|Born: October 2, 1934|
|Died: April 23, 2005 (aged 70)|
|July 28, 1959, for the Boston Red Sox|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 22, 1970, for the San Diego Padres|
|Earned run average||3.69|
|Career highlights and awards|
Robert Earl Wilson (born Earl Lawrence Wilson) (October 2, 1934 – April 23, 2005) was an American professional baseball pitcher. He played all or part of eleven seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Boston Red Sox (1959–1960, 1962–1966), Detroit Tigers (1966–1970) and San Diego Padres (1970), primarily as a starting pitcher. Wilson batted and threw right-handed; he was born in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, and graduated from Greenville Park High School in Tangipahoa Parish.
In his eleven-season MLB career, Wilson posted a 121–109 record with 1,452 strikeouts and a 3.69 earned run average in 2051+2⁄3 innings pitched.
Wilson began his professional career as a catcher in 1953, but converted pitching the following year. A 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m), 216 lb (98 kg)-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 pre-expansion 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 earlier that year, on May 5. (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, with a career-high 22 wins, 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 which included 31-game winner Denny McLain and Mickey Lolich, who won three games in the Series. Wilson started (and lost) Game 3 for the Tigers.
Wilson was known as much for his home run power as he was for his pitching. Originally a catcher, Wilson switched to pitching in 1953. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Wilson hit 35 home runs in his career: 33 as a pitcher, two as a pinch hitter, two in one game (1965), and seven in a season twice, in 740 at-bats. He collected 144 hits for a .195 batting average with 95 runs, 111 RBI and drew 67 bases on balls. 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, finishing 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 and basketball coach at Coral Springs High School in Coral Springs, Florida.
Wilson died suddenly as a result of a massive heart attack at his home in Southfield, Michigan, on April 23, 2005. He was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.
Howard Bryant's book Shut Out deals with Wilson's time at Boston. During spring training in 1966, Wilson 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 took the issue to Red Sox management, but was told to forget about it and not 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 subsequently hit more home runs for Detroit as a pitcher than Demeter, while Navarro never pitched a game for Boston.