when the color commentary was broadcast in black and white, one of the most
spirited sports broadcasters on Detroit television was former Detroit Tigers
pitching great Paul “Dizzy “ Trout. From 1953 to 1955 Trout called the
play-by-play with Van Patrick on WKMH radio and WJBK-TV.
Trout’s booming voice and scrambled syntax made him a favorite of
Detroit sports fans in television’s halcyon years.
Paul Howard Trout was born on June
29, 1915 in Sandcut, Indiana, a town he once described as “what can be in two
different places overnight if the wind blows hard enough.”
Trout’s baseball career began in 1935 when he played Minor League ball
for the Terre Haute Tots in the famed Three-I League. In 1939 he advanced to the
majors and signed with the Detroit Tigers.
Trout pitched for the Tigers from
1939 to 1952. In 1943 he led the league with 20 wins. In 1944 he won 27 games
and posted the lowest earned run average in the major leagues. The 1945 season
saw him win 18 games, helping the team win the World Series. Trout’s trademark
fastball was good enough for him to win 161 games for the Bengals. But by the
late 1940s it was clear that his glory days were behind him. In the middle of
the 1952 season Trout was traded to the Boston Red Sox, where he finished out
the season before retiring from baseball.
Trout returned to Detroit in 1953 when he was tapped by WJBK-TV to call the
play-by-play for Tigers games with “The Ol’ Announcer,” Van Patrick.
Trout’s self-effacing humor and folksy demeanor made him a natural in front of
the TV cameras.
Harold Summers, a life long Detroit Tigers fan, remembers Trout’s storytelling
style. “Trout’s stories were great. Whenever he was the object of the story,
it was rarely as a hero; he was usually the goat. He had this great capacity to
laugh at himself.”
A typical Trout baseball anecdote: “Shucks, Ol’ Diz once hit a beauty in
this ball park. I was going after my twentieth victory one year and was losing
by a run when Atley Donald came on in relief for the Yankees. There was a man on
base when Ol’ Diz came to bat. See that second exit beyond the bullpen in
right center? I’d like you to know that I’m the only right-handed batter in
history ever to hit one there. Won the game with it, too.”
The summer of 1953 found Trout hosting The Knot-Hole Gang, a WJBK-TV
sports show aimed at kids. The premise was simple. Ol’ Diz visited
neighborhood sandlots and Little League teams to interview budding baseball
stars and offer pitching tips. Current and former Detroit Tigers players
occasionally appeared with him on the show.
Trout left the airwaves in 1955, replaced by former New York Giants batter Mel
In 1956 he decided to give politics
a try, running for Wayne County Sheriff. His opponent was the long time
incumbent Democrat, Andrew C. Baird. With Wayne County being so heavily working
class, the Republican Trout didn’t stand a chance. Trout’s campaign
promised, “If I am elected, I will be in there pitching for you.”
Unfortunately, Trout got knocked out of the box and lost the election.
After pitching in an Old Timers game Trout was signed in August of 1957 as a
free agent with the Baltimore Orioles, playing only two games before being
released from his contract. Later
that year he was hired by the Chicago White Sox as a pitching instructor, eventually
becoming the director of the White Sox speaker’s bureau, a position he kept
until his death in 1972.
Trout’s pitching record is
somewhat tarnished due to the drafting of many of baseball’s best players
during World War II, but you could always count on Dizzy Trout to pitch a good
game as well as a good story.
"Rainbow" Trout, son of pitching great Dizzy Trout, was drafted by the
Chicago White Sox in 1976, carrying on the pitching tradition that his dad
started. He played for twelve years in the majors with four franchises. Check
out Steve's website by clicking on the banner.