Hal Trosky, Jr.: A Stubborn Baseball Player
Hal Trosky, Jr. grew up with a great model to emulate while dreaming of becoming a big league player. His father, Hal Trosky, Sr. was a major league star, who, if not for World War II may have made a very strong case for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. As it was, Senior had a star career that ended after the 1946 season when Junior was 10 years old. By that time the younger Trosky had seen enough to know what he wanted to do with his life- play baseball.
By the time he was in high school, Trosky, Jr. had become a talented player and was drawing a lot of interest from professional teams. As a senior in Cedar Rapids, Iowa he hit .667 and had scouts from nearly half the major league teams in attendance at his games. The connections his father had made during his time in the game helped guide the young man’s decision making, and in 1954 he settled on signing with the Chicago White Sox after making a good connection with team owner Charlie Comiskey, Jr., who shared the commonality of being baseball progeny.
Like his father, Trosky was a slugging first baseman, with the only difference being that he hit right-handed, unlike his dad’s lefty approach. He hit a home run in his first at bat in the minors, but was constantly hobbled by injuries. Wanting to get as much as they could out of their prized prospect, the White Sox suggested in 1956 that he try pitching as a way to possibly keep him on the field. Trosky was amenable to the idea and experienced immediate success, going 9-5, with a 3.95 ERA his first year.
Throwing hard, yet with inconsistent control, Trosky developed almost immediately into a top pitching prospect. In the minors he posted 14 wins in 1957 and another 13 in 1958, fueling speculation that it was only a matter of time before he would be summoned to help out an aging White Sox pitching staff.
Trosky earned an end of season call-up to Chicago in September of 1958. The White Sox were on their way to a second place finish, but well behind the first place Yankees, and wanted to see what they had in their young pitcher. He was given a two relief appearance audition. The first came against the Tigers, and he pitched a scoreless inning. He gave up a single to Billy Martin, the first major league hitter he faced, but got the next batter, Charlie Maxwell, to strikeout into a double play when Martin attempted a stolen base. His second and final major league game was the final contest of the season, on September 28, 1958 against the Kansas City Athletics. Although he gave up 4 hits and 3 runs in two innings, he was able to earn the win in an 11-4 shootout.
The following season Trosky seemed poised to make the White Sox out of spring training, but was sent down on the final day of cuts. He continued to pitch well, but was never brought up again to the big leagues. Feeling that he had no future with Chicago, Trosky refused to sign with the organization for the 1961 season and asked for his release. The team would not release or trade him, so Trosky quit the game for good and began a lengthy career in insurance. Interestingly the White Sox finally did grant his request for a release, but it occurred in 1972, when he was 36 and had been out of professional baseball for over a decade.
Trosky went 44-30, with a 3.53 ERA in five minor league seasons. Although he only appeared in two major league games, he is able to say that he did earn a win during that time. More information about his career statistics is available at http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/t/troskha02.shtml.
I think that Trosky and how his baseball career played out is a fascinating story. This past year I had the opportunity to exchange letters with him and asked him a few questions about his experience with the game.
Hal Trosky, Jr. Questionnaire:
If you could do anything different about your career, what would that be?: Try earlier to get out of the White Sox organization.
Who was your coach or manager?: Luke Appling at Memphis and Jim Turner at Nashville.
What current player reminds you the most of players from your era?: Quite frankly I’ve all but ceased watching professional sports. The attitudes and intensity are sad.
Andrew Martin is the founder of “The Baseball Historian” blog where he posts his thoughts about baseball on a regular basis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach him on Twitter at @historianandrew.