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 struck 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 club that was 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 five of his six crewmates were killed. Marchildon survived and 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 during the ordeal.
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 almost immediately upon his return and would register 19 wins for the A’s in 1947, one of the best seasons 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. He was a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s inaugural induction class in 1984 and he 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
**Thank you to Scott Crawford of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for supplying the wonderful photos to go with this blog entry.