Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Wiltse Cousins Made it to the Bigs

Part 2 of our family's baseball history. At the turn of the last century, baseball fever wasn't limited to Cooperstown. Mary Heath/Haith Colman’s younger sister Sarah Jane’s two youngest sons were also baseball players.

The Heath family had come from England and settled in Springfield. According to the census records, Mary was born in England (1825) and Sarah Jane was born in New York State (1834). She married Henry Wiltse and had nine known children. It was reported that the four right-handed sons had no interest in baseball, but three left-handers loved to play. Lewis Dewitt Wiltse, born in 1873, and George Leroy Wiltse, born in 1880, grew up in Bouckville or Hamilton, NY about 45 miles west of Cooperstown.

Newspaper archives give us details of their careers. Lewis reportedly began as a second baseman for Oxford, NY. In 1898 he went to Illion as a left-handed pitcher. In 1899 he became a professional, signing with Toledo in the Inter-State League. He played part of 1900 with the Syracuse Stars of the Eastern League. In 1901 he was drafted by Pittsburgh, but finished that season with the Philadelphia Athletics. In 1902 he also pitched for Baltimore. He was known as “Snake” Wiltse. A 1999 article in The Waterville Times says he played until 1910 in the minor leagues.

George “Hooks” Wiltse had a longer professional career with the NY Giants and was proposed for the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was also a left-handed pitcher. Wiltse's nickname did not come from his curveball but from the way he would reach out with his long right arm to snare line drives and high bounders coming back through the box. One report described him as “slight” in stature. In 1939 he played in the Cooperstown Centennial celebration as a member of the NYS Old Timers.

The following summary was taken from information at the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame.

  • 1880: Born in Hamilton, New York
  • 1900: First professional game with the Syracuse Stars [Waterville Times says he was paid $5/game to play with the Utica Actives in 1894 at 14]
  • 1904 -1914: Joined New York Giants, pitching in 367 games, winning 142, losing 90 with 29 shutouts in 2112 innings. Wiltse had one of the most sensational rookie campaigns in history, winning his first 13 games while going 13-3 in 1904 for the New York Giants. Won 12 or more games in eight consecutive years, and twice Hook won 20 games in a season. The New York Giants won five National League pennants in 11 seasons with Hooks on the team. Hooks made only 31 errors in 319 games with a fielding percentage of .956.
  • 1908: Only pitcher in baseball history to strike out seven batters in two successive innings (four batters struck out in one inning).
  • July 4, 1908: The first left-handed pitcher in professional baseball to ever pitch a ten inning no-hit game. Holds the major league record for most wins at the start of a career (12 wins). [missed a perfect game by brushing a players shirt, causing a walk]
  • 1911 & 1913: Pitched and played first base in the World Series
  • 1913: World series; Wiltse, a great fielder who loved to work out at first base, was sent in, and made several sensational plays to save Christy Mathewson's shutout of Philadelphia. [Christy Mathewson’s roommate]
  • 1915: Managed Jersey City of the International League, in June, pitched for Brooklyn in the Federal League.
  • 1916 -1919: Managed at Albany, Reading and Lafayette College.
  • 1919-1924: Managed Buffalo of the International League.
  • 1925: New York Yankees pitching coach
  • 1934 -1944: Deputy Assessor of the City of Syracuse.
  • 1944: President of Syracuse Industrial Baseball League.
  • 1952: Elected to the International League Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Died in 1959
  • 2000: Inducted into the Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame .
  • 2006: Hamilton, New York dedicated is baseball complex the "Hook Wiltse Field"

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