Saturday, June 17, 2006
Earl Wilson's baseball card.
Review Earl Wilson's career statistics at the Baseball Almanac
In a 11-season career, Wilson posted a 121-109 record with 1452 strikeouts and a 3.69 ERA in 2051.2 innings pitched.
A 6-foot-3, 215-pound, who relied on sliders and fastballs,Wilson made his major league debut with the Red Sox on July 31, 1959, as their first black pitcher. Previously, infielder Pumpsie Green was 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 pitched a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Angels, a 2-0 victory in which he hit a home run. (Rick Wise is the only other no-hit pitcher to hit a home run; in fact, the Philadelphia Phillie pitcher homered twice in his June 23, 1971 no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds.) He also became the first black major league pitcher to throw a no-hitter.
In five-plus seasons, Wilson won 45 games for Boston with a high 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-games winner Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich, who won three games in the Series.
Originally a catcher, Wilson switched to pitching in 1953, only to became one of baseball's greatest power-hitting pitchers in major league history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wilson hit 35 home runs in his career: 33 while in a game as a pitcher, two as a pinch-hitter, two in one game (1965), and seven in a season twice, in just 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 died of a heart attack at his home in Southfield, Michigan, on April 23, 2005. He was 70 years old.