Gore Vidal's First Love: The Baseball Star Turned War HeroS

As of Wednesday morning, administrators at Rock Creek Cemetery in D.C. hadn't heard yet whether Gore Vidal would actually be filling the burial plot he reserved there for himself some years ago. But Vidal, who died yesterday in Los Angeles at 86, has a couple reasons to get shipped back to his boyhood hometown one more time. His longtime companion, Howard Austen (1929-2003), has already taken up residence at Rock Creek.

More enticement for Vidal: Jimmie Trimble, said a cemetery staffer, "is still here."

Trimble was Vidal's classmate with benefits when both attended St. Albans in D.C. in the early 1940s, at least according to the newly dead author.

Trimble was also a prep baseball superstar. News of his heroics as a St. Albans pitcher abound inside the Washington Post archives (among them: "Trimble Hurls 'Perfect Game' For St. Albans" from the Post's May 20, 1942 edition; he threw a no-no in his next outing, too). Trimble took a $5,000 bonus from Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith following his senior season, but told the team he'd be putting his pro ball career on hold until he'd finished college.

Then, after a year at Duke, Trimble enlisted in the Marine Corps and was shipped out to the Pacific theater. He could have fulfilled his military obligation by playing baseball, as service teams were really a big deal in that era. But he volunteered for a mission at Iwo Jima, and was blown up in a foxhole by a suicide bomber in March of 1945. He was 19 years old.

The Marines remembered Trimble by naming a baseball diamond in Guam after him shortly after his interment at Rock Creek Cemetery. In 2005, "Jimmy" Trimble Field was rededicated on the island, complete with a bust of the departed.

Vidal wasn't invited to the field rededication. But he never forgot Trimble, either. He'd dedicated his novel The City and the Pillar to "JT" when it was published in 1948. In his 1995 memoir Palimpsest, Vidal confessed that the initials were indeed Trimble's. In the same book, Vidal also gives a play-by-play—one part Vin Scully, 99 parts Penthouse Forum—of an afternoon he and Trimble spent "reconstituting the original male that Zeus had split in two":

[T]here we were, belly to belly, in the act of becoming one. As it turned out, Jimmie had been involved with another boy, while I, despite wet dreams, had never even masturbated. As it was, mutual masturbation was impossible with Jimmie—too painful for me because his large callused hands gripped a cock like a baseball bat.

St. Albans has become best known nationally as a hangout for sons of politicos: Al Gore III, Jesse Jackson Jr., and two of George H. W. Bush's kids (Neil and Marvin), went there. But the school still has a sturdy baseball program. Alum and left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen (Class of '08) was selected by the Seattle Mariners with the 2nd overall pick in Major League Baseball's 2011 draft; Matt Bowman ('09) was taken in the 13th round this year by the New York Mets.

Yet all these years later, Trimble remains part of the conversation. Hultzen, already bumped up to the Tacoma Rainiers, Seattle's AAA club, told me last year that during his days at St. Albans the coaches "talked about Jimmy Trimble to us a lot."

Trimble's grip, alas, wasn't part of the pep talks.