Virgil "Fire" Trucks was a damn fine pitcher. But his abilities on the baseball field didn't come close to the quality of person he was.
I was deeply saddened (and I don't use that phrase loosely) to learn that Virgil passed away three days ago as I was paging through the sports section today. I hadn't seen the news posted anywhere online, and though he was 95 years old and had been in bad health recently, it still came as a shock.
Trucks is best known for throwing two no-hitters in 1952, but many card collectors know him as an incredibly generous person who was a true friend of collectors.
Virgil was a legend among autograph collectors - an unfailingly automatic autograph signer up until the last few months, Trucks signed anything and everything sent to him, but also took the time to write lengthy responses to the baseball fans he was corresponding with. At one point I read that he spent at least 3 hours a day reading and responding to fan mail. Every day. At 90+ years old.
In looking through my scans, I can't find any of my signed Trucks cards, though I probably have around a half dozen. But my favorite piece from Virgil never found its way to cardboard.
Trucks spent the 1960 season serving as the Pirates pitching coach. That year is kind of a big deal for Pirate fans. I sent the above photo to Virgil a couple years ago, and it came back signed beautifully. It's one of my favorite "oddball" pieces in my collection. But even more special to me was the accompanying note - a fairly one lengthy one at that - talking about his experiences with the '60 team and how much he enjoyed coaching in Pittsburgh after spending his entire playing career in AL cities.
The game lost yet another of its great ambassadors, collectors lost a great friend of the hobby, and Virgil's family undoubtedly lost someone very special to them. But we were all lucky to have such a generous and personable man around for as long as we did.