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For the hours-from-obsolete print issue of Washington City Paper, I wrote about St. Albans baseball. I got into the story because of Danny Hultzen, a local boy now pitching for UVa and regarded by many scouts as the best college baseball player in the country.
And in looking into Hultzen’s roots, I found that a freakish number of kids from his old high school’s baseball program also went on to also pitch in the NCAA.
Every adult I talked to about St. Albans baseball for this story referenced Jimmy Trimble, who before Hultzen came along was regarded as the greatest ballplayer the school ever produced.
After all these years, there are two Trimbles who still get attention.
There’s Jimmy Trimble the baseball/military hero. What an amazing, though short, life story that Trimble had: Local legend, signed to a Major League contract in 1943 while still in high school, but before getting a chance to live out his baseball glories on the Griffith Stadium mound, he enlists in the Marines and is killed in 1945 at the battle of Iwo Jima.
This Trimble is remembered through an annual scholarship awarded by the U.S. Marines, and has a baseball field named after him in Guam, where he was stationed during WWII.
According to a report in the Washington Times, “more than 1,000 people” showed up to a ceremony in 2005 to rededicate Trimble Field “to keep Pvt. Trimble’s memory alive.” President George W. Bush, who had two brothers who attended St. Albans, wrote up a speech for the Trimble Field rededication.
Trimble’s baseball accomplishments at St. Albans, though surely great, tend to be exaggerated. The expansive bio of Trimble written for ESPN asserts “St. Albans never lost a baseball game with Trimble on the mound,” and that’s repeated in the resolution from the government of Guam before the 2005 field rededication. But in going through the old newspaper clippings of Trimble’s unbelievable prep athletic career, alongside the tales of perfect games and no-hitters and simple domination of St. Albans opponents for several prep seasons, I found a story about his 1942 mound matchup against Elmer Raba of Gonzaga, which the Washington Post called”the hottest pitchers duel since the Jack Ogle-Arron Weissenberg affair in the first game of last year’s high school playoffs.” Raba and Gonzaga came out on top, 2-1, when Trimble gave up a two-run ninth-inning single to centerfield Ronnie Waldron. (I love throwing names of kids into game stories written 70 years after the fact!)
But the imperfect record isn’t the only thing left out of many Trimble bios.
There’s also the role “Jimmie” Trimble played in the literature — and, perhaps, life — of St. Albans classmate Gore Vidal, who has long dedicated his writings to “JT,” and asserted that Trimble, along with being the top jock while they were schoolboys, was the only love of his life. Parts of the Vidal/Trimble tale are seamy, and, out of fairness to the folks who now guide St. Albans baseball, I wish I wouldn’t have wedged the NSFW stuff from the Jimmie Trimble tale alongside Jimmy Trimble’s feel-good tale.
But dang if there ain’t a place for the Gore Vidal/Jimmie Trimble tales to be told. I mean, James Dean’s future girlfriend and Gore Vidal both still carry a torch for Trimble! How fab is that?
Read the story and tell me there’s not a movie in there!
(I learned a couple days ago that I had written a short post about Trimble and Vidal three years ago in this space unrelated to baseball. It’s about how Vidal bought a plot in Rock Creek Cemetery in my Petworth neighborhood, just so he can be buried real close to Jimmie Trimble. Though the piece has my byline, even after re-reading the clip, I have zero recollection of typing it.)