Sunday, February 28, 2010

Virgil Trucks to Derek Trucks, fastballs and fast fingers bring it all back home

Ah... the stars align, sometimes.

Peter Gammons has a delightful piece on the MLB Web site today about two of my favorite performers, separated by more than 50 years of my life. (That is tough to write, dear readers...)

In 1957, my favorite baseball player was Virgil Trucks. Virgil Trucks pitched for the A's and I worshiped the A's. I was especially fond of pitchers, and even more worshipful of pitchers who threw hard. I've always had a thing for fastballs.

Virgil pitched in 48 games for the frustratingly bad A's in 1957, threw 116 innings, recorded seven saves and logged an earned run average just a tad over three runs per nine innings. As happened so often, his beautiful work was promptly rewarded by a trade to those damned World Series-bound Yankees in 1958. A 10-year-old heart was broken.

(This might help explain my life-long distrust of managers and administrators to do the right thing...)

Now I discover -- thanks to reporter / guitar player Gammons -- Derek Trucks, who may be the best guitar player in the world today, is Virgil Trucks' nephew's son. Gammons relates the story of Derek's surprise visit with Virgil two years ago when the old fire truck was 91. Virgil, by the way, is still kicking.

I love this quote Gammons captured. While admitting he didn't know much about Derek's music -- they don't play it much on the local radio station, he allowed -- Virgil told Gammons he was happy to "meet so fine a young man as Derek. I don't know where the musical part of the family came from, but I'm proud of him."

Derek's father is Butch Trucks, drummer and sometimes musical leader of the Allman Brothers Band. Butch often led the band into jazz in the Allmans' formative years. Fittingly, Derek's son is named Charlie, after Charlie Parker, who was born and raised within spitting distance of where my mother and father met and courted. The stars -- in the sky and in music and baseball -- couldn't be more aligned. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket today.

Charlie Trucks, by the way, loves baseball. Of course.

If you haven't heard Derek Trucks, or his wife Susan Tedeschi, you should. They're important players in the evolution of the music I love. Here's a bit of a timeline. The territorial bands in Oklahoma and Texas in first years of the last century translated New Orleans and Delta music into a music known as swing, which took root in the Reno Club in Kansas City in the late 20s and the 30s. As swing and jazz blossomed, Big Joe Turner straddled all the music from the Delta to Chicago as the singing bartender in the 18th and Vine district only a short walk from where the Monarchs played ball. Joe Turner would have been Elvis Presley in a world without race. Rock 'n roll met jazz -- again -- in the Southern rock bands of the late 1960s and beyond, perfected by the Allman Brothers, and, today, kids like Derek Trucks are quietly returning the music to its roots. Derek was one of the guitar players recently collaborating with the great McCoy Tyner on his new album simply called "Guitars".

And Virgil? ...Well Virgil's career wasn't bad either. He pitched in 517 games, struck out 1,534 batters , posted a career 3.39 ERA, and won 177 games against 135 loses for less than stellar teams. In fact, he won just five games against 19 loses one year for the Detroit Tigers. But get this: two of those five wins were no-hitters and the third was a one-hitter, a single by the lead-off batter in the first inning.

-- Lofflin, delighted and begging for a spring day.

Virgil Trucks' autographed baseball card from the wonderful Web resource Baseball Almanac.

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