Born on July 26, 1923, in Huntersville, North Carolina, Hoyt Wilhelm began playing in the major leagues in his late 20s, becoming a famed relief pitcher known for his astounding knuckleball. He played for several teams, including the Chicago White Sox, and would set a record for pitching the most games by the time he retired. In 1985, Wilhelm joined the Baseball Hall of Fame. He died on August 23, 2002, in Sarasota, Florida.
Athlete and Major League Baseball player James Hoyt Wilhelm was born on July 26, 1923, in Huntersville, North Carolina. Because of his military service during WWII, his baseball career was put on hold. He received a Purple Heart after being wounded by shrapnel and would go on to play baseball with a piece still remaining in his back. Hoyt Wilhelm was already 28 years old when he played his first Major League game on April 18, 1952. It was an unforgettable debut: he scored a home run in his first at-bat. During his 20 year career, he would never repeat the feat, but instead made his mark as an extraordinary relief pitcher and is the first pitcher to have saved 200 games in his career.
Best known for his knuckleball, Wilhelm occasionally played starting pitcher but was mainly designated as a specialist relief man. In that capacity, he won a record 124 games out of the bullpen. Wilhelm pitched for the New York Giants (1952-'56), St. Louis Cardinals (1957), Cleveland Indians (1957-'58), Baltimore Orioles (1958-'62), Chicago White Sox (1963-'68), California Angels (1969), Atlanta Braves (1969-'70 and 1971), Chicago Cubs (1970) and Los Angeles Dodgers (1971-'72).
Baseball Highlights and Legacy
Wilhelm's lengthy career included many highlights. In 1954, he pitched for the World Series Champion New York Giants. In 1958, in a rare start for the Orioles, he no-hit the Yankees. In 1969, he was a member of the National League Western Division Champion Atlanta Braves. He was named to the National League All Star Team in 1953 and 1970 and the American League All Star Team in 1959, 1961 and 1962.
In 1985, Hoyt Wilhelm was the first relief pitcher to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Wilhelm died on August 23, 2002, in Sarasota, Florida.
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