While working in the Creighton Mine in Sudbury and starring for the company baseball team, Phil Marchildon was convinced to try out with the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs in 1938. The hard-throwing Penetanguishene, Ont., native would strike out seven of the nine batters he faced at the tryout and would report to the Leafs training camp the following spring.
After two seasons with the Leafs, Marchildon’s contract was purchased by the Philadelphia A’s. In his first big league season, he recorded 10 wins for the lowly A’s, managed by Connie Mack. For an encore, he would record 17 wins and establish himself as the team’s ace in 1942.
Poised to join the pitching elite, Marchildon was called for military duty and would serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1943 to 1945. The Canuck hurler completed 25 European missions, serving as the tail gunner in a Halifax bomber. In August 1944, his plane was shot down and he was taken as a prisoner of war. He would spend nine months in a German prison camp and lose almost a third of his body weight.
Upon his release and return to North America, Marchildon was a changed man. Relatives found him distant and reclusive and he was plagued by horrifying nightmares. Today, he would be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but in the ’40s he soldiered on with little treatment. He was penciled into the A’s rotation upon his return and would register 19 wins for the A’s in 1947 – a season many consider to be one of the best ever by a Canadian pitcher. In all, Marchildon won 68 big league games and completed 82 of his 162 major league starts.
After he retired from baseball in 1950, Marchildon settled in Etobicoke, Ontario. A member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s inaugural induction class in 1983, Marchildon penned an excellent biography entitled “Ace Phil Marchildon” (co-written by Brian Kendall) in 1993. Marchildon died January 10, 1997 at the age of 84.
*Most of the information for this entry comes from the Phil Marchildon bio that I wrote for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame website: www.baseballhalloffame.ca
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A very apt posting for this Remembrance Day. Marchildon was one of many, many who came back from the war with wounds–both physical and psycological.
Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of war, nations could play baseball? Or, if they really need to feed their hunger for violence, football or rugby? Who knows, maybe Phil Marchildon could have been another Bob Gibson or Don Drysdale. Or maybe not, but at least he could have found out — and lived a happier life.
Thanks for another enlightening profile, Kevin.