In the first of my throwback Thursday pieces, we will take a look at former Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson. The 6-foot 200-pound shortstop is from West Lake Village California, where he played his high school ball at Thousand Oaks in California. Wilson would go on to play at Oxnard Junior College for two years until being drafted in 1998 by the St.Louis Cardinals in the 9th round.
Wilson’s time in the Cardinals system didn’t last long. He was soon traded to the Pirates in 2000, where a year later, he would make his MLB debut against the Cincinnati Reds on April 3rd, splitting his two at-bats. In Wilson’s rookie year, he didn’t show a whole lot to offer at-bat, but defensively he showed tremendous promise with a .968 fielding percentage while also turning 67 double plays.
In the following two years, Wilson showed tremendous improvement at the plate with a .252 batting average, 47 RBI’s and 77 runs scored in 2002. 2003 was even better with a .256 batting average, 62 RBI’s and 58 runs scored.
In 2002, Wilson improved defensively with a .977 fielding percentage, 463 assists, and 90 double plays turned. In 2003 he posted a .975 fielding percentage, 454 assists, and 104 double plays turned.
2004 was one of the best performances a Pittsburgh Pirate has accomplished in 27 years and none better at the shortstop position in the last 100 years at the club. Wilson had a total of 201 (.308 batting average) hits; becoming the 9th shortstop in the NL to do so and the last Pirate to do so since Dave Parker in 1977. The most impressive stat out of all of that was being the last shortstop in Pirate history since Honus Wagner in 1904 with 200 hits.
Wilson in 2004 was on a tear, tying the lead league in triples with 12. He also had a career-high 82 runs scored and 41 doubles. To go along with his offense, he had an incredible year defensively; setting the 1966 team record for 129 double plays turned and leading the NL with 492 assists. With all of those accomplishments, it was only natural to name Jack Wilson an all-star and a Silver Slugger winner. The last Pirate to win the award was Pitcher Rick Rhoden in 1986.
Over the next 4.5 years with the Pirates, Wilson’s batting average never dipped below .257, and his fielding percentage never dropped below .972. Jack Wilson may have never been the flashiest guy or the most powerful one, but he was consistent. I’m led to believe that most of his accomplishments were overshadowed by playing on the underachieving Pirates, where the most wins he ever saw were 75 out of a possible 162.
Jack Wilson would later go on to play for two other teams in Seatle and Atlanta, where he never saw a batting average at or above .250. His last at-bat took place on June 13th, 2012, for the Braves against the Yankees, where he went 0-1 in a pinch-hitting situation. On September 25th of 2012, Wilson would announce his retirement and ride off into the sunset.
Photo credit: Kevin C. Cox – Getty Images