The crack of a bat (and skull) sealed Trucks’ no-hitter

Virgil Trucks threw both of his no-hitters in 1952 for the Detroit Tigers.

Art Houtteman’s oversized shoes and Vic Wertz’s clutch bat. That was the winning formula on May 15, 1952, as Virgil Trucks became only the second Tiger to toss a no-hitter at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.

It was an unusual season of highs and lows for Trucks. The veteran right-hander would finish 5-19, the worst record of his 17-year major-league career, but he also managed a second no-no, this time against the Yankees in New York. In the century-plus history of the Tigers, only Justin Verlander has managed to pitch a pair of no-hitters for the franchise at any time, let alone in the same season.

Trucks’ gem at Briggs Stadium came just three weeks after he had lost a no-hitter to Cleveland when Harry “Suitcase” Simpson singled with two outs in the ninth. Now, on the same diamond, Trucks mowed down batter after batter as the Tigers and Washington Senators battled through a score less tie. Trucks, who was suffering from sore feet, was wearing Houtteman’s borrowed spikes. Not that anybody noticed. There were only 2,215 people in the stands this Thursday afternoon. The rest of Detroit had turned out for a downtown parade honoring General Douglas MacArthur, who was returning in triumph from Korea.

Trucks kept the Senators hitless through nine innings. But Detroit batters had little luck against Washington’s ace right-hander, Bob Porterfield. The game remained scoreless as the first two Tigers in the bottom of the ninth went down. Trucks, sitting in the dugout, was resigned to having to extend his no-hitter through overtime.

Vic Wertz came to bat. Two innings earlier, the Tigers’ left-handed slugger had doubled off Porterfield, only to suffer the embarrassment of being picked off second base.

It didn’t take long for Wertz to exact revenge. He swung at Porterfield’s first offering and sent it flying toward the seats in upper right. It crashed into the nearly empty seats, sealing a 1-0 victory and putting Trucks’ name into the record books. It was the first Tiger no-hitter at The Corner since George Mullin did it against the St. Louis Browns on July 4, 1912, Mullin’s 32nd birthday.

Trucks was so excited he leaped up from the bench, cracking his skull into the concrete roof of the dugout. Those who didn’t know better thought the pitcher’s stunned look was the result of Wertz’s dramatic poke.

“I finally made it out to home plate,” Trucks later recalled, “where I gave Wertz the biggest hug I knew how to give. But my head was still buzzing.”