Earl Wilson (baseball)

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Earl Wilson
Pitcher
Born: (1934-10-02)October 2, 1934
Ponchatoula, Louisiana
Died: April 23, 2005(2005-04-23) (aged 70)
Southfield, Michigan
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
July 28, 1959 for the Boston Red Sox
Last MLB appearance
September 22, 1970 for the San Diego Padres
Career statistics
Win–loss record 121–109
Earned run average 3.69
Strikeouts 1,452
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Robert Earl Wilson (born Earl Lawrence Wilson) (October 2, 1934 – April 23, 2005) was a professional baseball pitcher. He played all or part of eleven seasons in Major League Baseball the Boston Red Sox (1959–60, 1962–66), Detroit Tigers (1966–70) and San Diego Padres (1970), primarily as a starting pitcher. Wilson batted and threw right-handed. He was born in Ponchatoula, Louisiana.

In an eleven-season career, Wilson posted a 121-109 record with 1,452 strikeouts and a 3.69 ERA in 2,051.2 innings pitched.

Career[edit]

A 6-foot-3, 215-pound pitcher who relied on sliders and fastballs, Wilson made his major league debut with the Red Sox on July 28, 1959, as their first black pitcher. Infielder Pumpsie Green had become the first black player on the Red Sox, joining them earlier that season, when Boston was the last of the 16 major league clubs to break the color barrier.

On June 26, 1962, at Fenway Park, Wilson no-hit the Los Angeles Angels 2-0 and helped his own cause with a home run off Bo Belinsky — himself a no-hit pitcher on May 5 of that same 1962 season. (Wes Ferrell in 1931, Jim Tobin in 1944 and Rick Wise in 1971 are the only three other no-hit pitchers to homer in the same game; the latter of the three hit two home runs in pitching his no-hitter.) Wilson also became the first black major leaguer to pitch an American League no-hitter.

In five-plus seasons, Wilson won 45 games for Boston with a high of 13 victories in 1963. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers in the 1966 midseason, and finished with a combined 18-11 record, a career-high in strikeouts with 200, and a 3.07 ERA. His most productive season came in 1967, when he won a career-high 22 games, tying Jim Lonborg for the American League lead.

In the 1968 World Series, when the Tigers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games, Wilson was part of a starting rotation that included 31-game winner Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich, who won three games in the Series.

Originally a catcher, Wilson switched to pitching in 1953. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wilson hit 35 home runs in his career: 33 while as a pitcher, two as a pinch hitter, two in one game (1965), and seven in a season twice, in 740 at-bats. Only Wes Ferrell (37 HRs), Bob Lemon and Warren Spahn (35 each) and Red Ruffing (34) hit more home runs as pitchers, according to ESB.

Wilson was sent to the San Diego Padres in 1970, and he finished his career at the end of the season. After retiring, he founded an automotive parts company. Wilson also held a position, in the 1980s (and possibly 90s), as a high school physical education teacher at Coral Springs High School in Coral Springs, Florida. Ironically, Wilson was not the baseball coach at the school but instead served as the school's basketball coach.

Wilson died from a heart attack at his home in Southfield, Michigan, on April 23, 2005, and was interred in Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery.

Racist incident[edit]

  • Howard Bryant's book 'Shut Out' deals with Wilson's time at Boston. During spring training in 1966 he had entered a bar in Florida with two white colleagues, Dennis Bennett and Dave Morehead, and was told "we don't serve niggers here". Wilson left the bar and sought comfort from the Red Sox management, but was told to forget about it as if it never happened and on no account to speak to the press. This was too much for the proud Wilson, who revealed what had happened to the media. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers for outfielder Don Demeter and pitcher Julio Navarro. Wilson would hit more home runs for Detroit as a pitcher than Demeter, while Navarro never pitched a game for Boston.

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Preceded by
Bo Belinsky
No-hitter pitcher
June 26, 1962
Succeeded by
Sandy Koufax