I've always been fascinated by Wilhelm's career.
Who knows what he could have done if he remained a starter. Who knows what his career numbers would have been if he began his career in his early 20's instead of at the ripe "old" age of 29!
Think about this for a second: the man started his career at 29 and he STILL pitched in 21 seasons. He still ended up setting what was then the all-time record for appearances by a pitcher with 1070.
Throw in seven seasons of sub-2.00 E.R.A.'s, 227 saves, and on top of all of that, TWO E.R.A. crowns in the ONLY two years he even threw enough innings to qualify, and you definitely have a Hall of Fame career when it's all said and done.
Take a look at Wilhelm's rookie season. In 1952 he shows up in New York, pitching for the Giants, and all he does is go 15-3 in 159.1 innings, with a league-leading 2.43 E.R.A. and 11 saves. And this was ALL in relief! He appeared in 71 games without a single start. Just awesome.
He also managed to hit a home run in his first Major League at bat on April 23, 1952, never to hit another one in his career. Go figure.
It would then be another seven years before he would pitch more than 154 innings, this time topping out with a career high 226 with the Baltimore Orioles in 1959 mainly as a starter.
His other numbers that year were good enough to have him selected as an All-Star: 15-11, league-leading 2.19 E.R.A., and 13 complete games with three shut outs.
Whether you had him starting or coming in as a reliever, he was up for the challenge.
Wilhelm finally called it a career after the 1972 season where he appeared in only 16 games for the L.A. Dodgers.
Over the course of his last five seasons (all post-45 years of age), he bounced around a bit and pitched for five teams: White Sox, Angels, Braves, Dodgers and Cubs, going 17-18 with 43 saves.
Nevertheless, Wilhelm was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985, generally considered the first relief pitcher to have this honor bestowed upon him.
So without any further delay, here's a 1973 card design capping off a great and unique Major League career.
|Wilhelm still at it at 49 years young.|