Hoyt Wilhelm Celebrity LifeHoyt Wilhelm born on July 26th, 1922 was a major league baseball pitcher. His career spanned 20 years where he played with a number of Major League Baseball teams.
Wilhelm was born into a family of 11 children. His father and mother were poor tenant farmers. Wilhelm attended Cornelius High School in North Carolina where he played for the school’s baseball team. Wilhelm was a fast thrower of the ball and thus started experimenting on the knuckleball very early.
The idea was to hone his skills perfectly to get a chance to enter the major leagues. Soon World War II broke out and the United States Army summoned him to fight for the country in the European Theater.
Wilhelm participated in the battle of the bulge and won a purple heart for his heroics on the battlefield. He was wounded in that campaign and had shrapnel lodged in his back all his life. On his return from active military service, he rejoined the Moors in 1946. The 1946 and 1947 seasons saw Wilhelm win 41 games for Mooresville.
Knuckleball was not widely welcome during Wilhelm’s early playing days. He was called to play for the Giants at a time when the starting pitchers led the team to a National League pennant. Thus the Giants manager, Leo Durocher was skeptical about how effective the knuckleball would be in a game. Consequently, he was assigned to the team’s bullpen where relief pitchers practiced.
Wilhelm only played relief pitcher in his entire rookie year but nevertheless led the National League with a 2.43 ERA. Although a rookie, his game was growing steadily popular to the extent that he finished 4th in the National Leagues Most Valuable Player Award voting.
By 1954, things had changed for Wilhelm. He was the key piece of the pitching staff and eventually went on to win the world championship for the Giants. His stats were impressive wherein he pitched 111 innings, with a 12-4 record and a 2.10 ERA.
In 1957, the Giants traded Wilhelm to the St Louis Cardinal for Whitey Lockman. The St. Louis Manager had great confidence in the trade and said that with Wilhelm's induction, the Cardinals were a definite pennant threat.
In 1958, Wilhelm was transferred to the Cleveland Indians. By then Wilhelm’s knuckleball had gained fame and notoriety at the same time. His own catchers could not handle his knuckleball and Cleveland General Manager, Frank Lane was alarmed at the increased rate of passed balls that season.
By 1959, Wilhelm was playing for the Baltimore Orioles. He was at it again with knuckleballs. None of the Orioles catchers were comfortable with his knuckleballs. It was so bad that they set a Major League Baseball record with a whopping 49 passed balls.
The famous Gus Triandos was once catching for Wilhelm. At the end of the day with four passed balls to his name, he said that it was the roughest day he had ever put in during his entire life. Fortunately, Wilhelm still won the American League ERA title that year with a 2.19 ERA.
Wilhelm retired from baseball to go into coaching. He managed two minor league teams, namely, the Atlanta Braves and the Greenwood Braves. Wilhelm was of the opinion that pitchers need to be born with a knack to throw a knuckleball and thus never tried to teach pitchers to master the craft. However, he readily worked with knuckleball pitchers who wanted to improve their game.
Wilhelm was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985. He lived with his wife Peggy in Sarasota Florida. In 2002, Wilhelm died due to heart failure.
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