Sunday, March 22, 2020

Hoyt Wilhelm with the Minneapolis Millers

Photo credit: Collection
Hoyt Wilhelm spent the 1950 and 1951 seasons with the Minneapolis (MN) Millers (the Class-AAA American Association team of the NY Giants). 

Photo credit: Collection
1950: Hoyt Wilhelm was 15-11, with a 4.95 ERA in 35 games (25 of those were starts), and he struck out 99 in 180 innings pitched. At the plate, he hit .230 in 61 at-bats and had 1 double. 
--He pitched two 4-hitters and one 2-hitter in 1950:
**The first 4-hitter was his debut and was the second game of a double-header, a 7-inning, 7-1 victory on April 23 at the Kansas City Blues (AAA of the NY Yankees) to help the Millers improve to 3-1 on the season.
**The second 4-hitter was a 4-1 win on May 1 at home against the St. Paul Saints (AAA of the Brooklyn Dodgers) to help the Millers improve to 5-1 on the season.
**His 2-hitter came in a 9-0 win on Aug. 11 at home against the Columbus Red Birds (AAA of the St. Louis Cardinals) to help the Millers improve to 65-52 on the season.

Photo credit (first photo, left)--Minneapolis Tribune (Wilhelm, left, with Adrian Zabala, on March 28, 1951, during spring training); Second photo (right)--(Wilhelm, right, No. 31, playing checkers during a rain delay in Minneapolis)
1951: Hoyt Wilhelm was 11-14, with a 3.94 ERA in 40 games (29 starts), and he struck out 148 (2nd in the American Association) in 210 innings pitched (tied for the lead in the American Association). At the plate, he hit .243 in 74 at-bats and had 3 doubles. (his .243 batting average was his third-best in the minors, behind his .299 with Mooresville in 1947 and his .244 with Jacksonville in 1949). Wilhelm's last start for the Millers (Sept. 6) was an 8-3 win in the second game of a double-header at home against the Milwaukee Brewers (AAA of the Boston Braves), who would go on to win the American Association's regular-season title.
**Wilhelm would play with future Hall of Famer Willie Mays (20 years old at the time), who suited up for 35 games at the beginning of the season before being promoted to the Giants, hitting .477 (.799 slugging percentage), with 8 HRs, 30 RBIs, 3 triples, 18 doubles and 5 stolen bases).

Photo: 1950 Minneapolis Millers, American Association winners; Wilhelm is on the back row, second from right (on the end)
The 1950 Minneapolis Millers (NY Giants AAA team) finished 90-64-1 to win the 8-team American Association regular-season title, the Millers first American Association title in 15 years (Minneapolis last won in 1935 when they finished 91-63). In the first round of the playoffs, the third-place Columbus Red Birds (St. Louis' AAA team) beat Minneapolis 4 games to 2 games. Wilhelm was 1-1 in the playoffs, pitching a 5-hitter on Sept. 15 to help the Millers to a 4-1 Game 3 victory (their first win of the series). He would come back on Sept. 19 on just three days rest and lose 8-3 in the deciding Game 6.

Photo: 1950 Minneapolis Millers (American Association winners; Wilhelm is back row, third from right (on the end).

Photo: 1951 Minneapolis Millers (Wilhelm is on the first row, second from right, on the end).
The 1951 Minneapolis Millers would finish 77-75 and in fifth place in the 8-team American Association, one place out of the playoffs. The Millers were 2 1/2 games behind the fourth-place Louisville Colonels (AAA team of the Boston Red Sox).

Photo: Nicollet Park, Minneapolis
The famous park where Hoyt Wilhelm played during the 1950 and 1951 seasons with the Millers opened as Wright Field in 1896 and cost $4,000 to build, but was soon renamed Nicollet Park. It was renovated in 1912 when the wooden park was replaced with a steel and concrete structure, and the park was expanded in 1937 (adding lights) before closing in 1955. The team moved to Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington for the 1956 season.

Photo: Nicollet Park, Minneapolis
Though 1955 was the last season the Minneapolis Millers played in Nicollet Park before moving to Metropolitan Stadium, the Millers only lasted five more seasons before ceasing operation in 1960 (the Minnesota Twins began play in 1961).  

Photo: Nicollet Park, Minneapolis
The left field line was 334 feet from home plate, center field was a deep 435 feet from home, and the right field line was a hitter's dream at 279 feet. 
*The first night game was played on July 16, 1937, when the Millers (AAA of the Boston Red Sox then) won 4-1 over their rival, the St. Paul Saints (AAA of the Chicago White Sox). On Stew Thornley's incredible website,, he writes, "Attendance: 6,381 for the first regular-season night game under lights for the Millers at home.  Cooke homers.  The Millers and Saints are the last two American Association teams to play night games under the lights.  (The Millers had played games starting at 7:00 p.m., without lights, in 1918.)"

Monday, February 24, 2020

Hoyt Wilhelm with the Jacksonville Tars

Photo credit: The Charlotte Observer
1948: Hoyt Wilhelm's time with the Jacksonville (FL) Tars (NY Giants Class A team, South Atlantic League) started out rough in 1948, as he posted an 0-0 record, 9 walks, and an 8.18 ERA in 11 innings during 6 games before being sent to the Knoxville (TN) Smokies (NY Giants Class B team, Tri-State League) where he flourished (see Knoxville Smokies page on Wilhelm).
1949: Wilhelm would redeem himself, however, in 1949, when he started and finished the season with the Jacksonville Tars, posting a 17-12 record (most wins on the team and sixth-best in the league) and a 2.66 ERA (best on the team and ninth-best in the league). At the plate Wilhelm hit .244 and had 2 doubles.

Photo credit: Collection (1949 Jacksonville Tars team; Wilhelm, back row, far left)
The 1949 Jacksonville Tars finished 73-81 and 5th place in the South Atlantic League.

Photo credit: Collection (close-up view of Wilhelm from the team photo)
South Atlantic League Hall of Fame: Hoyt Wilhelm was inducted into the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame along with six others in 1996 (the third year of the Hall of Fame's existence). Others inducted were: Bill Bethea (pitcher); Roy Majtyka (manager); Pat Putnam (first base); Jim Baynes (team executive), Ed Holtz (team executive); Pat Williams (team executive).

Photo: Durkee Field, Jacksonville, Florida (1939)
 The Jacksonville Tars played at Durkee Field, which was rebuilt in 1934 and hosted a minor league team until 1954 when a new stadium was built. Durkee Field was later renamed J.P. Small Ballpark and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Joseph E. Durkee Athletic Field.  

Hoyt Wilhelm with the Knoxville Smokies

Photo: June 15, 1948, The Charlotte News
Hoyt Wilhelm began the 1948 season with the Jacksonville (FL) Tars (NY Giants Class-A team, South Atlantic League), but after 6 games he moved to the Knoxville (TN) Smokies (NY Giants Class-B team, Tri-State League) and finished the season there, compiling a 13-9 record and a 3.62 ERA in 189 innings pitched in 24 games. 
**The 1948 Smokies finished 71-76 and sixth in the league standings.

Box Score: June 15, 1948, The Knoxville Journal
June 14, 1948: In likely the best game of his career at the plate, Wilhelm went 4-for-4, with 3 RBIs, 1 run scored and had an inside-the-park home run, but he was surprisingly pinch-hit for in the top of the ninth with the bases loaded. The pinch-hitter grounded out. Wilhelm allowed 7 hits, issued 8 walks and struck out 2, but Knoxville made 5 errors in the 10-6 road loss against the Charlotte Hornets.

Photo: June 27, 1948, The Knoxville News-Sentinel
 Hoyt Wilhelm played first base for Knoxville, in addition to pitching. In 37 games (24 of those as a pitcher), he hit .211, with 4 doubles, 1 triple and 1 home run (inside-the-park) in 114 at-bats.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Hoyt Wilhelm with the Mooresville Moors

Photo: 1941 Mooresville Moors
Little known fact: Although it is thought Hoyt Wilhelm broke into professional baseball in 1942 with the Mooresville Moors (an independent team, not affiliated with a major league club), he actually suited up for the Mooresville Moors in 1941 (after graduating high school on May 3, 1941). However, despite the fact he spent 3 weeks with the team -- he signed May 6, 1941 (see signing in first image below) and was released May 27, 1941 (see release in second and third images below) -- it is not known that he played a game in 1941 for the Moors. 

May 7, 1941, Kannapolis Daily Independent clipping
(Hoyt Wilhelm's signing with Mooresville)
The reference to Wilhelm pitching against the Davidson College freshmen team happened on April 17, 1941, when Cornelius High beat the Davidson College freshmen 14-3 (score from The Davidsonian newspaper, April 24, 1941).

May 28, 1941, Kannapolis Daily Independent clipping
(Hoyt Wilhelm released from Mooresville)

June 5, 1941, Sporting News clipping
(Hoyt Wilhelm released from Mooresville)

Photo: 1942 Mooresville Moors (The Charlotte Observer)
On April 12, 1942, Wilhelm was one of 20 players for practice and tryouts with the Mooresville Moors. He would sign, be released (June 28), and sign again to end the 1942 season with a 10-3 record, 4.25 ERA in 8 games started. At the plate, he hit .180 in 50 at-bats, and had 1 double and 1 triple. The Moors made the N.C. State League playoffs, but lost in the first round, 3 games to 0 games to the Landis Millers.

The Greenville (S.C.) News, Dec. 16, 1942
Interesting note: The entire 1942 Mooresville Moors team had entered military service by December of 1942. It was such a fascinating note, that it ran in papers all over the United States (from the West Coast to the East Coast) in December of 1942 and January of 1943. However, the note erroneously reported that Wilhelm won 11 games in 1942 as opposed to 10 games.

Photo: 1946 or 1947 Mooresville Moors
On Feb. 5, 1946, Hoyt Wilhelm signed with the Mooresville Moors, a return after serving in the military during World War II, where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and earned a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars.
In 1946 he was 21-8, with a 2.47 ERA and was named an All-Star in the North Carolina State League, while helping the Moors win the playoffs (after finishing fourth in the regular-season). At the plate that season, he hit .202, with 21 hits and 5 doubles in 104 at-bats.

Photo: June 11, 1947, The Charlotte Observer

Photo: September 3, 1947, The Charlotte Observer
In 1947 Hoyt Wilhelm became a 20-game winner again, going 20-7, with a 3.38 ERA, while recording his best season at the plate: .299, 44 hits, 8 doubles, 2 home runs in 147 at-bats. He again helped the Moors to another North Carolina State League title, winning the regular-season and the playoffs.
Note: In early October of 1947 (Mooresville Tribune), the Boston Braves purchased Hoyt Wilhelm from Mooresville. On Nov. 20, 1947, the N.Y. Giants drafted Wilhelm from the Boston Braves in the 1947 minor league draft.

Photo: 1946 Mooresville Moors team (Wilhelm is bottom row, far right)
The 1946 Mooresville Moors finished fourth in the North Carolina State League regular season with a 57-52 record, squeaking into the playoffs as the fourth and last team, but they won the playoffs. In the first round, the Moors beat the Landis Millers, 4 games to 3 games. In the Championship Series, the Moors beat the Concord Weavers, 4 games to 2 games.
Note: After the Moors beat Concord, they were supposed to face the winner of the Tobacco State playoffs, Angier-Fuquay, in a series.

Photo: 1947 Mooresville Moors team (Wilhelm is bottom row, third from left)
The 1947 Mooresville Moors finished first in the North Carolina State League regular season with a 68-43 record and won the playoffs, as well. In the first round, the Moors beat the Hickory Rebels, 4 games to 3 games. In the Championship Series, the Moors beat the Lexington Indians, 4 games to 3 games.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Hoyt Wilhelm in the Minors - Briefly

Photo credit: Collection
Hoyt Wilhelm began his minor league career in 1941, signing with the Mooresville (NC) Moors on May 6, but he was released three weeks later, on May 27, without playing a game. He was signed again on April 13, 1942, released on June 28, and then re-signed before finishing the season with a 10-3 record and a 4.25 ERA. He entered the U.S. Army in 1943, fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, earned a Purple Heart from injuries sustained in battle in 1945, and then rejoined the Moors for the 1946 and 1947 seasons. He went 21-8, 2.47 ERA in 1946 (earning all-star recognition), and 20-7, 3.38 ERA in 1947, helping Mooresville win the North Carolina State League both years.

Photo credit: The Charlotte News
 In 1948, Wilhelm played for the Knoxville (TN) Smokies (Class B, Tri-State League), going 13-9 and posting a 3.62 ERA. He began the season with the Jacksonville (FL) Tars (Class A, South Atlantic League), but only pitched in six games before heading to Knoxville.

Photo credit: The Charlotte Observer
In 1949 he would begin the season where he did the previous year, in Jacksonville (Class A, South Atlantic League). This time he would finish there, going 17-12 and posting a 2.66 ERA.

Photo credit: Collection
He spent the 1950 and 1951 seasons with the Minneapolis (MN) Millers (Class AAA, American Association), posting a 15-11 record, 4.95 ERA, and 99 Ks in 1950, and an 11-14 record, 3.94 ERA with 148 Ks in 1951. He helped the Millers to a 90-64 record in 1950 to give them the regular-season title, but they fell in the playoffs to Columbus, 4 games to 2 games.

Photo credit: Collection
During the winters of 1950-51 and 1951-52, Hoyt Wilhelm played for the Habana Leones (Havana Lions) or Reds in Cuba. He was an all-star in 1950-51 (going 8-6, with a league-leading 2.36 ERA), helping Habana win the Cuban Winter League title (after going 41-32-1) and advance to the Caribbean Series (before losing). In the 1951-52 season, he went 2-5, and posted a 3.52 ERA, as Habana (41-30-1) won the Cuban Winter League title again and also went on to win the Caribbean Series. However, Wilhelm was called back to the states to prepare for his first spring training with a major league club, the NY Giants, and didn't participate in the Caribbean Series.

Photo credit: Collection
On June 29, 1971, Wilhelm was released by the Atlanta Braves. But 11 days later, on July 10, 1971, he was signed by the L.A. Dodgers and assigned to the Spokane (WA) Indians (Class AAA, Pacific Coast League) to help young knuckleballer Charlie Hough and to give Wilhelm a chance to make it back to the big leagues. In eight games with Spokane, he went 2-3, with a 3.89 ERA, and 1 save, earning a trip back to the majors where he would spend the rest of the 1971 season and part of the 1972 season before being released on July 21, 1972, five days before his 50th birthday.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Hoyt Wilhelm's Career - Briefly

Photo credit: Collection
In 1939, Hoyt Wilhelm began playing baseball at Cornelius (NC) High School, where he learned to throw his famous knuckleball after reading about four knuckleballers on the Washington Senators pitching staff and seeing a picture of pitcher Dutch Leonard's grip (Wilhelm threw a no-hitter at Cornelius High and also had a two-homer game in 1941 during his senior year).

Photo credit: Collection
During his summers in high school (1939-1941), Wilhelm played for the Davidson (NC) American Legion Post 86 baseball team.

Photo credit: Collection
He broke into professional baseball by signing with the Mooresville (NC) Moors on May 6, 1941 (Kannapolis Daily Independent, May 7, 1941), but was released three weeks later (Kannapolis Daily Independent, May 28, 1941). He signed and played  his first game for the Moors in 1942.

Photo credit: The Charlotte Observer
He served in the army during World War II from 1943-1945, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and earning a Purple Heart from injuries sustained in battle. He played baseball for the 395th Infantry Division of the 99th Infantry in 1943 (Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi) and 1944 (Camp Maxey, Texas).

Photo credit: Collection
After six more years in the minors (with the Mooresville Moors, Knoxville Smokies, Jacksonville Tars and Minneapolis Millers), he debuted in the majors with the N.Y. Giants in 1952, homering in his first at-bat (never hitting another) and winning his lone World Series in 1954.

Photo credit: Collection
After brief stints with the St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians, Wilhelm threw a no-hitter for the Baltimore Orioles against the eventual World Series champion N.Y. Yankees in 1958.

Photo credit: Collection
After joining the Chicago White Sox, he pitched in his 907th game to break Cy Young's record for games pitched.

Photo credit: Collection
After the White Sox left Wilhelm unprotected in the 1968 expansion draft, the Kansas City Royals drafted him. Before playing for Kansas City, the Royals traded him to the California Angels (where he played in 1969) before being traded to the Atlanta Braves (where he pitched in his record 1,000th major league game - seen in photo above, May 10, 1970).

Photo credit: Collection
After playing for the California Angels, Atlanta Braves (twice), and Chicago Cubs, Wilhelm's playing days ended in 1972 when the Los Angeles Dodgers released him five days before his 50th birthday.

Photo credit: Brett Honeycutt
He retired from baseball in 1995 after 22 years as a minor league coach, 20 of those as a pitching coach in the N.Y. Yankees farm system. 

Photo credit: Collection
In 1985 he was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and became the first relief pitcher to be inducted.