Hall of Famer
Inducted in 1976
Career record: 185 games pitched, 162 games started, 68 wins, 75 losses, 3.93 ERA
Stories of athletic dedication and perseverance in the face of physical obstacles have become common sporting narratives. However, Phil Marchildon's story is different. The obstacles he faced were more harrowing than the ones confronted by most athletes, and his comeback all the more inspiring as a result. Born in Penetanguishine, Ontario, Marchildon began pitching locally in 1932 as a teenager. His talents were recognized by baseball promoters and he soon moved to northern Ontario to pitch for mining industry teams. He turned pro at the age of 26 and joined the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League, where he pitched for two years before a brief stint with Cornwall, Ontario, in the now-defunct Can-Am League. At the end of the 1940 season, Marchildon's contract was purchased by the Philadelphia Athletics, then still managed by the legendary Connie Mack, and, on September 22nd, he made his major-league debut. By 1941, Marchildon had established himself as a regular member of the Athletics starting rotation. Their faith in him was rewarded in 1942 when he had a breakthrough season. He finished with a 17-14 record, the third-highest win total in the American League, with a team that finished in last place with only 55 wins. Marchildon was just hitting his stride. However, like so many other athletes of his day-to say nothing of ordinary Canadians-Marchildon found his career interrupted by the Second World War. He was conscripted into the Royal Canadian Air Force. As the tail gunner in a Halifax bomber, he successfully completed 25 missions over Europe before being shot down. Captured by the Germans, he spent the rest of the war in the infamous Stalag Luft III prison camp. Marchildon remained a captive until the camp was liberated by the Allies on May 2, 1945. Although he returned to the Athletics briefly at the end of the 1945 season (pitching only nine innings), Marchildon's first full season back was 1946. Not surprisingly, given his ordeal, he struggled with his physical health and later recalled that he spent the following winter trying to strengthen his legs by skiing. The training worked wonders. Marchildon returned to Philadelphia for 1947 and had the best season of his career. He finished with a 19-9 record, second in the American League in wins behind All-Star Bob Feller, and even more remarkably-given the state of his health in 1945-Marchildon finished third in the American League in both games started and innings pitched. In that season's most memorable game, he had a perfect game with two outs in the eighth inning when Cleveland's Ken Keltner walked on a 3-2 pitch. He lost his no-hitter in the ninth inning, before finishing with a career-best one-hit complete game. After a difficult 1948 season, Marchildon began to experience trouble with his pitching arm. He was released by the Athletics and briefly pitched with the Boston Rex Sox in 1950 before calling an end to his major-league career. He started 162 games in the major leagues, finishing with a career record of 68 wins and 75 losses and a respectable 3.93 earned run average. Marchildon spent the bulk of his big-league career with the Athletics, a decidedly mediocre team which rarely finished higher than eighth place in the eight-team American League. Despite this, he twice-in 1942 and 1947-finished in the top-ten in voting for the league's most valuable player award.