While serving in Europe during World War II, Ken Trinkle would perform reconnaissance as a member of the 9th Armored Division. “I was a scout in a reconnaissance outfit,” he started. “We would get out in front of the infantry to report if anything was there. If you didn’t come back, they knew there was something out there.”
Trinkle’s unit frequently found things and was instrumental in repelling the final German offensive – the Battle of the Bulge – in the final months of the war and was responsible for saving the last available bridge so that future units could cross the Rhine.
And, he was a reliever for the Giants and Phillies before and after the war.
Kenneth Wayne Trinkle was born on 15 December 1919 to Ray Russell and Audra M. (Cornwell) Trinkle in Paoli, Indiana. Ray and Audra lived and worked on her father Herman’s farm at Stamper’s Creek. Eventually Trinkle would build his strength wielding an axe or helping out in other ways when not in school. As a student, Trinkle was a star baseball and basketball player for Paoli High School, he was an American Legion baseball pitcher, and he’d eventually marry his high school sweetheart, Euleva Jane Miller while in the minor leagues.
Manager Cy Morgan signed Trinkle to pitch for the Thomasville Orioles in the Georgia and Florida League in 1939 after Trinkle failed a similar tryout the previous spring. There, his sinker caught the attention of Baltimore Oriole scouts. With just the lone year under his belt, Trinkle was suddenly pitching in the International League. Trinkle usually worked out of the bullpen, making 45 appearances but just four starts in 1940, and winning five of eight decisions. He absorbed a larger role in 1941, making 43 appearances but many more starts and winning eleven games. In 1942, he became a legitimate major league prospect with a 14 – 13 record in 1943. (It was reported as 15 wins in the contemporary papers at the time.)
Trinkle’s go to pitch was a sinker that he threw overhanded to lefthanded hitters and sidearmed to righthanded hitters. It got groundballs but not strikeouts, and there would be days when his inability to put batters away got him bounced around some. For the most part, though, he could eat up innings and he was able to bounce back to pitch relief on consecutive nights. “Just so long as I pitch only an inning or so a day my arm doesn’t tighten,” Trinkle explained. “But if I pitch more than two innings, I am not at my best the next day.”
After the 1942 season, the New York Giants purchased Trinkle from the Orioles for $20,000. Making the team out of spring training, Trinkle made six starts and five relief appearances. Despite a tolerable 3.74 ERA, he was dispatched to Jersey City for a little more seasoning. Before he could make it back, though, he had registered with the U.S. Army and was learning his trade in Fort Riley, KS. While training, he played baseball with other players such as Pete Reiser, Lonnie Frey and Joe Garagiola.
Eventually, though, he was shipped out. Trinkle was added to the 9th Armored Division, came to the European mainland in the pre-D-Day diversions and eventually battled the Germans in Luxembourg. One article noted that his division “…had a flaming introduction to battle in vital sectors of the front at Bastogne, St. Vith, and Echternach.” Finally, the fighting ended in May, 1945 and battles turned to occupation and returning to peace. For a couple of months, he was able to play ball with fellow Private Ralph Houk, which allowed him to get in limited playing shape prior to returning home at the end of 1945.
Trinkle made a league high 48 appearances, including 13 starts, for the Giants and Mel Ott in 1946 for a team that struggled to find wins. The next season, the rubber armed Trinkle was a regular out of the bullpen. He’d win eight games against four losses and was later determined to have earned ten saves. When he first came back from the war, he had to take some added weight off – he had gained at least twenty pounds. He claimed he was more prepared to pitch in 1947.
“It was not an easy job getting into the swing again last year, after so much time away from baseball,” Trinkle claimed. “I believe my control is far better than it was in ’46, that I am much faster because I am in better shape. I also learned a lot about the hitters last year.” When asked what a solid reliever is worth, Trinkle responded, “I figure if they are wise enough to know (where) I can benefit them most then that’s what they’ll pay most for.”
Apparently the Giants didn’t pay the most – Trinkle held out during spring training in 1948. Almost predictably, Trinkle’s start wasn’t as good as it could have been. By late summer, the Giants brought Leo Durocher over to manage the team and Trinkle was a quick entrant to Leo’s doghouse. After a particularly poor outing, he was assigned batting practice pitcher’s duty. He finished the season with a 4 – 5 record and a career low 3.18 ERA. However, he only fanned 20 batters in his 70+ innings.
In Philadelphia, new owners wanted to make a splash and set about to acquire as much talent as possible during the winter meetings. Prior to the 1949 season one of the many new faces to the Phillies was Ken Trinkle. When Jim Konstanty was added, manager Eddie Sawyer thought he could turn Trinkle into a starter – even though he hadn’t started a game since early in the 1946 season. “All Trinkle will have to learn is to pace himself so he doesn’t tire,” Sawyer said. “He has everything else: a fine fastball that sinks and a good curve. He knows when and where to pull the string and he is strong. He has a rubber arm.”
It didn’t work out as well for Trinkle as the Phillies would have liked – he became an extra arm splitting two decisions in 40 relief appearances and had a 4.00 ERA, the highest of his career. After spring training in 1950, he was moved to Toronto in the International League – so he missed out on being an active member of the Whiz Kids, even though he was in the team picture. Trinkle never returned to the majors – he moved from Toronto to Baltimore and finally Louisville in 1952 – his career had pretty much gone full circle. His major league totals were 21 wins, 29 losses, a 3.74 ERA, just 130 strikeouts and 208 walks in 435.1 innings.
There was nothing left to do but return home to Paoli and take care of his family. Ken and Jane had two sons, Kenneth David and Steven Dane. At some point, he opened a package store in downtown Paoli. He was at his store on 10 May 1976, just 55 years old, when he suffered a massive heart attack and died before the ambulance could get him to the hospital.
“Infielders Wright and Mueninghoff Due Here Tonight; McKenzie and Swoboda Expected Tomorrow”, Thomasville Times, 23 March 1939, Page 6.
Bornscheuer, Warren. “Nest of Oriole Leader Feathered Through ’43”, The Sporting News, 29 August 1940, Page 3.
Trader, Jr., Hugh. “Six Major League Clubs Eyeing Oriole Flanigan”, The Sporting News, 3 September 1942, Page 2.
Trader, Jr., Hugh. “Baltimore Will Get $20,000 if Trinkle Twinkles as Giant”, The Sporting News, 22 October 1942, Page 14.
“Diamond Dust”, The Sporting News, 5 November 1942, Page 7.
“Wave-Flung Giants Make Waiver Deal”, The Sporting News, 17 June 1943, Page 2.
King, Joe. “Sprinkles by Trinkle Put Out Blazes for Giants”, The Sporting News, 4 June 1947, Page 5.
“Post Trinkle First Giants in Durocher’s Doghouse”, The Sporting News, 18 August 1948, Page 14.
Baumgartner, Stan. “Phillies New Wrinkle for Trinkle – Turning Ex-Reliever Into Starter”, The Sporting News, 20 April 1949, Page 24.
“Trinkle Relieves in Six Straight Games for Leafs”, The Sporting News, 24 May 1950, Page 30.
“Monday’s Sudden Heart Attack Ends Life of Ken Trickle”, Paoli Republic, 11 May 1976.
U.S. Army Registration – 1943
U.S. Census 1920, 1930, 1940