Former Tigers pitcher Wilson dead at 70

Updated: April 26, 2005, 1:02 PM ET
Associated Press

DETROIT -- Earl Wilson, who threw a no-hitter in 1962 and was a starting pitcher on the Detroit Tigers' 1968 championship team, died at 70.

Wilson died of a heart attack Saturday in suburban Detroit, Jim Martin, executive director of the Baseball Assistance Team charity, said Monday. Wilson was a board member of the group since 1988 and its president from 2000-04.

A moment of silence was held in his memory before Monday's game between the Tigers and Minnesota Twins.

"Earl had a true affection for the game and a genuine fondness for his fellow players, as evidenced by his dedication to the Baseball Assistance Team," MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement Tuesday. "During his tenure as BAT president, Earl was integral in increasing contributions to the organization and directed the donation of more than $4 million in grants to assist members of the baseball family in need. I offer my heartfelt condolences to his wife and family."

Wilson pitched for three teams during an 11-year career. He was Boston's second black player when he broke in with the Red Sox in 1959, joining the team a few weeks after infielder Pumpsie Green. He endured racist epithets from fans in Boston, the last of the original 16 major league teams to have a black player.

The right-hander saw limited action in his first two seasons. He reached the majors for good in 1962 and won at least 10 games in each of the next eight seasons.

On June 26, 1962, Wilson became the first black pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the majors. He also hit a home run in that game, a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

He was traded to the Tigers in 1966 and went 22-11 the following year, when Detroit finished second to Boston. In 1968, he was the third starter on Detroit's championship team, going 13-12 and 0-1 in the seven-game World Series victory over St. Louis.

Wilson, who finished his career with San Diego in 1970, had a career record of 121-109 in 338 games. He was also one of the best power-hitting pitchers, finishing with 35 homers, two short of Wes Ferrell's major league record.

"If you want someone with a heart of gold, that's the person," Martin said.

Wilson is survived by his wife, Roslin, and son Greg as well as his wife's other two sons.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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