Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Phil Marchildon, World War II POW

Phil Marchildon was a very very good pitcher in the forties with the Philadelphia A's. As was more the norm then, he walked quite a few, but he didn't let too many of them score.

A quick glance of his Baseball Reference page shows a pitcher who received MVP votes in 1942, 1946 and 1947. He won 19 games for the A's at one point, after serving honorably (or, honourably) in the RCAF in World War II.

In 1948, his pitching went south in a big way. He walked 131 opposite just 66 strikeouts, and his wildness continued into a shortened 1949 Athletics season for him, 16 innings, 19 walks, 2 K's and a WHIP of 2.688.

The Baseball Reference page has the A's releasing him at the start of the next season, but this article from the Daytona Beach Morning Journal of April 6, 1950 says otherwise:

“Phil Marchildon, who two years ago was one of the American League’s top pitchers, was sold out of the major leagues yesterday..
Owner-manager Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics sent Marchildon to Buffalo for an undisclosed sum. Marchildon suffered from a sore arm and “war nerves” during the past two seasons.”

“In 1949 the resident of Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada, lost three decisions while winning none. He complained continually of a sore arm, saw little action.
Many blamed his poor showing on “war nerves”-the result of spending 10 months in a German prison camp. He had been shot down over Germany while flying with the Royal Canadian Air Force.”

So there were thoughts of a sort of PTSD type of problem with Marchildon, but of course there wasn't the type of recognization and treatment of that in the forties that we thankfully have today.

His sale to Buffalo didn't pay dividends for the Bisons. He went 0-4 with a 7+ ERA in 5 starts, walking 24 in 23 innings and a WHIP over 2 once again.  From the Montreal Gazette of June 6, 1950...

"Buffalo, NY June 5 (AP) Phil Marchildon, who won 19 games for Philadelphia Athletics in 1947, was granted his outright release today by the International League Buffalo Bisons."

"Phil, a rear-gunner in an RCAF Halifax Bomber, was shot down in August, 1944, 20 miles off the Kiel Canal. He spent 10 months in a prison camp. Psychiatrists say Marchildon can’t control his nervous tension. In addition, he contracted amoebic dysentery in camp."

“I wish I knew the answer,” (Buffalo manager Frank) Skaff said. “Phil doesn’t seem to be suffering from any aches or pains. It may be he thinks in his own mind there is something wrong with his arm.”

Sadly, it appeared, at least from the reports, that Marchildon was having all sorts of problems adjusting, though he had early success upon his return form the war.

The Red Sox signed him for a try but dropped him after a single relief appearance.

Marchildon wasn't quite through yet. He gave it another try in 1951 with Toronto. From the Stanstead Journal of March 1, 1951...

"Toronto Maple Leafs have signed 36-year-old Phil Marchildon, the one-time pitching ace of the Philadelphia Athletics, and believe he’s still a top-notch hurler.”

The  St. Petersburg Times of Feb. 17, 1951 put the signing date as Feb. 16, 1951. Marchildon wasn't to play a game for Toronto, however. From the Abilene Reporter-News of Tuesday, May 1, 1951...

“Marchildon Released TORONTO, April 30 -- Phil Marchildon, veteran righthand pitcher, was given his unconditional release by Toronto Monday. He was a free agent at the end of last season, having been released first by the Philadephia Athletics and later by Buffalo.”

One would hope that if Marchildon was suffering from PTSD or "war nerves" today he would have been able to get help and recover what had been a solid major league career. We can still honor him for his service, and admire the pretty darn good baseball career he DID have.

Baseball Phil from cooperstownersincanada.com

Phil in RCAF from philadelphiaathletics.org


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