Thursday, May 29, 2014

Earl Wilson (#160)

Here we see Earl Wilson, coming off his first full season with the Tigers, and about to embark on a season culminating in a World Series championship!

Wilson was signed by the Red Sox way back in 1953. He pitched 4 seasons in the low minors, then lost the ’57 and ’58 seasons while in military service. He returned to the minors (triple-A) in 1959, but also played 9 games for the Sox during the 2nd half of 1959, and 13 games in the 2nd half of 1960. In 1959, Wilson became the first black pitcher to play for Boston.

After a full season back in triple-A in 1961, Wilson made the Red Sox for good at the start of the 1962 season. From '62 to '65, Earl averaged 12 wins a season, as he and Bill Monbouquette formed a 1-2 punch in the starting rotation.

With the emergence of Jim Lonborg and others, both Wilson (age 30) and Monbouquette (29) were deemed past their prime, and were dealt to the Tigers in separate deals. Monbo was traded in December ’65 for a bag of beans, and Wilson, the following June for an aging Don Demeter. Wilson was 5-5 at the time of the trade, but went on a 13-6 tear with the Tigers, to finish up at 18-11, good for 3rd best in the AL. His 200 strikeouts was also 3rd best.

In 1967 he won 22 games, tieing him with Lonborg for the most victories. The Red Sox lost the ’67 World Series by 1 game. If they had held onto Wilson, the Series outcome could have been different.

In 1968 and 1969, Earl settled back into the 12 to 13 wins bracket he was in from 1962-66. He was the Tigers’ #3 starting pitcher (behind Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich) during their World Champions season, and started game #3 in the Series. (After falling behind in the Series , the Tigers came back with their top 2 starters for games #6 and #7, winning both.)

1970 was Wilson’s last season. With his record at 4-6, he was sold to the Padres in mid-July. After a lackluster 1-6 showing with San Diego, he was released in January 1971.

Wilson died from a heart attack in April 2005, at age 70.

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