Earl Wilson, the first black player signed by the Boston Red Sox, and who threw a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Angels in 1962, has died. He was 70.
Wilson, who also played with the Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres in an 11-season major league career, died of a heart attack Saturday in suburban Detroit, said Jim Martin, executive director of the Baseball Assistance Team, an organization that supports former major league players. Wilson was a volunteer board member of the group since 1988 and served as president from 2000 to 2004.
A native of Ponchatoula, La., Wilson was originally a catcher but became a pitcher in 1953. His road to the major leagues was interrupted by military service in 1956-57. He broke in with Boston in 1959, becoming the second black player to appear in a Red Sox uniform after infielder Pumpsie Green, who had broken in that same year.
Wilson saw limited action that season and in 1960. He reached the majors for good in 1962 and pitched a no-hitter against the Angels on June 26 at Fenway Park, beating them 2-0. He defeated Bo Belinsky, who had pitched a no-hitter earlier that season. Wilson also hit a home run in the game.
The hard-throwing right-hander won at least 10 games for the next eight seasons. He was traded to the Tigers in 1966 along with outfielder Joe Christopher for outfielder Don Demeter and pitcher Julio Navarro. The following season, he tied for the American League lead in victories with a 22-11 record, as the Tigers fell just short of beating the Red Sox for the American League pennant.
In 1968, he was the third starter on Detroit's championship team, going 13-12 in the regular season and 0-1 in the seven-game World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Wilson finished his career with the San Diego Padres in 1970. He won 121 games and lost 109 in 338 games.
Wilson also was one of the best power-hitting pitchers in baseball history. He finished with 35 homers in 740 career at-bats, two short of Wes Ferrell's major-league record.
After his retirement, Wilson settled in Detroit. He is survived by his wife, Roslin, son Greg and two stepsons.
Funeral arrangements were being finalized Monday night.