. How good was he?
VT: "Hank Greenberg was a super person and a great player. We were all sorry to see him go to Pittsburgh after the 1946 season. He was a smart man and was ahead of his time. Hank had a clause in his contract that said the Tigers would have to pay him $25,000 if they sold or traded him. In January of 1947, they sold Hank's contract to Pittsburgh for $75,000 and Hank got his money."
HF: Mr. Trucks, it has been a pleasure to listen to you. Best of luck with your book (Throwing Heat: The Life and Times of Virgil Trucks) and we hope you enjoy the upcoming season.
VT: "Thank you. I really enjoy speaking about baseball and all the things that have happened."