Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wilbur Wood (#585)

Wilbur Wood pitched for 17 seasons (1961-1978), mostly with the White Sox. I learned today that he originally played for the Red Sox in the early 1960s.

Wood was signed by Boston in 1960, and played in their farm system from 1961-63. He also played a few games with the Sox in ’61 and ’62.

Wilbur began the 1963 season with the Sox’ AAA team in Seattle, but was recalled in early June and pitched in 25 games over the final 2/3 of the season.

Wood opened the ’64 season in Boston, but was sent back to Seattle in mid-May, where he remained until the Pirates purchased his contract in September. He made a few appearances with the Bucs in the season’s final weeks.

1965 was his last season with Pittsburgh. He pitched in 35 games (all but 1 in relief) but only compiled a 1-1 record. After little success in 1965, Wood spent the entire ’66 season with the Pirates’ AAA team, compiling a 14-8 record in 31 games as a starter. For his efforts, he was traded to the White Sox after the season for pitcher Juan Pizarro.

Upon joining the Chisox, their resident knuckleball guru Hoyt Wilhelm convinced Wilbur to throw only the knuckleball, and Wood’s career took off. He was a reliever during his first 4 seasons with Chicago (leading the league in games in ’68, ’69, and ’70, and notching double-digit saves in those 3 years.

Beginning in 1971 he joined the starting rotation. Wood won 20 or more games for 4 straight seasons, and led the AL with 24 wins in both ’72 and ’73. He also pitched more than 300 innings in each of those 4 seasons, topping out at 376 innings in 1972. Wilbur made the All-Star team in 3 of those 4 seasons, and finished in the top 3 in Cy Young voting in ’71 and ’72.

Wood was still a workhorse in 1975 (pitching 291 innings), but slipped to a 16-20 record. He missed much of the 1976 season after a line drive broke one of his knees. Wilbur returned for 2 more seasons, but without his earlier effectiveness. His final game was in August 1978.

Wood was granted free agency after the 1978 season, but had no takers.